Ryder Cup 2014: Tom Watson remains hopeful Tiger Woods will be fit for Gleneagles
Last Updated: 11/08/14 9:21pm
Tom Watson will give Tiger Woods every chance to prove he is fit enough to feature in next month’s Ryder Cup.
The 14-time major champion has struggled to regain both form and fitness since returning to action following almost four months out after undergoing back surgery in March.
I don’t make this comment loosely, but he is Tiger Woods and he brings a lot to the team if he has the ability to play and he is healthy. I would be a fool not to consider him.
Woods withdrew from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in March after suffering back spasms, and he continued to look in pain as he missed the cut by a distance at the PGA Championship.
American Ryder Cup captain Watson will monitor Woods’ situation closely over the next three weeks before announcing his three wildcard picks on September 2.
But Watson admitted he will have to rely on Woods’ own assessment of his health and form, as he has not qualified for the upcoming FedExCup play-offs.
He also insisted that he will select players who are in the best form at the end of this month regardless of their position in the Ryder Cup standings.
“It’s been a pleasure over the last couple of years, and especially this last year, to be able to get to know some of the younger players out there,” said Watson.
“I’ve had a chance to get inside their heads, to be able to play golf with them and get to understand who they are as a person and create some new friendships.
“As far as the team is concerned, the nine players who have made the team I am wonderfully happy with. I believe that each and every player has the ability to play great golf and compete at the highest level in the Ryder Cup.
“My job as captain is to inspire them if I can, but I can tell you without hesitation that the motivation is there in each one of these players.
“I’ve talked with them, I’ve played with them and I’ve been left very clear that these players are motivated to win this Ryder Cup. That’s all I can ask of them.
“As far as my three picks are concerned, over the next three weeks I’ll be very focused on the play of those who are not on the team, who are close in the rankings and maybe some who are not close up in the rankings.
“That said, the factor I look at most is the gut factor. Can that man play under pressure? Can that man hit the shots under pressure?
“Getting to know these players I get to understand them but I also get a good understanding from outside sources as well.
“There are a lot of people in golf who have observations about players that I will utilise in my assessment of the players. That will definitely enter into my decision on who to pick on September 2, and I will go down the rankings as far as it takes to find the ‘hot guy’.
“As far as Tiger is concerned, I will continue to speak to him over the next three weeks to monitor his situation. Obviously he hasn’t been playing well, but that’s been a result of his injury.
“The most important thing is his health. I’ve said consistently that if he’s healthy and playing well I will pick him. Right now his health is not good, and I’ll just continue to monitor his situation. I’ll be speaking with him and as far as his playing ability is concerned, I’ll monitor that as well.
“The major part of my decision on the three picks is how they are playing. You want players who are playing well to be on your team. I want the players who are in the best form by September 2 and they know that.”
Watson will keep regular contact with Woods over the next month, and he admitted he is ready to trust his judgement if he insists he is ready to play at Gleneagles.
“It will come directly from Tiger and how he assesses himself,” Watson added. “I can’t assess his medical condition and I honestly can’t assess how he is playing. It’s going to have to come from Tiger himself.
“I don’t make this comment loosely, but he is Tiger Woods and he brings a lot to the team if he has the ability to play and he is healthy. I would be a fool not to consider him.”
Watson also believes his team are fully motivated to gain revenge for their final-day meltdown in the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, when Europe staged a stunning fightback in the singles to snatch a historic victory.
But he also conceded that his team will start the contest as underdogs, and he urged his players to learn from the mistakes of Medinah.
“You look at the European team and on paper they look stronger than the American team, but our team has got that motivation from 2012 that I’m going to lay on them,” he said.
“I think that they had such a big lead and they got complacent. They were going to rely on other people to win it and kind of coasted a little bit.
“That’s what can happen if you have such a big lead. You play more conservatively, you change your playing style and sometimes you back off.”