by Jeff Skinner
Their past history was that of picking players just slightly removed from PGA Tour action. But Watson is decades removed from winning on the PGA Tour so it signaled a bit of a culture change at PGA of America headquarters.
Now, in that same vein Watson himself is faced with the real possibility of a significant change to the Ryder Cup team: that being a team without Tiger Woods.
Woods’ back surgery and less than stellar play has left him well down the Ryder Cup points list. He currently sits at 70th on the Ryder Cup Points list well out of the top nine automatic berths.
The points qualification end with the PGA Championship and Woods only has two events (WGC, PGA) left on his schedule to either win or impress Watson enough to select him with one of his three captain’s picks.
Woods has said he wants to be on the team and says he can contribute to the team. Watson on the other hand has said he needs to step up his game to earn one of his captain’s picks.
Originally Watson had said that a healthy Tiger would be on the team. Then it was a healthy Tiger that is playing well. Then it was a healthy Tiger, playing well with good results. Now it’s a healthy Tiger, playing well, with good results that makes the FedEx Cup Playoffs. It appears that Captain Tom is hedging his bets.
It’s not an unusual request for a captain to want his potential players to play well, to show him something, to give him a reason to just have to select him. But Woods has shown zero to Watson this season and the real possibility exists that a healthy Woods would miss his first Ryder Cup since turning professional. He missed 2008 due to injury.
Captain Tom, a historic choice as captain at 64 years old may just have to make a historic decision and leave Woods off the team. The times are changing in golf and after all isn’t that why the PGA tabbed Watson as captain anyway…to change things.
Tiger and Phil Mickelson have been the biggest names in American golf for years but all good things come to an end. Maybe 2014 is the year that truly signals that change.
After all, does the team really need Woods? In seven appearances in the Ryder Cup Woods has been on one winning team, 1999 at Brookline. He missed Paul Azinger’s win in 2008 and has played mediocre golf at best when he is on the team.
He has a 13-17-3 all time record and the USA blew a huge lead last year at Medinah with him going 0-3-1 and earning just half a point for the week. Is that contributing?
I am sure that the PGA, Watson, NBC and most of the fans want Tiger on the team. But in selecting Watson the PGA may have done themselves a huge favor. If they had selected a forty-something, player still with close ties to the tour it may have been more difficult to leave a poor playing Woods off the team. Tom Watson won’t have that problem.
Watson is his own man and big enough to first of all, make such a tough decision and second, handle the fallout. And there will be fallout.
Watson won’t have a problem fielding a team without Woods. After all the USA has one win in the past six events and Tiger was on the couch for that one. They can lose in Gleneagles without him just as easily as they can with him.
Cultural change comes slowly and sometimes painfully. A Tiger-less Ryder Cup Team was only a matter of time. Whether it comes this year or in 2016 or whenever the fact is no one stays on top forever.
Watson may be faced with the toughest decision a captain has had in decades. But isn’t that why he was selected in the first place: to change things up. This may just be the year.