ROME — Whether Tiger Woods makes it to Italy or not for next year’s Ryder Cup, he’ll be an integral member of the U.S. team, captain Zach Johnson said Tuesday at the year-to-go ceremonies.
“Given who he is and what he’s all about, I can tell you right now, I don’t know if he’ll be here next year, but he’ll be a part of this team in some capacity,” Johnson said. “He already is, practically.
“I can’t put this mildly — he loves the Ryder Cup. He has made it a priority of his and certainly of Team USA. He wants to be a part of it as best he can.”
Woods was a player on eight Ryder Cup teams and a vice captain in 2018. But he broke bones in his right leg and ankle in a February 2021 car crash outside Los Angeles.
Next year’s event will be held on the hilly Marco Simone course outside Rome.
“Obviously he’s gone through some things as of late that make it difficult, whether it’s travel or what have you, but he and I will be in constant communication,” Johnson said. “He has great ideas. He is great at encouragement, always positive.”
The U.S. romped to a record 19-9 rout of Europe at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, last year, and also won the Presidents Cup comfortably last month.
“The beauty of where we are as Team USA is we’ve got some really great youth,” Johnson said. “And their role model on the golf course is Tiger Woods.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen next September, but you can rest assured that he will be in constant communication with our team.”
The status of many top players for the 2023 edition is in doubt amid lawsuits filed on both sides of the Atlantic involving the Saudi-backed breakaway series LIV Golf.
But Europe captain Luke Donald said there has not been “a single discussion” with U.S. officials this week about the conflict.
Johnson also had little to say about the matter.
“We’re two separate entities and so there’s powers that be that are a lot smarter than me that deal with that. … That’s out of my realm and out of my control,” Johnson told The Associated Press. “I want 12 guys that want to be on the 2023 American Ryder Cup team.”
Considering the performance that the U.S. put on in Wisconsin, plus the Presidents Cup win featuring a team with all 12 players among the top 25 in the world ranking, the Americans could be favored next year.
That would be a new wrinkle as by the time of the Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 2023 event, it will have been 30 years since the last time Europe lost at home — in 1993 at The Belfry in England.
“I fully expect us to be underdogs despite that percentage of [home] wins over the last 30 years,” Donald said.
Johnson was then asked if he really thought Europe is the underdog.
“I can give you a one-word answer: ‘No.'” Johnson said. “Evidently, they have been very comfortable over here for 30 years. So, ‘No.'”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.