By Rahul Banerji
Tiger Woods capped his stirring return to competitive golf with his first Ryder Cup slot as a player since 2012.
In January this year, he was named as one of Jim Furyk’s vice-captain but the goal was always to get back into the action itself.
“Deep down, I wanted to make the team. I really wanted to play on it,” Woods said in Philadelphia on Tuesday after being added to the squad along with Phil Mickleson and Bryson DeChambeau.
“I got the call from Jim, asking if I would be a vice-captain and I said: “Absolutely, I’ll do anything to help you” but deep down I wanted to make the team.
“I’ve kind of gained some traction and was somehow able to get some high finishes. And lo and behold, I’m a part of this team.
“It’s incredible, it really is, to look back at the start of the year and now to have accomplished a goal like that, to be a part of this team, and now to be a player is just — like I said, it’s beyond special.”
The roars had been getting louder around golf courses in the USA since Woods made his return. They will now reverberate around the Le Golf National, outside Paris, where the Ryder Cup will be played from September 28 to 30.
The United States will defend the the title they won at home two years ago.
It was not easy for the 14-time major winner. Four failed comeback attempts, a series of surgeries culminating in one that fused the lower part of his spine had left Woods unsure that he would ever pick up a club again.
Yet, here he is, on the verge of his eighth Ryder Cup campaign.
Four years ago, in Orlando, my aunt promised she would return to the golf course if Tiger actually made a comeback, It was the first year of the Hero World Challenge and he was in the invitation-only field – but very tentatively so.
I’m not sure if she can still keep her promise, but Woods definitely is back. At age 42,
Tiger, Mickelson and DeChambeau join the already qualified Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson, Jordan Speith, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson.
Furyk will name his 12th and final member at the end of the BMW Championship later this week.
Tiger also steps down as a vice-captain. David Duval and Zach Johnson will join Furyk as assistants alongside Davis Love III and Steve Stricker.
Later on Wednesday, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson were handed wild cards by Thomas Bjorn to complete Europe’s Ryder Cup squad.
The four join automatic qualifiers Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen as the hosts strive to keep their unbeaten record home since 1993.
Rohana off to a flyer
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan Anura Rohana grabbed the first round lead at the Jaipur Open with a blistering eight-under 62 at the Rambagh Golff Club in perfect conditions.
Rohana led Delhi-based Chiragh Kumar by one shot while the flamboyant Jyoti Randhawa made a memorable return to the Rambagh course after almost 25 years with a solid 66 that had him tied ninth.
Rohana, a five-time winner on the PGTI, delivered a round that included two eagles, five birdies and a bogey.
Patna’s Aman Raj, who just missed out on a hole-in-one on the sixth, had a flawless 64 to be tied third along with defending champion Shamim Khan of Delhi and Raja BR of Bangalore.