Tiger Woods as a playing vice captain? Jim Furyk says, 'we'll cross that bridge when we get to it'
There have been some interesting developments as it pertains to Ryder Cup USA in the last couple of weeks.
First, Captain Jim Furyk made the announcement on February 27 that Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker would be added on as vice captains, joining already previously-named vice captain Davis Love III.
Then, Tiger Woods went out and finished 12th at the Honda Classic -- his best finish since a T10 at the Wyndham Championship in 2015.
Earlier Friday, Woods announced that -- based on his physical condition and play at the Honda -- he would be adding the Valspar Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational in consecutive weeks to his pre-Masters schedule. That's a great sign in his progress.
We talked to Furyk about all that, the chance of Woods being a playing vice captain at Le Golf National, Paris, France and more in our latest Q&A.
PGA.com: You now have three vice captains. Interestingly, all three -- and you -- were at Hazeltine in that capacity. Is this just a matter of keeping the continuity for something that worked?
FURYK: I chose them all for a reason. I trust in them and I believe in their knowledge and experience in that capacity. I've played with them on several Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams. It's pretty simple.
To have Davis there, he's a two-time captain, he's been a vice captain -- the lessons he's learned will be invaluable for me. Tiger and Strick are good partners. Strick was the most recent Presidents Cup captain.
He and Tiger are both the kind of guys we could identify as potential future captains, right? They're both in line as potential future captains.
As a matter of fact, if I gave a card to 100 people and asked them to write down five names for potential vice captains this year, I'll bet those three names would show up on most of the cards.
We'll add two more. I'm going to identify folks I know I can trust in. They'll be a huge benefit to our team. I'm waiting it out a little bit though so we can see how the team is shaping up. We'll see who we can identify as potential players and as potential vice captains.
I don't have a timeframe to add the final two just yet. I'll know when the time is right. It's wait and see right now.
PGA.com: You've got two tournaments under your belt now since returning from injury. How are you feeling?
FURYK: The body feels pretty good. I'm not 100 percent and I've been honest about that. But I feel I'm working toward that. I've been keeping up with the rehab exercises and getting stronger. I was able to play both weeks with no pain.
There was stiffness and soreness, but that was to be expected. But it sure was a blessing to be able to be out there painfree for a change.
PGA.com: What did you miss most -- if anything -- while away from tournament golf?
FURYK: From a personal standpoint, it's nice being under the gun. I learn more in two days of tournament golf out there than in a month practicing at home. It's a great indicator of where your game is at and what you need to work on.
I also missed the guys and the camaraderie. I had been away for six moths. From a team perspective, it's important for me to be out there and see the guys. When they have questions, concerns, ideas -- I want to be out there so they can see me.
If I was hurt all year, I probably would have went out once in a while. But the job is so much easier when you can be out there playing, having practice rounds with guys and getting together for dinners.
PGA.com: How would you assess Tiger so far, especially on the heels of his performance at Honda where he was second in driving distance and first in proximity to the hole -- and also based on the fact that he just committed to two more events, making it four starts in five weeks?
FURYK: His game seems pretty sharp. I know he wasn't happy with Riviera, but he came back on difficult course at PGA National in the Honda and had a strong finish. It's impressive.
You know, originally I noticed he looked more fluid and the swing looks like the Tiger of old. The concern had been getting back to speed. And, boy, did he bury those concerns last week. They were showing swing speed stats on TV and he's got it all back. That tells me he's very fit.
Getting back to top form will take some time, but all this is good for him. Again, you learn so much more when you're out there playing in tournaments. Playing Valspar -- a tournament he hasn't played before -- is terrific. And then playing Bay Hill? That's a great sign too. It's all prep for the Masters.
PGA.com: There's still a long way to go, but what kind of dynamic do you think there would be with a playing-vice captain, which I think people would say Tiger, Phil, Stricker and yourself have been several times before, but just not officially in title?
FURYK: Surely, you need a lot of veteran leadership on any team. You also want a nice mix of younger guys.
But the veterans can provide that calming effect, which is so important in a Ryder Cup. There are moments, days, matches where there can be a lot of chaos. Depending on who the captain was, there were various times where the veteran guys were called upon to take that calming role.
Is it possible for Tiger to be a playing vice captain? I believe that it is. What Tiger and I have discussed -- and he mentioned this a little in his presser in LA -- I said we're going to do what's best for him, but also -- and most importantly -- what's best for the team. What's best for the team is the top priority.
Hey, look, I'm a fan of golf and I'm a fan of Tiger Woods. I'd love to see him get in position to make the team on points, or get himself in position to be considered if he didn't make it automatically.
We left our conversation on the topic of Tiger being a playing vice captain with this: let's cross that bridge when we get to it.
But it sure would be a nice problem to have.
PGA.com: Bubba Watson has made it clear he wants to be on the Ryder Cup team -- even if as a vice captain -- this year and then promptly went out and won at Riviera. You've been on teams with him as a player and as vice captains. What intangibles does he bring to the table that could help you in Paris?
FURYK: I think it's that veteran leadership. He was great at Hazeltine and embraced the role when a lot of guys wouldn't have in his situation.
He really helped a lot and the players were outspoken about that -- Brandt Snedeker, in particular. Bubba's been playfully teasing me about being a vice captain. I've been playfully teasing him back that he's too young and needs to play on that team.
I don't think anyone was happier for him at Riviera than me. He was disappointed last year. Those kinds of valleys happen in a career. At Riviera, he got himself into the hunt for the first time in a while. He was actually trailing when he hit the back nine, but then made a couple of birdies, took control and won the tournament.
It was really good to see.
PGA.com: Justin Thomas continues to roll. What's it like to see young guys like Justin and Jordan Spieth get their respective careers off to such impressive starts?
FURYK: It's so impressive. He's a great kid at heart, to start with, and the same gos for Jordan.
You'd be hard-pressed to find many folks on Tour who don't admire both those guys. They're good on and off the course. I love it. I think having two of the most exciting players in the game in position to make the team is a dream for a captain. Justin has been on a roll now with Tiger-like numbers -- like seven wins in his last 30 starts or something like that.
More impressively, I know those two guys are young, but they're great in the team room. I love their character.
PGA.com: Lastly, are there any key behind-the-scenes Ryder Cup preparations going on right now that you can tell us about?
FURYK: The golf bags are finished and we're tidying up the uniforms. I had some great meetings last wek with the PGA of America and it was nice to have that vice captains presser that I had been preparing for the last few weeks. In the meetings, we were thinking about different details for the team room, logistics, talking to Scouts Inc. with ways they can help us with stats as well.
We're touching on all facets now and trying to organize -- in my mind -- the atmosphere I want to create as a captain for the team.
WATCH: JIM FURYK ADDS TIGER WOODS, STEVE STRICKER AS VICE CAPTAINS