Steve Stricker: Tiger Woods should play

AKRON, Ohio -- While Tiger Woods' game continues to slide, he refuses to make a firm commitment on the Ryder Cup. Speculation continues as to whether he will participate for the U.S. team in Wales.

But friend and likely playing partner Steve Stricker said Saturday that he expects Woods to be at Celtic Manor, no matter the state of his game or place in the final standings.

"He's trying to rebuild an image, and I don't think that would be a good way to start [by skipping]," Stricker said Saturday at the Bridgestone Invitational. "I think he'll play."

Stricker teamed with Woods at last year's Presidents Cup in San Francisco to go 4-0 in the Ryder Cup-style competition against a team of international players from outside of Europe.

That, of course, was a little more than a month before the one-car crash outside of Woods' home at Thanksgiving led to a series of embarrassing revelations about his personal life that has -- so far -- led to a lost year on the golf course.

Woods, on the verge of losing his No. 1 ranking, has failed to win in seven previous starts in 2010.

Stricker is ranked fourth in the world and third in Ryder Cup points and is a lock to make the U.S. team that takes on Europe at Celtic Manor, Oct. 1-3.

Whether Woods will be there to reprise their Presidents Cup partnership is another matter.

Woods shot his third straight score over par Saturday at Firestone Country Club and is 78th in the 80-player field at a tournament he has won seven times.

When asked Wednesday about his intentions with regards to the Ryder Cup, Woods would only say that he expected "to play my way into the team."

Woods is 163 points behind eighth-place Dustin Johnson and trails seventh-place Matt Kuchar by 165 points. Johnson and Kuchar are both in contention here and figure to increase their advantage.

Players earn one point for every $1,000 earned on the PGA Tour, which is doubled at next week's PGA Championship, the final qualifying event.

"For sure he can help," Stricker said of Woods and the Ryder Cup. "And I hope I'm his partner again. The thing is, those matches aren't for another two months. There's a lot of golf left. He's a competitor.

"I talked to him earlier at the Memorial [in June], we were both on the bubble at the time and we both said we wanted to be part of that team. I believe that. I believe he wants to be part of the team. He's as tough a competitor as anybody. I can't imagine him wanting to sit at home versus playing."

Woods has played on just one winning U.S. Ryder Cup team, although he missed the American victory two years ago when he was injured.

"I would love to see Tiger Woods at the Ryder Cup," European captain Colin Montgomerie said Saturday at a gathering at Celtic Manor, site of the Ryder Cup. "It would be a much lesser event if he wasn't playing. He probably won't be in the top eight qualifying places going into their last qualifying event.

"But he could pull it out of the bag, play well at the U.S. PGA and make the top eight. I wish him well and my gut feeling is that he will be at the Ryder Cup.

"I saw his reaction to be asked about committing to the Ryder Cup and it was clear that he didn't want to answer the question about what would happen if he didn't qualify. I think that question is between Corey Pavin and Tiger Woods.

"It's a decision that, thank goodness, Corey Pavin has to make and not me. I don't envy him on that one."

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com.