Hours after the first nine spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team were finalized, captain Tom Watson opened the door to adding Tiger Woods as a wild-card pick, and indicated that the former world No. 1 expressed an interest in joining the squad next month at Gleneagles.
Woods missed the cut at the PGA Championship, one week after withdrawing from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and four months after undergoing back surgery to alleviate pain from a pinched nerve. He is 70th on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, but Watson explained the contribution Woods - if healthy - could make to the team.
"He is Tiger Woods. He brings something to the team in a big way," Watson said Monday at Valhalla Golf Club. "He's been really good in the team room of recent, and he's a factor with the players. I know that for a fact.
"But the most important thing is, can he play? Can he physically play, and is he playing well?"
The latter question will likely remain unknown, as Woods is not qualified for the FedEx Cup playoffs and is not expected to tee it up competitively before Watson makes his three captain's picks on Sept. 2.
Watson plans to remain in contact with Woods, and the 64-year-old added that he trusts Woods "inherently" to offer a fair assessment of both his health and playing ability.
"The most important thing is his health. I've said it consistently all the way through the issue with Tiger after his injury: if he's healthy and is playing well, I'll pick him," Watson said. "Right now, his health is not good. Whether that can change in the next three weeks, as I said, I'll monitor the situation. I'll be talking with him, and as far as his playing ability is concerned, I'll monitor that as well."
After a second-round 74 at the PGA Championship, Woods told reporters that Watson "hasn't called" to discuss his Ryder Cup chances. According to Watson, though, the two have spoken, and Woods made known his desire to be on the team.
"Actually Tiger said that to me in our conversation. 'I want you to pick me,'" Watson said.
Watson explained that the next three PGA Tour events will be a "big factor" in his selections, but reiterated that Woods will be given consideration despite not playing in any of them.
"If he has the ability to play and he's healthy, he brings a lot to the team," he said. "I would be a fool not to consider him."