Watson: Tiger has Ryder Cup spot

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tom Watson didn't hedge when asked Tuesday about Tiger Woods and the U.S. Ryder Cup team. If healthy, Woods will be an at-large selection for the matches at Gleneagles in September.

Watson acknowledged that Woods' playing ability is an unknown at this point just eight days after the world's No. 1 golfer had a procedure on his back called a microdiscectomy to alleviate a pinched nerve.

But the U.S. Ryder Cup team captain, who is playing in his 41st Masters this week at Augusta National, said it would not be a difficult decision.

"Why wouldn't you want Tiger Woods on your team?" Watson said after a practice round with a probable member of his team, Jimmy Walker. "He's had a pretty good match play record in his life. Maybe not the best in the Ryder Cup, but winning three national juniors (U.S. Junior) and three national amateurs (U.S. Amateur) in a row. ... He's done pretty well at match play."

Woods is currently 45th in the U.S. standings and it would appear nearly impossible for him to earn one of the nine automatic spots that will be determined following the PGA Championship at Valhalla in August.

Watson then has three captain's selections to make in early September, although he did not say if he would expect Woods to play in any tournaments by that point. Because a lengthy layoff would likely keep Woods from qualifying for the FedEx Cup playoffs, if Watson wants him to play tournament golf prior to the selections, it would most likely need to be by the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational or PGA Championship.

Watson said it was too soon to get into those details, saying, "I just hope he gets healthy."

Last week in an interview with NBCSports.com, he made similar comments.

"I'll pick him for the team," Watson said. "I just hope he gets well and starts to play well again without pain. That's all that matters."

Watson, 64, is the oldest player in the field and won the tournament in 1977 and 1981 playing the first two rounds of the Masters with Billy Horschel and Brendon de Jonge. This is Watson's 40th straight Masters, having played for the first time as an amateur in 1970.

In his career, Watson has 15 top-10 finishes in the tournament as well as nine top-5 finishes.

"The course is in great shape considering all the rain we had," said Watson, who was headed to the annual Champions Dinner on Tuesday night.

Watson will captain the U.S. Ryder Cup team for the second time. He is the last U.S. captain to win overseas, leading the Americans to victory in 1993 at the Belfry in England. Since then, the U.S. has gone 2-7 in the competition, including a 14½ to 13½ defeat at Medinah in 2012.