Hoylake (United Kingdom) (AFP) - United States Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson insists Tiger Woods shouldn't be written off just yet as the former world number one looks to get back on track at the British Open.
Woods will be making only his second appearance since back surgery in March when he takes to the course at Royal Liverpool this week.
The last of Woods' 14 Majors came at the 2008 US Open and, while the Hoylake links is to his liking after he lifted the last of his three Claret Jugs there eight years ago, he is still struggling to regain the sort of form which saw him dominate the sport for over a decade.
Woods' assertion that he has arrived in Hoylake to win this week has drawn ridicule from some quarters after he missed the cut on his only other post-operative outing at the Quicken Loans last month.
But Watson, a five-time British Open winner, does not understand the criticism.
"It is silly to think that way about what he says. Why can't you understand that Tiger Woods may well win this tournament?" Watson said on Monday.
"I hope that is the attitude most players have coming in.
"Ask Justin Rose (who has just won back-to-back events) if he intends to win here this week.
"I wouldn't write off Tiger Woods for a long time the way he plays the game.
"He is a tough competitor, he knows how to swing the club: yes, he's had some injuries and other issues but you fully expect him to have a much longer career.
"You have to respect what his capabilities have been and probably will be again.
"I guarantee you that players looking at these new electronic scoreboards are going to be looking for Tiger Woods' name, guaranteed."
With the Ryder Cup in September in mind, Watson plans to speak to Woods this week to get an idea of how he feels his game is progressing but even then he admits performances are what counts.
"I could ask Tiger, 'How are you feeling? How are you feeling like you're hitting the ball? Are you hitting it well?'" added Watson, who will this week play his 37th British Open at the age of 64.
"That doesn't mean anything, really. The performance means something. I'll be watching Tiger and I want him on the team.
"He's a tough competitor and he's great in the team room. Wouldn't you want him on your team?
"If he is playing well and he is healthy I'll pick him. The caveat is if he does not get into the FedEx Cup (the PGA Tour's end of season play-off series) what to do then and I can't answer that."
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