LOUISVILLE, Ky. – He’s back, or he’s not back. Or it’s all about his back. The golf world wonders and waits once again on Tiger Woods.
Hours after the sport had perhaps its finest day of the year, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, Tom Watson, held a news conference to talk about the nine players who officially qualified for his team in the wake of a breathtaking PGA Championship. Guess who was the major topic of conversation Monday? No, not Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson or Rickie Fowler. Don’t be silly.
Here’s a hint: He finished 70th in the 2014 Ryder Cup standings and missed the cut at the PGA.
Perhaps it felt as if we had seen the last of Woods this year when he left Valhalla Golf Club on Friday, limping, forlorn and his game in shambles. Woods indeed knew he would not be playing — or was not eligible for — the remaining PGA Tour events this season. But Watson made it plain he still had Tiger on his mind in a significant way.
“He is Tiger Woods, and he brings a lot to the team,” Watson said of Woods’ Ryder Cup chances. “If he has the ability to play and he’s healthy, he brings a lot to the team. I’d be a fool not to consider him.”
It is roughly six weeks until the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland, and on Sept. 2, Watson must name his three at-large picks for the 12-player team. What transpires next is a 21-day boot camp in which 14-time major winner Woods tries to prove himself fit and skilled enough for golf’s most demanding and pressure-filled event.
Watson indicated he will essentially take Woods’ word about the condition of his balky back and his erratic game.
“I can’t assess his medical condition, and I honestly can’t assess how he’s playing,” Watson said. “It really is going to be having to come from information from Tiger himself. But again, I don’t make this comment loosely. He is Tiger Woods.”
Watson was asked point-blank if he trusted Woods.
“Absolutely,” he answered.
Watson is staring across the Atlantic Ocean at one of the most fearsome European Ryder Cup teams ever. Europe is led by McIlroy, this year’s British Open and PGA Championship winner.
• McIlroy’s one-stroke victory over Mickelson on Sunday generated a 6.0 overnight rating for CBS, the highest for the PGA Championship since a 7.5 in 2009, when Y.E. Yang defeated Woods. This year’s rating was up 36 percent from 2013, when Jason Dufner won.