SYDNEY • Jordan Spieth believes the appointment of Tiger Woods as a vice-captain will be a huge advantage for the United States team as they bid to win the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2008.
Golf's world No. 1, who moved into a share of third at the Australian Open yesterday, also expects Woods to qualify automatically for Hazeltine next year despite uncertainty over his return to competition after a second back operation.
"The fact Davis (Love) has appointed Tiger as a vice-captain means Tiger is going to bring a huge intimidation factor to the USA team next September," Spieth said on Thursday. "I am also of the opinion that Tiger will be on the team whether he qualifies automatically or as a captain's pick.
"He told me recently that he's going to make that Hazeltine team so I hope he does."
Spieth, who was absent from competition for three weeks before competing in the Australian Open this week, was commenting publicly for the first time on US captain Love's recent appointment of Woods, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker to add to Tom Lehman earlier.
"It's a great decision on Davis' part selecting Tiger and I don't see any downside to it at all," Spieth said. "It maybe is a bit unusual having five vice-captains (one more will be named later) but, given I am not on the committee that was formed, they do have a plan.
"So I will follow the plan and with an additional vice-captain, I do feel this next Ryder Cup could be a more laid-back atmosphere."
Spieth sees no problem for the team should any of the vice-captains qualify automatically to play.
"While we're not real sure about Tiger and Strick (Stricker), you would have to think Jim (Furyk) could still qualify for the team, but then I don't have a problem with that," he said. "That wouldn't hurt the team and I don't think it would make much of a difference, because if any of the vice-captains such as he and Tiger did make the team, they would still be strong leaders out on the golf course."
Next year's Ryder Cup will be played between Sept 30 and Oct 2 at Hazeltine National Golf Club in suburban Minneapolis. The Americans lead the all-time rivalry 25-13 with two draws. But the Europeans have won three in a row, six of the past seven and eight of the past 10.
Yesterday, Spieth had another frustrating day at the Australian Open. He carded a 68 to stand four shots off the pace set by Sydneysider Matt Jones (68) on 135.
He is a stroke behind big-hitting local Todd Sinnott, who was second after a 70.
Conditions were markedly calmer than on Thursday, when temperatures soared and gusts of wind swirled across the fairways at the Australian Golf Club. And Spieth could have really put his stamp on the tournament if he had built on the progress he made on the front nine, when he picked up birdies at the first, second and seventh holes.
"The cross-winds again made it a guessing game out there," he said.
"I found myself finally getting into a nice rhythm as I was hitting fairways and giving myself opportunities but I just couldn't quite gauge the wind."
Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had the best round of the day with a 66 for a share of third with Spieth, former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy (71), overnight leader Lincoln Tighe (73) and another local in Aron Price (68).
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS