Golf

Void left by Woods already being felt

HONOLULU — Depending on the future of Tiger Woods, one of his streaks is on the line this year.

Dating to 1999, Woods has led the points table for every Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team. Even when he played only six times in 2008 because of knee surgery and missed his first cup competition, he still had twice as many points as any other American.

Woods is out of action indefinitely as he copes with the fallout of his infidelity. Speculation on when he might return has ranged from the Florida swing to the Masters to the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach to 2011.

Where does that leave the Ryder Cup?

"There isn't much to think about right now," U.S. captain Corey Pavin said this week at the Sony Open. "It's a matter of when and if he comes back. As a captain, I'll just watch what he does."

Woods finished last year at No. 3 in the standings, which was meaningless. Under a new system installed by past captain Paul Azinger, the current year is all that matters. The only points last year were awarded at majors. In a Ryder Cup year, one point is awarded for every dollar earned on the PGA Tour, with double points at the majors.

The movement is so volatile that Woods could be out of the top eight who automatically qualify by the Florida swing. If he doesn't play, he doesn't earn points.

Then again, Pavin is allowed four captain's picks. Does he leave out the world's No. 1 player?

"A lot of it depends on his level of play," Pavin said. "I'm going to treat Tiger like any other player. If he's playing poorly, or he's not playing at all or comes back late, I'd have to think about it."

The Ryder Cup will be Oct. 1-3 in Wales, still an entire season away. Qualifying ends Aug. 15 after the PGA Championship, and Pavin doesn't have to announce his four picks until Sept. 7 after the second FedEx Cup playoff event. Woods hasn't even started his "indefinite break" because he usually doesn't start his season until San Diego, anyway.

The Ryder Cup is a long way off.

Even so, it's worth raising the possibility of another Ryder Cup without Woods because that's when he faces some of his greatest scrutiny, on and off the course. And he has never given the British tabloids so much material, not to mention thousands of fans, some of whom felt slighted in years past when he played practice rounds early and was off the course before they walked through the gates.

His reception will be unlike that at any other Ryder Cup.

"I would be shocked if that didn't happen," Paul Goydos said. "There's definitely going to be people who are going to use this situation to take advantage.... He is going to be heckled, without question."

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