Phil Mickelson is in on points, Tiger Woods, bad back and all, is still in the Ryder Cup conversation and captain Tom Watson is breathing a little easier now that nine members of his U.S. squad have been determined in advance of next month’s matches against Europe at Gleneagles in Scotland.
“I will continue to speak to Tiger over the next three weeks to monitor his situation,” Watson said Monday morning in a press conference held at Valhalla, where late Sunday Rory McIlroy won his second PGA Championship.
“If he’s healthy and playing well, I will take him,” Watson said, repeating what he has stated for months now. “Right now his health is not good. Whether that can change in the next three weeks, as I said, I will monitor the situation.”
The nine members of the American team assured as of Sunday are, in order of points earned: Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson.
On the outside looking in at No. 10 is Jason Dufner, who had to withdraw from last week’s PGA Championship with a neck injury.
On Sept. 2, Watson will round out the side with three captain’s picks. The matches are scheduled for the end of that month.
Early speculation is that Keegan Bradley, and maybe Brandt Snedeker or Hunter Mahan or even Steve Stricker head the list of “possibles” for those slots. Ryan Moore and Brendon Todd, 11th and 12th respectively in the standings, are not likely to be chosen.
“The major part will be how those guys are playing,” Watson said when asked what will determine his decision. “And these players know that. … It’s pretty open right now as to who’s going to get those three picks.”
Watson said he got a text from a player (he wouldn’t name) Sunday night that said, “I want to make you pick me.”
“I like that,” Watson said. Watson added that Woods had said the same thing about wanting to be picked in a recent conversation between the two. The hard part for Watson here is that Tiger is unlikely to play in any events prior to the Ryder Cup. He has not qualified for the upcoming FedEx Cup playoffs, which would have provided a measuring stick for Watson.
“I can’t assess his medical condition and I can’t really assess how he’s playing,” Watson admitted. “It’s really going to have to come from Tiger himself. … I would be a fool not to consider him.”
Asked, point blank, if he can “trust” Woods, Watson shot back, “Absolutely.”
Finally, there was talk in the golf ether Monday about a reconciliation between Woods and his former swing coach Butch Harmon. If that happens, that pair will have a lot of work to do in the next six weeks to get Woods “Ryder” ready.