The more I think about it, the more I’m coming round to the idea that Tom Watson simply has to give Tiger Woods one of his three wildcards for next month’s Ryder Cup.
I know, it’s ridiculous, right? The man has shown no form all year and finished 70th in qualifying. By rights, 61 players have a better case for selection than he does.
But ‘the man’ in question is no ordinary man. He’s a 14-time major winner, arguably the greatest golfer of all time, and whilst he has been almost unrecognisably poor on the course at times this year, ask yourself this: did even part of you think he had a hope of contending at the PGA Championship last weekend?
I know part of me did. Whether it was my head or my heart, it doesn’t matter. Even after an injury-plagued year, his worst-ever finish at the Open as a professional and a WD from the WGC the week before, part of me still expected to see Tiger in the mix at Valhalla.
And therein lies the first reason for Watson to pick him: his unpredictability. You never know what you’re going to get when you take him on. Most weeks, when it’s ‘you versus the course’, that doesn’t really matter. But in the hotbed of the Ryder Cup, when it's ‘you versus your opponent’, that kind of unpredictability makes it hard to prepare for the challenge in store.
At least the Americans know what they’re going to get with Rory McIlroy. Long, straight drives; aggressive golf; fast play.
However, the way he’s playing right now, you just don’t know which Tiger Woods would show up. And believe me, that would be as much of a problem for Paul McGinley as it would for Tom Watson.
Another point: there is a growing consensus that the US is going to get soundly beaten at Gleneagles. On that basis, the US has nothing to lose by taking Tiger. Lose with him or without him, who cares? It was expected.
As far as I can see, the only issue that might preclude Woods from getting a pick is his fitness.
Then there’s this: if you don’t pick Tiger, who do you pick? Jason Dufner is struggling for fitness but, if healthy, he’s certain to get the nod. Keegan Bradley is out of form but, the way he bought into the spirit of the match at Medinah, you’d have to fancy his chances of a pick, too.
But then who? Ryan Moore? Brendon Todd? Chris Kirk? Harris English? With the greatest of respect to each of them, fantastic golfers though they are, they have won a combined eight times on the PGA Tour. That’s six less than the number of majors Tiger has won.
More significantly, all four would be rookies. With three already on his side (Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker and Jordan Spieth), can Watson really afford to throw another debutant into the mix and have a third of team turning up blind at Gleneagles?
As far as I can see, the only issue that might preclude Woods from getting a pick is his fitness. Equally, though, there’s nothing that says he has to play all five matches at Gleneagles. Moore, Tood, Kirk and English probably wouldn’t go out in all five sessions. Why should Woods be any different?
Besides, even if he was fit, would you pick him to play foursomes the way he is driving it?
Bring Tiger and let him play in the fourballs and the singles. Pitch him in alongside Spieth and let the young guy bounce off the energy of playing with one of his heroes on the biggest stage in golf. If that doesn’t get Spieth going, nothing will. And who knows, it might just spark Tiger into life. Even if it doesn’t, he’s Tiger Woods - who knows what he might produce on the day?
If I was Tom Watson - and I’m only eight majors behind him - I’d be picking Tiger. He might not be my first pick but he’d be one of them. And that’s all he needs to be.
Tiger Woods: Should he be picked?
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