Watson insists he can trust Woods

Tom Watson believes Europe's side is the stronger of the two on paper (AP)

Tom Watson believes Europe's side is the stronger of the two on paper (AP)

First published in National Sport News © by

United States captain Tom Watson insists he can rely on Tiger Woods to tell him the truth about his fitness, but admits a European team "full of star power" will be favourites to retain the Ryder Cup.

Woods told Watson he wants to be chosen as a wild card for next month's contest at Gleneagles despite having played just four tournaments on his return to action following back surgery.

The former world number one missed the cut in the Quicken Loans National, suffered his worst 72-hole finish in a major as a professional at the Open and then withdrew from the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Three days later he claimed he was pain free and targeting a victory in the US PGA Championship, only to suffer further back problems and miss only his fourth cut in 66 majors in the paid ranks at Valhalla.

"I don't make this comment loosely. He is Tiger Woods and he brings a lot to the team, if he has the ability to play and he's healthy," Watson said on Monday. "He brings a lot to the team and I'd be a fool not to consider him.

"He's been really good in the team room of late and he's a factor with the players. I know that for a fact. He's a very positive influence on the players."

Asked if he could trust Woods' assessment of his health, Watson added: "Absolutely. He's just like me. I'm direct and he's direct. I can't assess his medical condition and I honestly can't assess how he's playing. It really is going to be having to come from information from Tiger himself."

Rory McIlroy's victories in the Open Championship and US PGA and Martin Kaymer's runaway win in the US Open means European players won three of the year's four majors for the first time ever.

European captain Paul McGinley can also call on the services of the world numbers three, four and five in Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose and Watson admitted he wished world number one McIlroy was on his side.

"I like the way he plays," Watson added. "He reminds me of me, the way I play. He's ready to go. He plays his shot and takes the consequences, finds it and hits it again.

"Right now, he's driving the ball better than anybody in the game. When you have confidence in the driver that he has right now, and you have the ability to hit the ball as far, the game is easy. And he knows it and everybody else knows it.

"I think the European team is the stronger of the teams right now on paper. Their team is full of star power, players that have been playing well.

"My hope is that these players on our team will start to show better form coming up. But I have extreme confidence in the players that we have on our team and their motivation to go out and win the cup back."

Watson said he was willing to go as far down the standings as it takes to choose players in form when he names his wild cards on September 2, with one key requirement in mind.

"There's a factor that I look at most and that's the gut factor," the 64-year-old said. "Can that man hit the shots under pressure?"

Keegan Bradley looks to be the most likely candidate for a wild card given his three wins from three matches with Phil Mickelson at Medinah, but Watson has injury concerns over Matt Kuchar and Jason Dufner.

Kuchar has secured his place on the team but withdrew from the US PGA before the start with back spasms, while Dufner's title defence lasted just 10 holes with a long-standing neck problem and he dropped out of the qualifying places.

Watson believes Kuchar's problem is minor but added: "I feel sorry for Jason Dufner. I saw him on Friday and he didn't look good. I've had neck injuries and it's taken a long time to recover. I hope that's not the case with Jason."

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