HOYLAKE - As Tiger Woods bids for a 15th major this week at the Open, the American also admitted his thoughts are preoccupied with September's Ryder Cup and qualifying for Tom Watson's 12-man team. The 38-year-old megastar has not enjoyed his greatest success at the biennial event having been on the winning side just once, in 1999 at home, against seven defeats, but says the rare team environment for the event on the golfing calendar has produced some of his fondest memories.
"Being a part of the Ryder Cup teams over the years, it's special to be on the teams," said the former world number one, who returns to Hoylake this week, the venue for his emotional triumph in 2006 just weeks after the death of his father Earl. "My first team was in 1997. The only year I've missed was in 2008. I was hurt at the time but being a part of the team, whether it's Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, every year for the Americans you're always a part of the team. You build these amazing bonds and friendships and camaraderie that lasts for life times.
Currently ranked world number seven, he is hoping for one of the automatic places on offer or being selected as one of Watson's three wildcard picks. "I think that's one of the neat things about being on these teams, you start appreciating it, for me, anyways," continued Woods, who is chasing his first major since lifting the US Open in 2008. "To go from one of the rooks (rookie or first time player) to one of the veterans and be part of that whole transition over the years, it's been fantastic. I've been able to be on the teams with basically Phil (Mickelson) and Jim (Furyk) for the better part of 17 years or so. Hopefully I can do it again.
Watson, who captained the USA to Ryder Cup victory in 1993 at the Belfry, remained coy about Wood's chances but says the door was always open. "At this point, again, the two parameters that I have is that he's playing well and he's in good health," said the 64-year-old from Kansas City. "And I can't speculate how he's going to be playing through the PGA. I don't know. I hope that he's playing well enough where he gets in the FedExCup and plays a few tournaments in the FedExCup. That's what I hope. That's my sincere hope, that he plays well but I suspect he'll be there.
"But, again, I can't speculate until it happens. And then ask me the question. But I wouldn't write off Tiger Woods for a long time, the way he plays the game. He's a tough competitor and he knows how to swing the golf club. He's had a long career, and I fully expect it to be a longer career.