Melburnians crashed their bikes into concrete bollards and spilt their morning coffees when they spotted Tiger Woods near Crown Casino earlier today.
The 14-time major champion, who recently completed a reconnaissance mission of Royal Melbourne Golf Club, was speaking to the press in the open air about captaining the United States during the 2019 Presidents Cup.
“I've been a part of the Presidents Cup for 20 years,” said Woods, who made his Cup debut at Royal Melbourne in 1998.
“Now to have the opportunity to be a captain and to lead my guys into an environment that's going to be fun, it's going to be exciting, it's going to be electric, and on top of that, on one of the best venues in all the world. There's really nothing better as a player to evolve into the role of being a captain.”
“I want to compete. I want to play. After the (2019) Tour Championship, we'll have our top eight guys, and hopefully I'll be part of the top eight.” – Tiger Woods
The 42-year-old also hinted that the 2019 Australian Open could be without many big-name U.S. players due to its clash with the Hero World Challenge, which will be played the week prior to the biennial teams’ event next December.
“I hope they play at the Hero World Challenge … That's an obvious one,” said Woods, who hosts the annual event in The Bahamas.
The former long-time World No.1, who has played in eight Presidents Cups and won the most matches (24) of all time, then reinforced his desire to become the first playing captain since three-time major winner Hale Irwin (1994).
“I want to compete. I want to play. After the (2019) Tour Championship, we'll have our top eight guys, and hopefully I'll be part of the top eight,” said Woods, who is currently ranked 16th in the United States standings.
“If not, then myself and my vice captains are going to have to figure out as well as the other top eight players who are the next four guys that will be best served to be part of this team.”
Woods is embracing his role as the American skipper and said his attitude toward the game has changed significantly since recovering from his well-documented back issues.
“I'm certainly more appreciative of the game of golf and what it has meant to me and what it has allowed me and given me the opportunity to do,” said Woods, who won the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake in September.
“You know, 20 years ago it was a totally different deal. I was trying to just play and compete and beat everyone. Now I'm appreciative of having the opportunity to come back and play again. I'm just so thankful to be part of the game of golf as a competitor again.”
The 80-time PGA Tour winner also spoke passionately about potentially competing in future individual Australian tournaments.
“I would love to come back over here and play,” said Woods, who claimed the Australian Masters at Kingston Heath in 2009.
“This is some of the greatest golf there is and some of the greatest fans. I've enjoyed coming down here since my first time (at the Australian Open) in '96.”