Who will Tom Watson pick for the U.S. Ryder Cup team now that Tiger Woods is out?


(Associated Press)

Tiger Woods cut off any Ryder Cup speculation on Wednesday night, announcing that he won’t play in the biennial event in order to give his ailing back more time to heal.

“I’ve been told by my doctors and trainer that my back muscles need to be rehabilitated and healed,” Woods said in a statement, released days after he missed the cut at the PGA Championship. “They’ve advised me not to play or practice now. I was fortunate that my recent back injury was not related to my surgery and was muscular only.”

Had he kept his name in the hat, Woods could have been one of the three captain’s picks for Tom Watson, who is leading the team for the first time since 1993. The top nine players in the Ryder Cup points standingswhich are determined by prize money earned in 2013 and 2014 — automatically make the team. Woods, who missed the first two majors of this season and played in only four events in 2014, was far outside the top nine.

Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson played their way onto the U.S. team after finishing in the money at the PGA Championship, which was the last chance to collect Ryder Cup points. Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Jimmy Walker, Matt Kuchar and Jordan Speith also have qualified for the team, though Kuchar — the world’s No. 7-ranked golfer — has back problems of his own that caused him to withdraw from the PGA Championship shortly before he was scheduled to tee off.

Watson’s options may have been further thinned by an injury to Jason Dufner. The 2013 PGA Championship winner, who is No. 10 in the U.S. Ryder Cup points standings, also withdrew from this year’s PGA Championship midway through his first round because of a neck injury.

Ryan Moore, who is ranked No. 38 in the world, finished 11th in the U.S. Ryder Cup points standings and has seven top 10 finishes this season with one victory. He finished tied for 12th at the British Open and tied for 41st at the PGA Championship. Moore reportedly is on Watson’s radar, as the two had lunch together at the British Open.

Other options for Watson include Keegan Bradley (No. 13 in the Ryder Cup standings), Brendon Todd (No. 14) and Ryan Palmer, who is No. 18 in the Ryder Cup standings but finished tied for fifth at the PGA Championship.

An intriguing possibility could be Steve Stricker, 47, whom Watson has named as one of his vice captains. Stricker, who was paired with Watson for the first two rounds of the PGA Championship, finished tied for seventh to more up to No. 27 in the Ryder Cup standings. He has played on the last three U.S. Ryder Cup teams — he frequently was paired with Woods — and is 3-7-1 all-time in the event. That experience could be valuable on a U.S. team that will feature at least three Ryder Cup rookies.

Watson will announce his captain’s picks on Sept. 2. The Ryder Cup, pitting the American team against one composed of players from Europe, will be played Sept. 26-28 at Gleneagles in Scotland. The Europeans have won seven of the last nine Ryder Cups, and this year’s team will feature four of the top five players in the world golf rankings, including No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who has won the last two majors.

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