Tiger Woods Facing More Questions Than Answers After Poor 2014 British Open

Joe Menzer@@OneMenzFeatured ColumnistJuly 20, 2014

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Tiger Woods traveled to Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England, last week hoping to use the 2014 British Open to pin down some answers to the many questions swirling around his golf future.

Instead, all his final score of six over par for the tournament did was stir up more questions.

Is he really healthy? Did he come back too soon from March 31 back surgery that sidelined him for three months? Will he ever win another major?

And last but certainly not least, should he be included on this year's U.S. Ryder Cup team?

Of course, no one has all the answers.

But some pretty good educated guesses are, no, he's not yet 100 percent healthy or even close to it—although he does appear to be getting better. Maybe he came back too soon, maybe not.

And yes, he's only 38, and the smart money here is on him winning two more majors before he's done playing. But he'll fall short of Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 that once seemed a sure bet for him to not only match but surpass like a wind gust blowing in from the Irish Sea passes over the Hoylake golf course he just played.

The easiest answer, though, is the one to the Ryder Cup question. There is no way Woods should be included unless he shocks the world by suddenly rising up to play a whole lot better at the WGC-Bridgestone and PGA Championship tournaments.

And other than an opening-round 69 at the British Open that might have been a 66 if he hadn't missed a few very makable putts, Woods has given very little indication that he's ready to make that happen.

Naturally, Woods feels differently.

After missing a sizable chunk of the season following his back surgery, he is well aware that he remains way outside the top nine in FedEx points, a group which automatically makes the U.S. team. He realizes that after his disappointing 69th-place finish in the British Open, he will need to rally at the WGC-Bridgestone and the PGA Championship to even qualify for the FedExCup playoffs.

So he’ll likely need one of Tom Watson’s three captain’s picks to make the Ryder Cup team that’s going to Gleneagles, Scotland, in September. Woods told the media after his final round of 75 at Hoylake that he still believes he'll be chosen.

"I would say yes. But that's my position, my take on it," Woods told Mike Walker of Golf.com. "(Watson's) the captain. Obviously it's his decision. He's going to field the best 12 players that he thinks will win the Cup back. And I hope I'm on that team.”

Watson, meanwhile, said in the same Golf.com piece that he wants Woods on his team, too—but only if he's certain that Woods is healthy and playing well.

"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."

Luckily for him, Watson doesn't have to answer it right now.

But the clues are everywhere, starting with the fact that Watson, age 64, finished five shots ahead of Woods in the British Open.

If Woods can't get it together in time for the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, that is set to begin in less than three weeks, which seems a solid bet, he likely will be left with a 2014 that includes missing two majors because of his injury, playing poorly in the other two, missing the FedExCup and sitting out the Ryder Cup, too.

After winning five PGA Tour events last year, he might get shut out in that department this year as well.

There are plenty of those—such as ESPN.com columnist Ian O'Connor—who remain squarely in Woods' corner. O'Connor quoted Woods as saying, "I'm still building. I'm still working on my game. And I'm still getting stronger and faster."

That's good. A healthy, stronger, faster Tiger will be great for the game, if it happens.

But under the current circumstances, if we examine the evidence left before us after the horrors of Hoylake, Woods simply is not likely to be ready in time to contend at the only other major left on the 2014 schedule. Nor is he likely to be ready to help out the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team the month after that.

At this point, as the final totals from the latest British Open attest, Watson would be better off picking himself for the Ryder Cup team.


Joe Menzer has written six books and now writes about golf and other sports for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @OneMenz.