Watson: Don't write Tiger off
Five-time Open champion Tom Watson has warned the doubters that Tiger Woods is a long way from being written off.
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This week's 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool sees the former world number one making only his second appearance since back surgery in March.
The last of Woods' 14 majors incredibly came at the 2008 US Open and, while the Hoylake links is to his liking after he lifted the last of his three Claret Jugs there eight years ago, he is still struggling to regain the sort of form which saw him dominate the sport for over a decade.
As a result it puts his place at September's Ryder Cup in jeopardy, although team captain Watson insists if his compatriot is fit and playing well he will pick him - providing there is some vestige of form.
Woods' assertion he has arrived in Hoylake to win this week has drawn ridicule from some quarters considering he missed the cut on his only other post-operative outing at the Quicken Loans last month.
But Watson does not understand the criticism.
"It is silly to think that way about what he says. Why can't you understand that Tiger Woods may well win this tournament?" he said.
"I hope that is the attitude most players have coming in.
"Ask Justin Rose (who has just won back-to-back events) if he intends to win here this week.
"I wouldn't write off Tiger Woods for a long time the way he plays the game.
"He is a tough competitor, he knows how to swing the club: yes, he's had some injuries and other issues but you fully expect him to have a much longer career.
"You have to respect what his capabilities have been and probably will be again.
"I guarantee you that players looking at these new electronic scoreboards are going to be looking for Tiger Woods' name, guaranteed."
Watson plans to speak to Woods this week just to get an idea of how he feels his game is progressing but even then he admits performances are what counts.
"I could ask Tiger, 'How are you feeling? How are you feeling like you're hitting the ball? Are you hitting it well?"' he added.
"That doesn't mean anything, really. The performance means something. I'll be watching Tiger and I want him on the team.
"He's a tough competitor and he's great in the team room. Wouldn't you want him on your team?
"If he is playing well and he is healthy I'll pick him. The caveat is if he does not get into the FedEx Cup (the PGA Tour's end of season play-off series) what to do then and I can't answer that."
Prior to arriving in Hoylake Watson took a reconnaissance trip to Gleneagles to get a feel for the Ryder Cup course.
He invited a number of players - although not the 20 which has been suggested - to join him and, although only Keegan Bradley and Jim Furyk took up the invitation, he played down any suggestion of a potential snub.
"Most of them were playing either the John Deere, some of them the Scottish Open, some of them had other plans," he said.
"It was late (notice). I couldn't ask 20 players in December because the list hadn't been there, really so I had to wait until a certain time, and I did it after the US Open (in June) and I didn't expect too many to be able to make it.
"These guys have different plans. It bother me at all.
"But I got a really good feel for the golf course and I also got to see two different types of players play."