Tom Watson's Dilemma: To Pick Tiger or Not to Pick Tiger, That is The Question
Now that all four 2014 Major Championships are over, the golf world can turn eyes to the upcoming Ryder Cup, which will be held at Glen Eagles in Scotland from September 23rd through the 28th. Nine American players have clinched automatic spots, leaving captain Tom Watson three additional picks to round off the team. He has until September 2nd to make his final decision.
Question: Should Tiger Woods be one of Tom Watson’s three captain picks for the 2014 Ryder Cup? Answer: Maybe but probably not and here’s why:
The greatest factor arguing against Tiger being selected is his very questionable health conditions. Tiger put it simply to the Golf Channel in March by stating that, “A bad back is no joke.” After shooting two miserable rounds of golf last week at Valhalla, carding consecutive 74s for a combined six over and an early trip home to watch the remainder of the tournament from his living room, Tiger proved that he has not yet recovered from the herniated disc surgery for his lower back that he underwent in March.
The Chicago Tribune reported that by his own admission, Tiger has not completely recovered: "I need to get stronger… I need to get my glutes strong again, my abs and my core back to where I used to have them. Obviously by playing, you can't burn the candle at both ends." The 38-year-old Woods added that his beleaguered back “throws everything off. I can't get anywhere near the positions that I'm accustomed to getting to. I've got to rely on timing, hands. It's very frustrating."
Tiger’s performance this year, to say the least, is not good. Since January of 2014 when Tiger finished 80th at the Farmers Open, he has had two withdrawals, two missed cuts, a 69th place, and, in his best finish, 25th place at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. These results are far from what we expect from Tiger and certainly not the type of golf you would expect from someone on the Ryder Cup Team.
There are several players based on merit who deserve a spot far more than Tiger. Right now, Tiger is ranked number 218 in the FedExCup, which would leave over 100 Americans with better years than Tiger in 2014, including several with Ryder Cup experience like Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker, Stewart Cink, JB Holmes, and Keegan Bradley. Other possible choices like Kevin Na, Brandt Snedeker, and Webb Simpson all have had better years than Tiger and are much healthier.
With all this being said, why would the 64-year-old legend Tom Watson, who knows a bit about Ryder Cup victories himself (4 Ryder Cups, 15 matches, 10 victories), want to risk bringing Tiger with him to Scotland and start penning his name on the match cards come September. Well, he just might do it under one crucial circumstance: Tiger is healthy and can prove he can put together a few solid consecutive rounds of golf in tournament play.
We already know that Tiger wants to play. Watson confided that “Tiger said to me: ‘I want you to pick me,’” reported the Guardian. Watson added, however, “It’s about his physical capability. Everybody understands that. He can’t go 36 holes [in a day] right now.” If in three weeks that is still the case then he will be passed over.
Already Tiger is a six-time Ryder Cup member and has posted 13 wins against 14 losses and has a 4-1-1 singles record. Not the greatest stats from the man who at the age of 38 has more wins than any other player in the history of modern professional golf with the exception of Sam Snead, who he now trails by just three. Sam Snead took 30 years to accomplish it while Tiger has done it in just 18.
Considering his weary back and the poor prospect that it will get better soon enough to compete in the Ryder Cup, it is unlikely he can make the team. But Tiger is disciplined and we know that he's doing his physical therapy. That, coupled with his unbridled desire to compete, may help him qualify. So let’s see what happens over the next three weeks. If Tiger can show his stuff and rack up some low numbers on the course, well, then, “It's elementary my dear Watson.”