August 03, 2014

No #RyderCup for you, #TigerWoods, at the possible end of an era

No, US captain Tom Watson has not officially announced his captain's picks for the American Ryder Cup team, but, Tiger Woods' medically-forced withdrawal from Bridgestone for some degree of aggravation of his back problems should make the choice not to select Woods obvious.

First, there's some simple math.

Tiger now mathematically cannot qualify for the FedEx Cup events. Even were he to play in the PGA Championship at Valhalla next week, he couldn't.

And secondly?

He's not going to play in the PGA Championship next week. (Correction, he is playing, but obviously just Thursday and Friday, so badly that Vijay Singh and Mrs. Doubtfire were ahead of him.)

So, between now and seven weeks from now, Woods has about zero chance to play competitive golf.

Plus, for Point No. 3? Watson can cite Tiger's re-aggravation of the back injury to say that he's not willing to take a medical risk.

Bob Harig, thinking on similar lines, wonders whether Tiger should not just shut it down for the year. It would also avoid the embarrassment of him groveling to Watson, a likely unsuccessful groveling that would then lead to further embarrassment.

That said, between Dustin Johnson not being eligible because of an alleged suspension for blowing coke that the PGA refuses to acknowledge, then breaks its policy by commenting about non-commenting, and Tiger's injury, Watson will have fun choices to make, with a top-nine automatic qualifiers who don't look impressive. Indeed, Watson's squad looks to be decided underdogs. And, with the lack of veteran talent, even though Philly Mick's track record in the Ryder Cup is no better than Woods', I can't see how Watson doesn't pick Phil Mickelson with Tiger down.

Beyond this, of course, the "end of an era" questions grow bigger.

Did Tiger come back too early? Was the surgery not effective enough? Is what's left of his career going to be permanently diminished? Even if he fully heals, can he get his stroke fully back?

On the last, I'll say no. He switched to an older driver this week but still had horrible control off the tee. Part of that may be rust, but part of it may be that his current swing stance, as many commenters have noted, has too many moving parts and leaves him open to wild drives. Dependent on how long he's on the shelf again, it may not be until the middle of 2015 that he has halfway controllable driver shots again.

As for question No. 1? Only Tiger and his doctors know that for sure, and his doctors will surely respect patient-client privilege, but the answer is a quite possible yes.

As for Nos. 2 and 3? We'll find out soon enough on 2, and by that middle of 2015 on 3. Stay tuned.

The closest point of comparison in my mind is Lee Trevino after he was struck by lightning. He managed to win one major after that, but never was quite the same player.

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