Tom Watson hoping time is a healer as Ryder Cup looms

Several of the USA captain’s likely team struggling with injury or loss of form

Tiger Woods: has been struggling to rediscover his form following a back operation.

Tiger Woods: has been struggling to rediscover his form following a back operation.

Sat, Aug 9, 2014, 01:00

In the aftermath of what became known as the “Miracle of Medinah,” when Europe performed a remarkable final day singles turnaround to capture the 2012 Ryder Cup, Tom Watson – who had watched the unfolding drama on television – made an impassioned phone call to a PGA of America executive in which he listed a number of reasons why the United States had folded. He wanted someone to bring passion back to the team.

The upshot was that Watson, who last played in the match in 1989 and who was captain in 1993 at The Belfry, the last time the USA won the trophy in Europe, was asked to take on the captaincy.

It was a bolt from the blue, bringing in a legendary player from another generation to fire up the team. It was a bold move. Some called it brave. Others simply wondered.

Having vented his frustration so vehemently, Watson – when the job was offered – could hardly decline. But Watson couldn’t have known how great the challenge would be, as events here at Valhalla have underlined.

In what is the final counting event for automatic qualification for the USA team, Watson – already deprived of Dustin Johnson who is taking a “leave of absence” from the sport – could yet decide that the most important man in his team room could be a doctor specialising in back injuries.

Back injury

“We’re falling like flies,” conceded Watson.

Matt Kuchar, regarded as a lock on the team, withdrew before hitting a ball in the USPGA with a back injury.

Ten holes into his first round, Jason Dufner, the defending champion, and another player in an automatic qualifying position, also withdrew. Dufner cited a problem with bulging disks that have troubled him in recent weeks.

“I’m just not able to play golf right now,” he said.

Then, of course, there is Tiger Woods. No back in the history of golf has received so much attention, and, having undergone surgery back in March, Woods’s rehabilitation and subsequent return to competitive play has been far from straightforward.

He has played, but played badly – in the National at Congressional and the British Open a Hoylake – and his exit from the Bridgestone was akin to a reality TV show.

Woods is a long, long way from earning an automatic place on the team and, with time running out, it will all most likely come down to a decision from Watson on whether to give him a ‘wild card’ pick.

The fact of the matter is that no one currently occupying of the automatic places on the USA team has shown any winning from.

Apart from Rickie Fowler at least stepping up to the mark and contending in the Majors, the reality is that Patrick Reed, who won the WGC-Cadillac Championship back in March, is the last American player considered a lock for the team to have won a tournament.

Everywhere Watson looks, there is little encouragement to be found.

Bubba Watson won the Masters, but missed the cut at the US Open and British Open; Jimmy Walker hasn’t won since the Pebble Beach pro-am in February; Jim Furyk is winless this season; Jordan Spieth still has to learn how to win; Reed has gone into reverse since his Cadillac win, and Zach Johnson, rolling along without threatening to win, is searching for a higher gear.

With six weeks to go to the Ryder Cup, Watson is hoping that time heals many of the ailments.

“What’s going to happen between now and then is anybody’s guess.

“I have to take the information, process it and see what comes out,” said the eight-time Major winner.

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