Could Woods miss out on the action?
Is Tiger bigger than the Ryder Cup - or will the event still be a hot ticket without him?
Woods going missing from Celtic Manor might rob golf’s blue riband event of it’s biggest star name, but would it weaken the American team?
Tiger's never loved the Ryder Cup and now he's out of the automatic qualifying positions he may not even make the team, says Ralph Ellis.
When Tiger Woods was doing his first press conference of the year, desperately trying to talk his way out of the shame and scorn being poured on him, he was asked if he would play in the Ryder Cup.
"If I qualify," he said.
At the time it seemed a pretty flippant remark. If Woods, world number one for the last 269 weeks, kept playing golf at all then of course he'd qualify to be in the American team at Celtic Manor.
That was then, this is now. And all of a sudden talk of Tiger needing a captain's pick to line up in Wales in the first few days of October is not even remotely far fetched. As of this morning the mighty Dustin Johnson is 163 points ahead of him in eighth place in the PGA rankings. And unlike Colin Montgomerie, who gets the first nine players imposed on him by the tour, USA captain Corey Pavin is only forced to pick the top eight. So unless Tiger gets his tail in gear in the next two tournaments, starting with the Bridgestone Invitational on Thursday and rolling into the PGA Championship next week, the likes of Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Jeff Overton will remain in front of him.
Then comes a question. If Woods, who doesn't exactly count Pavin as one of his closest friends, is not in the team as of right, will he want to play at all? He's never been comfortable in the format, ever since his debut in 1997 when his dad wasn't allowed to be in the team accommodation like the wives. He's lost more than he's won (13-10). He's a top individual sportsman, and not in any sense a team player. And there have been some embarrassing moments, such as when he was paired by Hal Sutton with Phil Mickelson in 2004 and what should have been a dream team became a silent sulky nightmare.
But then comes the real issue: Woods going missing from Celtic Manor might rob golf's blue riband event of it's biggest star name, but would it weaken the American team? Or might it actually make it stronger?
Tiger was missing two years ago when America regained the trophy, and according to Sergio Garcia his absence was actually a big plus for the States. He said at the time: "It made some of the other players step it up. Without him, everyone wanted to be the leader of the team. They played amazing golf. You could see a different energy in the team."
Then there's the WAGS factor. Many of the girls who follow their men around the PGA circuit were big friends with Elin, shortly it seems to be the former Mrs Woods. Their disapproval of Tiger's philandering won't help the team spirit if he turns up but will bring harmony if he doesn't.
And lastly there's the fact that Tiger simply isn't playing well. If he doesn't get in the top eight on merit then on what basis would you expect him to raise his game, in a format he doesn't like?
On the face of it the woes of Woods should be a reason to follow the favourite in the Ryder Cup and back Europe, whose only problem is who to leave out, at their current price of [1.6]. Instead it's why it's worth siding with America at a generous [3.1].
Five things you might not know about Matt Kuchar...
1. Born June 1978 in Winter Park, his dad Peter was a decent tennis player and number one ranked in Florida for doubles.
2. He was 12 when his mum Meg upgraded the family country club membership for Matt and his dad to try golf, so there was something they could play together.
3. He took over from Tiger Woods as US Amateur Champion in 1997, and briefly took a job in finance when he finished a management degree at Georgia Tech before turning pro in 2000
4. His career earnings top 10 million dollars but he's only won two PGA tournaments - The Honda Classic in 2002 and the Turning Stone Resort Championship in 2009
5. His wife Sybi was a standout tennis player at college - and Matt's useful too. The pair of them teamed up to be runners up in the USTA National Husband/Wife Doubles Championship last year.