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Why Tiger Woods was always too wild a card for Tom Watson to play . . .

Thank goodness that's over. The 'will he, won't he?' palaver surrounding Tiger Woods and a wild card for the Ryder Cup has been a bit like being in the queuing system on the phone to an insurance company.

After being on hold for an eye-watering eternity we finally have an answer.

Woods' decision to withdraw his name from the list of Tom Watson's posse of potential captain's picks has put an end to an increasingly baffling saga. Anyone who had watched Woods shuffling, wincing, limping and grimacing around over the past couple of weeks could clearly see that the ailing king's gammy back was as sturdy as that of the camel's that splintered under the reckless addition of straws.

The prospect of Woods heading to Perthshire for next month's biennial battle at Gleneagles remained, though. Poor old Watson must have felt like Atlas carrying all that burden on his shoulders at times. Then again, the pressure that was mounting on the veteran skipper didn't seem to sway him.

He would never rule Woods out and his usual refrain, "if he's healthy and playing well, I'll pick him," had been trotted out countless times over the summer. Even at the start of this week, Watson continued to keep the former world No.1 in the wild card picture. "He is Tiger Woods and he brings a lot to the team . . . and I would be a fool not to consider him," said Watson during a press conference in which as he put the onus on Woods to be honest and assess his own fitness.

Considering that Woods has featured in only one winning team in seven appearances - and missed the only US victory this century at Valhalla in 2008 - some might have been slightly bemused by Watson's explanation of the attributes Woods brings to the team environment.

It had become clear, of course, that Woods was neither healthy or playing very well and for those who have a passion for this Royal & Ancient pursuit, there has been no great pleasure gained from those facts as this shadow of a former self limped around in dismal discomfort. The decline of a global powerhouse who, arguably, had played the game better than anyone else ever has is sorry to see.

Returning to the cut-and-thrust of competitive golf just three months after the kind of back surgery that other players have taken over a year to recover from was a huge gamble and we can only wonder what damage this rapid return has done to his long term future.

Short term, we won't be seeing him. Indeed, his next date for yet another comeback is December. "I've been told by my doctors and trainer that my back muscles need to be rehabilitated and healed," said Woods in a statement that seemed to echo what most folk were thinking in the first instance.

"They've advised me not to play or practice now. I'm extremely disappointed that I won't be ready for the competition. The U.S. team and the Ryder Cup mean too much to me not to be able to give it my best."

The last few weeks have been like a prolonged game of golfing call my bluff and Watson will no doubt be relieved that the wild card decision has now been taken out of his hands by Woods' withdrawal. Conspiracy theories on the whole subject have been tossed around in furious abandon of late. Given Woods' huge draw and TV appeal, was Watson being pressured into picking him for commercial reasons?

Or did Watson quietly inform the former world No.1 that he wasn't getting the nod thus allowing Woods the dignified route out that comes with an honourable standing down. And let's face it, for a proud man like Woods, who must be finding his decline difficult to accept, saving face by stepping aside due to injury is far easier to swallow than not being picked. This way, the ego doesn't get as massive a dent.

Whatever way you want to analyse affairs there can be no doubt that sense has, finally, prevailed. Watson can now get on with selecting his three wild cards without the Woods question hanging over him.

If it's not going to be Woods then who does he pick? Jason Dufner is another of the walking wounded but, should he be fit, then he will likely get the nod while Keegan Bradley is out of sorts but has the experience of a Ryder Cup appearance at Medinah two years ago. After that, you could be looking at the likes of Ryan Moore, Harris English, Ryan Moore or Brendon Todd and they would all be rookies. With three debutants - Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed - already in the team, it will be a tough call.

At least Watson doesn't now have to make a call on Woods.

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