Tiger's Ryder Cup chances up in air

SOUTHPORT, England -- Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson says that Tiger Woods will be on the U.S. team if he's healthy and playing well.

But what if he's healthy and not playing at all?

Woods is at No. 209 in the FedExCup standings and needs to get to No. 125 to qualify for the playoffs. This next month of three tournaments -- the British Open, Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship -- will decide whether he's in Gleneagles for the Ryder Cup the last weekend in September.

"He'll be considered less of a pick than if he didn't have a track record going into the Ryder Cup," Watson said last week. "He'd be the first to tell you, 'I haven't been playing.' How he's been playing and if he's healthy, those are the two factors that I'll weigh in choosing him. That's just common sense, in my opinion."

Here's a common sense way to look at the next month:

• If Woods qualifies for the FedExCup playoffs, he'll be on the team. He'll have played good golf to get there.

• Even if Woods comes close to the playoffs, Watson might consider that reasonable form to be one of three picks.

• If he doesn't factor in any of the three tournaments, and doesn't come close to making the playoffs, Woods will have two weeks out of golf (unless he chooses to play a Web.com Tour event) before Watson has to make his picks.

"I'll be watching Tiger as he plays," Watson said. "He'll be playing at the Open Championship. Hope to get together with him there and tell him my feelings. ... Right now, he's way down the list as far as points. But who wouldn't pick Tiger Woods to be on your Ryder Cup team? That is the question to everybody. Who wouldn't pick him?"

Woods' former coach, Hank Haney, questioned his drive in an interview published this week in The Scotsman.

"That he isn't going to play competitively in the two weeks running up to the Open speaks to the fact that he doesn't care as much as he used to," Haney told the Scotsman. "Still, you can't win if you don't enter. Maybe he will catch lightning in a bottle. But I really think he is using the Open to get ready for the PGA at Valhalla next month. That's a much more realistic target for him."

Three years ago, Fred Couples had a similar dilemma, but he eventually chose Woods to play in the Presidents Cup. Woods had missed two majors in 2011 because of injuries and didn't qualify for the playoffs. Couples declared him to be on the team a month before making his picks.

"There is no reason for me to wait," Couples said. "He's the best player in the world forever."

Those matches, however, were not played until November. Watson might not have that luxury, with the Ryder Cup matches coming in late September.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.