Tiger Woods is gunning for the Internationals’ silent assassin after his Presidents Cup captaincy was called into question at Royal Melbourne.
The 15-times major champion named himself to take on unbeaten Abraham Ancer in Sunday’s opening singles match after surprisingly sitting out both sessions on Saturday.
The hottest pre-Cup favourites in history, Woods’ USA superstars trail 10-8 entering the final day and must claim at least 7.5 points out of a possible 12 to claim the trophy for an eighth straight time.
A loss in Sunday’s opener would leave the Americans needing a European Ryder Cup team “Miracle at Medina” style comeback.
Little wonder Woods immediately picked himself to try to bring down Ancer.
The Mexican won his first three matches on debut before pulling off a remarkable comeback from five down with eight holes to play to square their foursomes on Saturday with Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Woods was quick to nominate “Tiger Woods” in third person after Internationals captain Ernie Els chose to lead off with the US-born Ancer.
Earlier, after resting from Saturday morning’s fourballs, Woods shocked even Els when he also opted not to take part in the afternoon foursomes despite his team trailing 9-5 and the Cup seemingly slipping away.
Woods had been expected to play at least one match, especially after teaming with Justin Thomas for two wins on Thursday and Friday.
But to the disappointment of the massive crowds lining the course the global superstar opted out.
“You have to do what’s best for the team, and I’m getting ready for the singles tomorrow,” Woods said.
He admitted he wavered on the decision.
I tried to talk myself out of it … but, you know, it is what it is, and we’re going to go out there and try and get some points today and be ready for tomorrow.”
The 43-year-old, who has a history of serious back issues, denied he was injured.
He said pre-tournament he didn’t plan to play in all five sessions and was sticking to his guns on Saturday night.
“We’ve had numerous plans going into this week. My obligation as a player was to play two matches – one team match and one singles,” Woods said.
“We’ve had different scenarios, different pairings and different things happen. That’s just part of playing team matches.
“We’ve had a good formula for this event, and unfortunately we’re down 8-10, but we’re excited about tomorrow and getting after it.
“At one point (late on Saturday) it looked like we were going to be down 1-9.”
While Thomas has been a shining light for the struggling US, Reed and Simpson have been a massive letdown for Woods, losing three times together.
— Presidents Cup (@PresidentsCup) December 14, 2019
The US-born Ancer, meanwhile, continues to be the major star for the Internationals.
The Mexican is unbeaten in three matches, living up to Scott’s prediction that the 2018 Australian Open champion would be a “big points winner” for the Internationals this week.
South Korea’s Sungjae Im and Scott have also yet to lose, each winning two matches and halving a third.