US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson has immediately ended any speculation surrounding Tiger Woods’ place at Gleneagles 2014, by insisting he will give the world number one a wild card if he’s fit to compete.
Woods will miss the majority of the season after undergoing a microdiscectomy on his back, after the 14-time major winner injured it during the Honda Classic earlier this year.
With the 38-year-old expected to miss the majority of the campaign rehabilitating, thus making it almost impossible to collect the points required to be an automatic pick, many had questioned whether he’d be present in Scotland this September.
However, former Open winner Watson has quickly put an end to any guesswork by stating he will hand his star player a wild card pick this autumn providing he can do the work required to regain something like full fitness.
Watson revealed: “I’ve been asked a little bit about: ‘What if he doesn’t make the team?’ – I’ll pick him for the team.
“I just hope he gets well and starts to play again without pain. That’s all that matters,” the veteran was quoted in the Guardian as saying.
Meanwhile, Watson hopes the latest injury to an ageing Woods is not career threatening, with many golfers’ playing days curtailed early by issues with that part of the body in a gruelling sport which takes it toll after years at the top.
He added: “Everybody’s been in pain before, every golfer. For some, it ended their careers. For others, they’ve beaten it and corrected it with surgery.
“Obviously, I hope his is corrected with surgery and I hope he can recover, and swing the club without pain.”
The immediacy of Watson’s announcement ensures the American captain’s preparations will not be hampered by unnecessary rumours about Woods, that could threaten to distract other members of the US contingent as they to regain the Ryder Cup.
His captaincy and strategy will go a long way towards deciding whether they USA can reclaim a trophy they last won in 2008, their solitary victory since the turn of the Millennium.
Paul Azinger was Woods’ captain that year at Valhalla, and he stressed the seriousness of his compatriot’s problem on Tuesday.
He said on Twitter after Woods had announced he would miss the Masters as well as the foreseeable future: “Sadly has had to withdraw from the Masters due to back surgery. Three-six months. This is as career threatening injury as his knee.”
The man once tipped to easily surpass Jack Nicklaus’ major haul of 18 famously won the last of his 14 on almost one leg, the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines.
He was still in his prime during that tournament six years ago, however, and as he rapidly approaches 40 the toll of hitting millions of golf balls is beginning to tell.
Having said that, Team USA may not miss their best player as much as many people might think, with Woods often failing to find his find his best in the three-day biennial event.
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