Tom Watson: Tiger still in play

Tiger Woods

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Despite his recent poor form and injuries, Tiger Woods is not being ruled out for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. In fact, captain Tom Watson said Monday morning that a lot of that decision will come down to Woods.

Nine players qualified automatically for the team at the conclusion of the PGA Championship on Sunday, but a majority of the questions at a news conference at Valhalla Golf Club were about Woods, who missed the cut and was visibly hurting during the second round.

"I think it directly comes from Tiger," Watson said. "How he assesses himself. He has a directness to him. I'm direct and he's direct. The main thing is I can't assess his medical condition. And I really can't assess how he is playing. It's really going to have to come from him.

"I don't make this comment loosely. He is Tiger Woods and he brings a lot to the team if he has the ability to play and he is healthy. He brings a lot to the team. And I would be a fool not to consider him."

Watson reiterated his long-held stance that Woods must be healthy and playing well. The problem is that Woods is not scheduled to play between now and the Ryder Cup, which begins on Sept. 26. Watson is scheduled to make his three at-large selections on Sept. 2. He could pick Woods and replace him closer to the Ryder Cup if he is not fit.

Asked if he could trust Woods to give him a straight answer, Watson said, "Absolutely."

Later, Watson said, "I trust Tiger to give me the straight skinny. I trust him inherently."

Watson acknowledged that the United States will be an underdog for the matches at Gleneagles in Scotland. Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson all qualified, but Kuchar is the last player in that group to win this year, and that was in April.

And Kuchar withdrew prior to the PGA Championship with a back injury, while Jason Dufner, who was bumped out of the last spot, withdrew during the first round with a neck problem that he said requires rest. The team has just three Ryder Cup rookies in Walker, Spieth and Reed, but none of the players outside of the top 10 -- Ryan Moore, Brendon Todd, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson, for example -- have made overwhelming cases.

Both Todd and Moore had a chance to make the team on their own Sunday, especially given Johnson's 70th-place finish, but were unable to put together a good enough final round.

"I think the European team is the stronger of the teams right now, on paper," Watson said. "But I have extreme confidence in the players that we have on our team and their motivation to go out and win the cup back. It doesn't leave me any question that we're capable of winning the cup."

The lone U.S. victory at the Ryder Cup since 1999 came at Valhalla in 2008 under captain Paul Azinger, who said Saturday on Golf Channel that he feels Woods should not play in the Ryder Cup.

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