For the second time in his Ryder Cup career -- both due to injury -- Tiger Woods will be on the sideline when the biennial matches begin Sept. 26 in Scotland.
So could the American squad, clearly taking the underdog role since it won all of once since 1999 (albeit it was without Woods in 2008), actually thrive without the former world No. 1?
Our scribes dive into those topics and more in the latest edition of Four-Ball.
1. Fact or fiction: Team USA is better off with Tiger Woods on the sideline this year at Gleneagles.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Fact: Tiger is not at full strength and his game is in a mess. Good riddance to all the drama surrounding him. Team USA will be just fine without him.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Not necessarily. Obviously, Tiger's game isn't worthy at the moment, but if he were to get his health issues in order, he's got a lot of experience and would have been huge to have around for singles. Perhaps the biggest loss will be felt in the team room. Tiger is far better in that environment than given credit for at the Ryder Cup.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Fact, as long as it's the Tiger we saw at the PGA Championship. That Woods should shut it down for the rest of the year, as he announced this week. One has to wonder if he returned too early from back surgery in late June (probably), pushed himself too hard to play the year's final two majors (likely) and now is suffering the consequences of injuries to miss the rest of the year (definitely.)
2. Who benefits the most from Tiger's absence as it relates to the Ryder Cup?
Evans: I don't know that it's one player in particular who benefits from his absence, but more of a boon for the collective team chemistry of the U.S. side. If Tiger had been on that squad, he would have been a major distraction, even a source of resentment among the players for his selfishness for taking a spot he didn't earn or merit a captain's pick.
Harig: Tiger. The pressure on him would have been enormous had he been chosen under these circumstances. And it would have put even more focus on him, perhaps to his detriment as well as the team's.
Maguire: The guy who gets hot during the PGA Tour playoffs. You know, the pro who was 15th to 20th in the Ryder Cup standings who posts a couple of top-10 finishes at the Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship, then gets his name high on Tom Watson's radar. The fact that Woods isn't playing gives Watson some wiggle room without having to play politics (at least where it concerns the Woods/health situation.)
3. Thumbs up or thumbs down to Tiger's deciding to pull himself out of the Ryder Cup at this time?
Evans: Thumbs up. Tiger did the right thing for the team. U.S. Captain Tom Watson didn't want to make the decision on his own to leave Tiger off the team. Sadly, most entities with a major investment in the Ryder Cup, such as the PGA of America and the TV networks, believe a battered Tiger is far better than no Tiger at all.
Harig: Thumbs up. In retrospect, it is fair to wonder if Tiger should have come back so soon. He needs time to get his health in order, as well as time to put the pieces of his game back together. Now he will have that time. His goals should involve taking patient steps to be ready to play again at the start of 2015.
Maguire: Thumbs up, especially on the timing of the decision. For likely various reasons, Tiger hasn't always abided by the unwritten PGA Tour rule (although, who knows -- Tim Finchem might have it written into some bylaw somewhere) that you don't make news Thursday-Sunday and trump that week's sponsor. Woods could have announced Sunday night or even Monday that he wasn't playing at Gleneagles, but that would have taken away the spotlight from Rory McIlroy's victory at the PGA Championship. So Tiger waited as long as he could up until Thursday before making his decision public.
4. What can we glean (if anything) from Tiger's Ryder Cup decision as it relates to how he played at the PGA Championship?
Evans: Tiger knew during his first tournament back in June at Congressional that he was several weeks away from being in top form. But he was hoping that he could string together a few magical rounds off the strength of pure talent, yet it never happened. So his result at the PGA just confirmed what he likely knew all along.
Harig: It's more about the fact that he's been told not to practice or play for the time being. Obviously, his ability to do that at the PGA Championship was severely limited, and he must recognize that the recent setbacks are bound to occur again unless he addresses the issues.
Maguire: Clearly, Woods was hurting at Valhalla, and some could argue that he should have shut it down and not even played there after his WD from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational the week before. But Tiger is nothing if not a gamer, trying to show the world what a great athlete he is. Ultimately, only he and his doctors know if he did more damage to his body, but it certainly couldn't have helped his cause in the long run.