Tiger Woods was to tee off in the season-ending Tour Championship on Thursday for the first time in five years, determined to end his victory drought ahead of next week’s Ryder Cup.
Woods got his first look at East Lake on Tuesday playing the back nine of the suburban Atlanta course in the company of USA Team rookies Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau.
Woods and the 25-year-old DeChambeau also look set to be playing together during next week’s Ryder Cup showdown at Le Golf National course in Versailles, outside Paris.
Woods, ranked 21st in the world, captured the inaugural FedEx Cup in 2007 and won again in 2009 but at No20 on the FedEx Cup standings it is near impossible for Woods to land the $10 million first prize cheque.
“It’s exciting to be back,” said Woods.
“I haven’t played this event, haven’t been here in quite some time, and it’s great to have accomplished one of the goals I set out at the beginning of the year, to make it back to East Lake to be part of the Tour Championship and part of these top 30 guys.
“I’ve accomplished that. Now I want to get the ‘W’ [win] and then head into next week in the Ryder Cup.
“The season itself has been amazing, to be able to have played this well after coming off of what I came off of. I didn’t know how many tournaments I’d play in, and next thing you know, here I am in the Tour Championship.
“There’s some guys that can’t say they’ve accomplished that, have gotten into the Tour Championship, but to have come back from where I’ve come back from and to get here has been a pretty tall order and something I’m proud of.”
While Woods has surprised the greater majority of sports observers in the 17 events he’s contested, the 42-year-old naturally was not about to single out 2018 as his most successful.
“Well, the ‘W’ category doesn’t compare to some of the years I’ve had where I’ve won eight or nine times in a year, but to have come off the last few years of inactivity and to be able to have qualified for East Lake and to be as consistent as I’ve been and to have put together a game from pretty much nothing, that’s something I’m very proud of,” Woods added.
Woods will contest the opening round in the company of reigning European No1 Tommy Fleetwood and finds himself in the company of the Englishman for a third occasion this year.
Garcia looks for lift-off
The duo was grouped for the opening two rounds of this year’s Masters and also for the first two days of the recent Northern Trust in New Jersey.
“We will have run out of things to talk about,” joked Fleetwood.
“No, it’s been great being grouped with Tiger and I cannot say enough how good it is to see him back being competitive.”
Meanwhile, Sergio Garcia will hope to use this week’s Portugal Masters as the springboard for a successful Ryder Cup after a difficult season that has seen the Spaniard record just one top-10 finish since April.
The 38-year-old was selected as one of four captain’s picks by European skipper Thomas Bjorn for the September 28-30 showdown against the United States at Le Golf National just outside Paris.
“I told Thomas, ‘if you end up picking me, I’ll make sure that I play something coming into the Ryder Cup’,” Garcia said on Wednesday, ahead of the tournament at the Algarve resort of Vilamoura.
“I didn’t want to be without playing for four or five weeks coming into such a big and amazing event.
“Portugal seemed like a good fit and I’m happy that I decided to come here. Obviously the course is nice, it’s going to be a good test and I’m excited for it.”
Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion, has dropped to 28th in the world rankings, but his Ryder Cup pedigree counted strongly in his favour with Bjorn as the leading points scorer in Team Europe history.
It will be his ninth Ryder Cup appearance, having won 22.5 points since becoming the event’s youngest-ever player as a 19-year-old in 1999.
Europe are unbeaten on home soil since 1993, but they were beaten 17-11 by the US at Hazeltine two years ago.
Only Phil Mickelson, appearing at his 12th Ryder Cup, has more experience than Garcia across the two teams at this year’s competition.