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Ryder Cup: Tiger Woods fitness ‘honesty’ urged

Tiger Woods in action at the 2013 Open. Picture: Jane Barlow

Tiger Woods in action at the 2013 Open. Picture: Jane Barlow

  • by MARTIN DEMPSTER
 

COLIN Montgomerie has urged Tiger Woods to be “honest” when it comes to telling Tom Watson if he can help the Americans regain the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles next month.

The 2010 European captain believes Woods will be handed one of Watson’s three wild cards if the 14-times major winner can shake off the back injury which forced him to withdraw from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational during yesterday’s final round, and is confident he can play a positive part against Paul McGinley’s team in Perthshire.

However, Montgomerie is ready to doff his cap to Woods if the former world No 1 admits he is not firing on all cylinders having already had a lengthy lay-off after back surgery and tells Watson to overlook him.

“Tom Watson was selected for one very good reason, to become the captain of the Ryder Cup team again, and that was to win,” said the eight-times European No 1. “America have had enough of losing this thing and they played the wildcard themselves in selecting Tom Watson to be captain. Tom Watson will not be sentimental in any pick. He’s got three picks and he won’t be sentimental in any of them. He has got to go to Tiger and say, ‘Do you feel that you will help my team get to 14½ points?’ If Tiger Woods says yes to that, can you pick three guys ahead of him? Can you honestly pick three guys and leave him out if he says to you he is ready and prepared to give it everything for the course? I don’t think you can, I think you’ve got to pick him.

“Tiger has got to be very, very honest. If Tiger says to Tom Watson, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t really feel, I haven’t come back well enough, I thought I’d be better, so please leave me out this time and I’ll be back in 2016’, okay fine, that’s an honest statement, fine, good on you Tiger, go for it.

“But, if he does say, ‘I can help you’, well then he’s got added pressure on him, hasn’t he? Having to stand on that first tee and drill one down the middle. It’s actually quite a good story this.

“I really hope that Tiger plays in the Ryder Cup. It will be fantastic to see him playing around Gleneagles and really giving it 110 per cent because he needed a pick. He’s been No 1 I think every other time and then suddenly bingo, he needs a pick.

“But can you honestly see three guys getting picked ahead of him? I can probably see one (probably Phil Mickelson, who is also outside the automatic positions), maybe two at a real push but three? No, you’ve got to include him, I think.”

Woods is due to play this week’s US PGA Championship at Valhalla where he will bid to land his first major in more than six years, having been stuck on the 14 mark since winning the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines.

After missing both The Masters and US Open this season as he recovered from his back surgery, the 38-year-old finished a dismal 69th behind Rory McIlroy in The Open at Hoylake just over a fortnight ago to leave Montgomerie believing his chance of beating Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors has now gone down the drain. “I think he’s passed that timeframe, I really do,” insisted the Scot, who is himself playing in the season’s final major, having qualified as the US Senior PGA champion, and will also be working for Sky Sports in Kentucky.

“The timeframe to win 19 majors was over the last two years. He’s running out of time because the competition is less fearful, it’s better, it’s stronger, they want it more and is Tiger getting any better?

“That’s the thing, Tiger has to get better from where he was to win 19 majors and I can’t see that improvement from where he was in the year 2000, which was damn near perfect. I don’t think he is going to get to 19. He might get to 15, he might get to 16. Nineteen? Doubtful.”

As for how many majors McIlroy can go on and win after he edged closer to a career Grand Slam by claiming the Claret Jug on Merseyside, Montgomerie is reserving judgment for the time being, though he strongly fancies the 25-year-old to come out on top again this weekend.

“Talk to me again in three or four years when he’s got to ten and then we’ll see, but there’s nothing stopping Rory McIlroy getting to ten majors in three or four years, nothing at all, he’s that good,” he said.

“I think he is much more relaxed on the course and he was swinging the putter with a lot more freedom at The Open. There was a lot more freedom in his golf and he needed that. There were almost constraints on him and it was a shame and now that’s gone and he has another major under his belt.

“I do think he is going to win at Valhalla – I can’t see anybody beating him. I’m as confident of Rory winning at Valhalla as one of Tiger’s victories in 2000, when he won four in a row.”

• Sky Sports’ summer of sport includes the USPGA, F1, England Test cricket and more of the games that matter from the Barclays Premier League.

 

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