HOYLAKE, England — U.S. captain Tom Watson had been looking forward to seeing Tiger Woods at the British Open to "tell him my feelings about him direct" about the Ryder Cup.
On second thought, there’s not much to say.
"Not a whole lot, probably," Watson said Monday. "Again, it’s performance. I could ask Tiger, ‘How are you feeling? How are you feeling like you’re hitting the ball? Are you hitting it well?’ And that doesn’t mean anything, really. The performance means something. I’ll be watching Tiger and I want him on the team — I do. He’s a tough competitor and he’s great in the team room. Wouldn’t you want him on your team?"
Woods has three tournaments to give Watson an indication of his game.
The 14-time major champion was out for three months because of back surgery, and he wasn’t playing well in the months leading to the March 31 operation as his back pain became more evident. Woods is No. 72 in the Ryder Cup standings with only five weeks remaining to earn one of nine spots.
He is a long shot to make the team, though a victory at Royal Liverpool — or the PGA Championship — would do the trick.
Watson repeated the two factors that matter to him — the game and the health of Woods. And he was careful not to speculate what would happen if Woods failed to get into the FedEx Cup playoffs for the top 125. Woods is at No. 212 with three tournaments remaining.
"If he’s playing well and he’s healthy, I’ll pick him," Watson said. "But then the caveat is if he doesn’t get into the FedEx Cup. What to do then? And that’s the question I can’t answer right now."
Woods has the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone ($9 million purse) and the PGA Championship ($10 million purse, with points doubled) before the Ryder Cup qualifying period ends. Watson will make his three picks after the second FedEx Cup event.
"I can’t speculate how he’s going to be playing through the PGA," Watson said. "I hope that he’s playing well enough where he gets in the FedEx Cup and plays a few tournaments in the FedEx Cup. That’s my sincere hope, that he plays well. And I suspect he’ll be there."
Woods won at Royal Liverpool in 2006. He returns to a course that is green and lush, a sharp difference from last time when it was brown and fast. He played 12 holes Saturday and 18 holes Sunday, and was not at the course for much of Monday.
He has said his intention is to win this week, having returned three weeks ago at Congressional with plenty of rust in his short game. Woods missed the cut.
Watson likes the way Woods is thinking, and hopes every player in the field has the same intention.
"Just put it this way: I wouldn’t write off Tiger Woods for a long time the way he plays the game," Watson said. "He’s a tough competitor. He knows how to swing the golf club. And yes, he’s had some injuries and other things — issues. But the thing is, he’s had a long career. And I fully expect it to be a longer career."
Woods has made every Ryder Cup team since he turned pro except for 2010, when he was returning from a scandal in his private life that led to divorce. Corey Pavin picked up for the team at Wales. Woods won three of his four matches for his best individual record in any Ryder Cup.