ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — Tiger Woods decided on Wednesday to replace an injured Brooks Koepka with Rickie Fowler for next month’s Presidents Cup. Or, rather, Tiger Woods announced the decision on Wednesday. According to a former U.S. team captain, Woods had made up his mind to make Fowler his call, should he need it, weeks ago.
Davis Love III, who has praised Woods for his enthusiasm and preparation as an assistant captain under him at the 2016 Ryder Cup, said he believes Woods was set on his four captain's picks—as well as a fifth, if needed—before he tied the PGA Tour record with his 82nd official victory at the Zozo Championship last month.
"He knew what he was going to do I think even before Japan," Love said at his Wednesday press conference ahead of the RSM Classic. "He knew who he was going to pick, who his backup plan was. And now with Brooks, he's just been sitting on it, I think, waiting for Brooks to say yes or no. Unfortunately, Rickie got sick and couldn't play last week, but Rickie will be ready, and like I said to another question, he's a great guy to pick. No surprise that Tiger's on the ball."
That Woods would turn to Fowler, 30, in the World No. 1's absence certainly wasn't a surprise to Love, who did the same thing in 2016 when he made the popular five-time PGA Tour winner one of his four captain's picks. Love was also involved in the decision to make a 21-year-old Fowler a captain's pick as an assistant captain for Corey Pavin at the 2010 Ryder Cup.
"Corey knew that I knew the Bob Tways and the Oklahoma State guys, the Scott Verplanks," Love recalls. "He said, 'Find out about Rickie, we've got to make this last pick.' When I called them, Bob Tway pointedly said, 'He should be your first pick,' and Rickie proved that over in Wales. He played like a veteran."
Of course, there's more to Fowler, who got the final nod over Kevin Kisner, Kevin Na, a red-hot Brendon Todd and others, continuing to be named a captain's pick than just his game.
"Rickie loves the stage. A lot like a Phil Mickelson or now hanging around Kevin Kisner some, there's some guys that like to walk out on the final green and make that putt, they want the ball with no time on the clock and Rickie's that guy," Love said. "I know he hasn't been playing that much, but Rickie in the team room, Rickie as a partner … Rickie's a guy you want on your side. It's unfortunate for Brooks, but I think they picked up an all around team guy both playing and in the team room, so I'm excited for him."
One of Woods' current Presidents Cup assistants, Zach Johnson, also confirmed the captain made a swift and decisive call.
"The beauty of Tiger Woods is he's—once we found that news out, once he found that news out, he turned the page," Johnson said. "He's like, OK, we're going—we were here and now we're going there. Rickie's coming in and this is our team. And the entire team has not looked back. They've been so receptive to it. Rick's been receptive to it obviously, and we've still got a phenomenal team."
Fowler, who withdrew from last week's Mayakoba Golf Classic due to an intestinal bacterial infection that he says he got while on his honeymoon last month, went 3-0-1 at the 2017 Presidents Cup. The 2019 Presidents Cup will be held Dec. 12-15 at Australia's Royal Melbourne Golf Club.