Tiger Woods, as Augusta National chair Billy Payne insisted on Tuesday, will be missed at next week’s Masters. With the world No. 1 (for now) on the shelf for the foreseeable future, however, Ryder Cup watchers worry that the U.S. team may be without its No. 1 name for only the second time in his career.
Though Paul McGinley would very much like to make his debut as European captain with the hobbled one on the other side of the fairway, U.S. skipper Tom Watson wondered recently about Woods’ ability to make it to Scotland in September.
"I want Tiger to be on the team in the worst way, I just hope he's healthy enough to be able to play," Watson said last month, as Woods struggled with back pain but weeks before he announced he had undergone surgery and was headed to the DL for at least several weeks. "It's really early yet, way too early to tell."
Despite that, it was not too soon for at least one former U.S. player and squad leader to note that Watson would have to use a captain’s pick to place Woods -- who may or may not be back to full capacity by the time the matches start on September 26 -- on the team.
Tiger has virtually NO CHANCE of qualifying for the @RyderCupUSA Assuming he's back and playing in time: Do you pick him?— Paul Azinger (@PaulAzinger) April 2, 2014
Having Woods on the field at Gleneagles was a no-brainer for McGinley but not for everyone.
"Tiger's good for golf, so the sooner he gets back playing, the better," McGinley, who may have had Tiger’s 13-17-3 record Ryder Cup record in mind as well, told the Irish Independent.
The star of Europe’s stunning 2012 Cup victory, Ian Poulter, fully expected to face the 14-time major champion come the fall.
For now, all anyone can do is wait to see what the future holds for the injury-riddled Woods.
"Of course I'd like him to play at Gleneagles," McGinley said. "It'll be a better Ryder Cup with him there. Sure, Tiger's one of the world's greatest players and the Ryder Cup is golf's greatest event.
"Right now," he added, "I can only wish him the best of luck."
If Woods is to make the team, he may need all the luck McGinley can offer, since Watson does not exactly harbor the same warm and fuzzies for Tiger of a certain Presidents Cup skip.
The only other time in his career that Woods missed a Ryder Cup was after surgery to fix a torn ACL and broken leg following his 2008 U.S. Open victory. Coincidence or not, the Americans routed the Euros that year, which also marked the last time the U.S. came away with the trophy.