TOM Watson’s problems are mounting in the countdown to the Ryder Cup after it emerged that Jason Dufner is battling an injury heading into his defence of the US PGA Championship.
The Scotsman understands that Dufner, who picked up three points out of four on his Ryder Cup debut in Chicago two years ago, might step on to the first tee at Valhalla tomorrow without playing a practice round. It is believed the 37-year-old has been struggling with the injury since April and has only kept playing in a bid to secure an automatic spot on the American team for next month’s match at Gleneagles.
Dufner is lying eighth in the standings and would likely be a valuable player for Watson, especially as he has already lost Dustin Johnson due to his break from the game and, of course, the growing concern in the US camp over the fitness of Tiger Woods.
Woods, who withdrew during the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron on Sunday after injuring his bad back, cancelled his scheduled press conference at Valhalla yesterday. However, it seemed the 38-year-old, who won the US PGA Championship here in 2000, was going to leave it until as late as possible before making an announcement about his participation in the season’s final major.
Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson are the others sitting in automatic berths along with Dufner. It means this week’s event is the last throw of the dice for Phil Mickelson as he bids to extend his proud record of securing a tenth appearance in the inter-continental contest without needing a captain’s pick.
“I’m on the outside looking in right now, so we have some work to do,” admitted last year’s Open and Scottish Open champion, who is sitting tenth on the list, a spot above Keegan Bradley.