HOYLAKE, England – If Tiger Woods was trying to impress U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson this week at the Open Championship, he likely didn’t accomplish that goal.
Woods didn’t even beat the 64-year-old over four rounds at Royal Liverpool. Not even close.
Woods, the 2006 champion here, turned in a 3-over 75 Sunday to finish the week at 6-over 294. Of the 72 players who made the cut, he was T-69 when he walked off the course. It was his worst 72-hole finish in a major.
Even more surprising, his 72-hole total was five shots worse than Watson, who closed with 68.
“It’s just one day,” Watson said afterward. “It’s a snapshot. It’s not a big deal.”
Barring a late schedule change, Woods has only two events left in the regular season to make the FedEx Cup playoffs. He likely needs to average at least a top-3 finish in his next two starts – at Firestone, where he has won eight times, and Valhalla, where he won the 2000 PGA – to make the postseason.
Doing so would also go a long way toward convincing Watson that Woods is both healthy and playing well, the caveat the captain has added over the past few months when asked about Woods’ Ryder Cup prospects.
When asked if he would pick himself for Gleneagles, given his current form, Woods said, “I would say yes, but that’s my position on it. He’s the captain. Obviously it’s his decision. He’s going to field the best 12 players that he thinks will win the cup back, and I hope I’m on that team.”
In 2010, Woods played only 12 events while dealing with the fallout from his scandal and a neck injury, but Corey Pavin still took Woods as a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup in Wales.
“I felt like I was able to contribute to the team,” Woods said. “That’s all you want as a pick – you want someone who can contribute to the team, whether it’s in support or it’s in play. I did it then and hopefully I can actually earn my way on to this team.”
Entering this week, Woods was No. 72 and Phil Mickelson No. 12 in Ryder Cup points. (The top nine in the standings automatically qualify.) There remains a possibility that Watson could burn two of his three picks on players who have struggled this season but have been the anchors of the U.S. team for the past 15-plus years.
“It’s not a burden at all,” Watson said. “If Phil and Tiger don’t make it in the mix there, I’ve got some real thinking to do.
“Everyone is thinking that I’m going to pick them automatically. I can assure you that I’m not going to pick them automatically. I said about Tiger that I’ll pick him if he’s playing well and he’s in good health. Phil is the same way. If he’s playing well, again, how can you not pick those two?”