As the smoke is clearing from Rory McIlroy‘s nearly flawless wire-to-wire run to his third career major win at the Open Championship, attentions are quickly turning back to – who else? – Tiger Woods. More specifically, as the 2014 season winds down, does the five-time winner from just one season ago actually deserve a spot on the American Ryder Cup team this year?
To his credit, American team captain Tom Watson clearly recognizes Woods’s value to the team, at the very least in leadership and off-the-course factors. Although he’s stopped short of actually guaranteeing Woods a spot on the roster, all signs point toward Watson choosing Woods if he’s healthy and in solid playing shape.
Judging by recent events, that’s still a big, big “if”.
Woods started off better than almost anybody had expected at Royal Liverpool, but stumbled in his final three rounds, nearly missing the cut and finishing in 69th place. As a professional, it was by far the worst showing he’s had in a major where he made the cut. Not exactly an awe-inspiring week.
Woods still sounds as confident as ever, telling media that he badly wants to be part of the team that has a chance to bring the Ryder Cup back stateside for just the second time since the year 2000. Barring a miraculous comeback, Woods will need Watson to believe in him when the captain makes his selections after the PGA Championship.
Time is not on his side. Woods has been quick to point out that he was a captain’s pick when Corey Pavin led the American squad in 2010. “I was coming off an injury there, with my Achilles, and I sat out most of the summer,” Woods said. “And I felt like I was able to contribute to the team.”
That’s true, at first glance. Woods went 3-1 that year, including a Sunday singles win over Francesco Molinari. Of course, not only was Woods able to play in all four majors that year, but he had earned enough FedEx Cup points to earn his place in the playoffs, where he steadily improved and showed that Pavin was right to place his confidence in him. The 2014 version of Woods has been too hurt and too inconsistent to inspire that kind of confidence, especially with just two tournaments left on his calendar.
In the end, I still believe that Watson will choose Woods for Gleneagles, and there are few players at the 11th or 12th slot that would turn the tables from the favored European team back toward the Americans. But, barring a major turnaround at the end of the year, or some unscheduled appearances in international events, Woods is looking like one of the biggest gambles in the game.