Tiger Woods appears headed for his first Australian Open start in 15 years, a coup that would add further class to an already star-studded field.
Big-hitting top-20 Americans Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson have committed to the Open at The Lakes in Sydney, while Masters runner-up Jason Day is returning home to contest his national championship for the first time.
Now USA team captain Fred Couples has made it clear Woods only needs to prove his fitness and show reasonable form to be one of his captain’s picks for the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.
And Couples expects his two captain’s selections to play the Australian Open from November 10-13, the week before the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.
Couples and International team captain Greg Norman are both already committed to teeing up in the Open.
“Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson are already playing in Australia,” said Couples.
“The two that I pick will be playing in the same tournament that I’m playing in the week before The Presidents Cup.
“I just think it would be the right thing to do, and I’m sure there won’t be any problem in that.”
When pressed about the chances one of his picks would be 14-times major winner Woods, Couples confirmed the same rules applied regarding the Open.
“Well, if he wants to play (on the US team), yeah. If I pick two people and the other guy is there, he should be there,” Couples said.
With Woods well outside the top 10 automatic entries to make the US team, the former world No.1 will likely need a captain’s pick to play, as he did for last year’s Ryder Cup.
But Couples was more concerned about Woods’ fitness than form, with the 35-year-old in doubt for this month’s US Open as he continued to rest his latest leg injury.
“There’s one thing about Tiger, and I say this because I text him all the time,” Couples said.
“If he’s not ready to play, he’ll be the one to tell me ‘Don’t waste your pick on me’.
“He will tell you he’s struggled and now he’s injured a little bit, so I don’t even know how much he’ll play, but he doesn’t have to prove a lot to any captain.
“I’m no different than anybody. If I tell you today that if he just plays fairly well, I’m going to pick him, I can’t imagine that’s the dumbest thing anyone has ever said.
“But if he continues to play like he is, in my mind, he will be the guy to say ‘No reason to take me over there’.”
Woods played in the past two Australian Masters in Melbourne - his 2009 victory being his last as a professional.
But he hadn’t played in the Australian Open since 1996 when he tied fifth at The Australian in Sydney as a 21-year-old.