Tiger Woods was able to play through some back discomfort during golf’s final major of the season last week, but he struggled to find a rhythm and missed the cut after posting a +7 through 36 holes.
Many in the golf community believe Woods will take some time off to give his surgically repaired back some rest, but the 14-time major winner hopes to play in next month’s Ryder Cup. Sources say Woods has spoken with USA Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson about a spot on the team, and Watson has been open about Tiger’s chances.
“Tiger said to me: I want you to pick me,” Watson said. “I will continue to speak with Tiger over the next three weeks to monitor his situation. He has not been playing well but I think it’s been a result, as you well know, of his injury and his coming back from back surgery.”
Aside from the nine golfers who automatically qualify for a spot on the Ryder Cup team based on last year’s earnings, each side’s captain is allowed to make three “wildcard” selections. The wildcard selections can be any player regardless of earnings or World Rank.
The nine American golfers who have earned a spot on the team are Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson. Only Furyk, Kuchar, Watson and Mickelson are ranked ahead of Woods in the current World Golf Rankings. Watson’s wildcard selections are due by September 2.
Comes Down to Health
Watson said he would continue to talk to Tiger about his progression from back surgery, noting that in the end it will come down to Tiger’s health.
“The most important thing is his health. I’ve said it consistently all the way through the issue with Tiger. If he’s healthy and is playing well, I’ll pick him,” said Watson. “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 in concerned, I’ll monitor that as well.”
Based on Watson’s words, Woods may be stuck between a rock and a hard place. He needs to prove that his game is up to par, but continuing to play with a less-than-100-percent back could worsen the injury. He certainly won’t want to withdraw from the Ryder Cup during the competition, so Woods will have to be sure he can make it through the grueling competition.
As someone who helps patients with back pain on a regular basis, I know how crippling back pain can be to everyday activities, let alone sport at the highest level. If I had to take a guess at how this situation would play out, I’d bet that Tiger tells Watson that he will remove his name for consideration for selection. It’s obvious that Tiger wants to play, but I think he realizes he needs the rest if he wants to have his best chance at chasing down Jack Nicholas’ record of 18 majors. Tiger won’t want to deal with the media frenzy that would occur if Watson decided not to select him to the team, so I believe he’ll withdraw his name from consideration to remove that decision from Watson’s metaphorical plate.
Thomas Cohn, MD
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