The top-9 are set for Team USA, and Captain Tom Watson will select the final three players on September 2nd. Several former Ryder Cup players did not get an automatic bid, including Tiger Woods.
Watson spoke at Valhalla Golf Club on Monday, and said his job is to inspire and motivate the American squad. They are going to need an edge because Watson admitted Team Europe is ‘stronger’ on paper. However, the Captain will look to counteract the European talent with his three picks.
The eight-time major champ said, “As far as my three spots are concerned, over the next three weeks I’ll be very, very focused on the players who are high up in the ranks. And with that said, there’s a factor that I look at most and that’s the gut factor; the factor that, can that man play under pressure, can that man hit the shots under pressure. How do I know that? In getting to know these players, I’m getting an understanding from there, but I get an understanding from outside sources, as well.”
After describing how he would make his picks, the first question was about Tiger Woods, who finished the qualification process at 70th. Watson said, “Well, the most important thing is his health. I’ve said it consistently all the way through the issue with Tiger after his injury. If he’s healthy and is playing well, I’ll pick him.”
Watson also dropped a bit of a bombshell when he said that Tiger told Watson he wants to be picked for the team. The Captain also added, “He is Tiger Woods and he brings a lot to the team, if he has the ability to play and he’s healthy. He brings a lot to the team, and I’d be a fool not to consider him.”
At 70th in points, Tiger would be the lowest ranked player to be chosen for the Ryder Cup. To put the potential pick in context, vice captain Steve Stricker finished the qualification process at 29th, and in 1993 Watson picked Ray Floyd at no. 23.
When it comes to Stricker, Watson has told him to bring his clubs to Scotland. This is important because if a player gets injured during the practice rounds, Watson would be able to replace the player up until the Opening Ceremonies. Matt Kuchar is on the team, and he was forced to withdraw from the PGA because of back soreness, but the main concern would be if Tiger was picked for the team.
It is no secret that Tom Watson is a big fan of the Ryder Cup, and he spoke about what makes the event so special. “Just the camaraderie, the joy that you had when you win as a team; it’s a feeling you never, ever forget, more so than your individual [wins] many times. And the losses, conversely, are worse. Getting some information on coaches who coach teams I think is a very important part of the process, my learning process, as captain for The Ryder Cup.”
Watson had the opportunity to speak with Wisconsin head basketball coach Bo Ryan about coaching, and called the conversation “wonderful.”
Now it’s time to let the remaining guys play, and wait for the Captain’s picks on September 2nd at 6pm ET in New York City. The event will be aired on The Golf Channel.