Woods failed to qualify for the Ryder Cup for the first time – he had led the standings every other time since 1997 – and now must rely on U.S. captain Corey Pavin spending one of four wild-card picks on him.
In a hotel conference room Monday, Pavin sat at the head table between two poster boards, each showing the final standings for the eight American qualifiers. Woods’ name was nowhere to be found between Phil Mickelson at No. 1 and Matt Kuchar at No. 8.
“I’m looking at him in essence like any other player. He isn’t … but he is,” Pavin said. “I’m certainly not going to disrespect other players by considering him different from other players. I have to look at the way he’s playing, the way he played, and I have to look at his body of work as well. If anyone can turn it around quickly, it’s him.”
Woods should have at least one more tournament to make an impression.
While he wound up No. 12 in the Ryder Cup standings, equally troublesome is that Woods is No. 108 in the FedEx Cup standings. The top 125 are eligible for The Barclays next week at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey, the start of the PGA Tour playoffs. Only the top 100 in the standings advance to the second round of the playoffs at the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston.
Woods is so far down in the FedEx Cup standings he’s one spot behind Pavin.
“He’s ranked a lot higher on Ryder Cup points,” Pavin said with a laugh, “and probably the world ranking, I’m guessing.”
Despite the shockingly low numbers next to Woods’ name, Pavin came away from the PGA Championship encouraged as much by what he heard from Woods as what he saw from him.
Woods stated plainly at the start of the week that he wants to play in the Ryder Cup and would accept a captain’s pick. Even after he closed with a 1-over 73 to tie for 28th at Whistling Straits, he joked that he could still help out in singles. His Ryder Cup record is 10-13-2, including 3-1-2 in singles.
“I feel my game is a lot better than it was obviously last week, and given a little bit more time, it’s starting to head in the right direction now, which is good,” Woods said. “And I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully, Corey will pick me on the team.”
Woods tied for fourth in the Masters and U.S. Open. He missed the cut at Quail Hollow with the highest 36-hole total of his career, and only a week before the final major, he had the worst tournament of his career when he shot 18-over par at Firestone.
Which guy will show up? Is he even worth a pick?
Pavin was asked about the pros and cons of taking Woods, and he could think only of the positives.
“He’s the No. 1 player in the world – that’s a pretty good ‘pro,”’ Pavin said. “Obviously, I’m considering him highly, no doubt about it. He’s’ playing better. I think we have all seen that. And he wants to play – he wants to be part of the team. But it’s going to be my judgment whether I pick him or not. I don’t think there are any con’s.”
Mickelson led the points table for the first time followed by Hunter Mahan, PGA runner-up Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Jeff Overton and Matt Kuchar.
Four of those players – Watson, Johnson, Overton and Kuchar – have never played a Ryder Cup. Stricker and Mahan played the first time two years ago at Valhalla. Overton, meanwhile, became the first American to qualify for the Ryder Cup without having won on the PGA Tour.
“I believe the eight players that have qualified is really going to allow a lot of flexibility for the four picks,” Pavin said. “It’s not just going to be about a type of player. There’s going to be a lot of room for maneuvering.”
Also missing from the list is Anthony Kim, the star of the American victory two years ago. Kim had thumb surgery in May, missed three months and has played poorly in the two tournaments since he returned.
Still, it all centers on Woods.
“I’m very encouraged by the way he played last week,” Pavin said. “He did a lot of good things. One of them may not have been driving the ball, but he grinded hard, he chipped the ball beautifully and putted better. His improvement from the Bridgestone to the PGA Championship was large. And I think he was encouraged by it.”
Pavin is not planning to play in The Barclays, worn out from playing so many big tournaments (Champions Tour and PGA Tour) the last month. Even so, he plans to keep in touch with Woods.
And what Woods says might go a way toward what Pavin decides.
“I have to evaluate how he’s playing,” Pavin said. “And he has to help me evaluate, just like any other player. If he feels he wants to take himself out of it, then that’s fine. If he feels like he wants to play, then it’s my decision.”