Mentally struggling to keep his head above water, Tiger Woods must be rated a doubtful starter for October’s Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor following yet another erratic display at Firestone Country Club where he propped up the 81-man field for driving accuracy after a two over par 72 left him on six over par.
But question marks must also now be raised about the participation of injured European stalwart Lee Westwood, who slipped to a six over 76 alongside the world No 1 and promptly withdrew from Akron and next week’s US PGA at Whistling Straits.
The 37-year old Englishman has been struggling to recover from a calf injury he mysteriously picked up at the French Open a month ago.
“I will be out for as long as it takes to get better,” said Westwood, who is Europe’s top player ahead of the Ryder Cup in eight weeks time. “I am just hoping that will be in time for me to play in the Ryder Cup.”
As Woods sprayed the ball all over Firestone for the second day in a row, hitting just three of 14 fairways before making a beeline for his Lexus courtesy car without stopping to speak to the press, Westwood visibly struggled with his taped up right leg as he carded seven bogeys and a solitary birdie.
The Worksop man’s caddie, Billy Foster, watched his boss walk painfully off the first tee and told him to withdraw there and then to avoid doing himself more damage ahead of next week’s US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
While Westwood battled on stoically, he waited until just two hours after his round before deciding that discretion was the better part of valour and withdrew from Firestone and the season’s final major.
“There’s no strength in it,” Westwood said at the finish. “I don’t have a deal of confidence in it, and then on the way down I’m finding it hard to hold my weight on it and then push off.”
Before making the decision to withdraw, he said: “I’m pretty worried about next week. Not really the (uneven) terrain (at Whistling Straits), just that it’s not improving. If anything, it’s getting worse. I’d like to be able to play my best and work my hardest, which I can’t do. I can’t even hit balls.
“It’s evident that I’m rusty since the Open because I haven’t been able to practice. It’s just a vicious circle really. What can I do? Sit on my backside for six weeks like they keep telling me. It’s the only way to improve it.”
As for Woods, the American does not look like a man looking forward to playing at Celtic Manor from October 1. He was so wayward in yesterday’s second round that he shared a joke with Westwood and the caddies as he strode up to stroke home a nine footer for birdie at his sixth hole to go one under for the day that it seemed almost comical considering his poor play.
“He didn’t play very well today. We’re all human, we all have bad days,” Westwood said.
Asked about the general good humour in the group, the world No 3 smiled and said: “Well, what can you do? Trying to pass the time as fast as possible.”
While still hadn’t hit a fairway, clattering into trees right and left and visiting fairway bunkers with regularity, Woods’ birdie at the par-three 15th put him one under for the day.
The old adage that dogs that chase cars and pros that putt for pars don’t last too long was soon proved true as the bogeys arrived in waves.
He dropped his first shot at the 18th and another at the first following a pair of wild drives. He then failed to birdie the par-five second after a bunkered second and then missed the fairway at the third and bogeyed there to slump to six over for the tournament.
Treading water, he birdied the sixth to get back to five over, bogeyed the par-three seventh after a bunkered tee shot, birdied the eighth after a 177-yard second to six feet and then bogeyed the last, where he drove into more trees and failed to get up and down for his par from short of the green.
While Woods insisted on Tuesday that he plans to play his way into the US Ryder Cup team before the eight automatic qualifying places are decided at Whistling Straits, he may well need a wildcard pick from captain Corey Pavin on Monday week.
European skipper Colin Montgomerie doubts that the American is in any fit mental state to tee it up at Celtic Manor at all.
“He’s not mentally with it right now, that’s obvious,” Montgomerie told Sky Sports News back in the UK. “I hope he gets back to some form shortly
“But more importantly right now for Tiger is thinking about the Ryder Cup, he’s not in the top eight of their qualifying.
“It doesn’t look like he’s going to be in the top eight after this event anyway and that makes the US PGA a very important event for him next week.
“Does Corey Pavin take a chance hoping Tiger’s form will change before the Ryder Cup? That’s up to him and not us.”