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USPGA Championship: Woods now waiting on the call from captain Pavin in Ryder Cup sweat

Tiger Woods is now relying on a wild card from Corey Pavin if he is to play in the Ryder Cup in seven weeks.

That much became certain as the USPGA reached its climax last night. The world No 1 required a top-seven finish, but that never looked likely on a day when his error count cost him again.

A 73 for a two-under total left him well down the pack. It meant he had suffered back-to-back blank major seasons for the first time since 2003-04.

Yet more importantly for the biennial dust-up, he was out of the top eight Americans who yesterday qualified automatically.

For the next three weeks, the question will now be whether Pavin uses one of his four captain's picks on the world No 1. The answer will be a huge and resounding yes, although the fact it can be asked at all is surely staggering in itself.

To imagine Woods not accruing enough Ryder Cup points was not only unfathomable pre-scandal, but also, to most, post-scandal.

When Woods returned from his self-enforced exile with a fourth-placed finish at the Masters in April, it was a given that he would perform well enough in his next eight outing to make his spot among the Starred and Striped combatants a formality. If anything sums up what a struggle these past four months have been for Woods, then it is his position on the Ryder Cup charts.

“I'd like to make the team, but I haven't made enough points,” said Woods. “I'm going to have to rely on Corey for a pick; if he wants me on the team.”

Pavin will want him and, if he doesn't, it will be the bravest decision in the history of the Cup to overlook the best-known player in the history of the game. It seems strange to call this performance by Woods an improvement, but that is exactly what it was after his horror show of the previous week in Akron.

However coy he remains, Woods is working with a new coach in Sean Foley and the hard labour will pay dividends.

His beginning to yesterday's round screamed of something special in the offing as he made three birdies in the first four holes.

"I hit the ball so good at the start of the round but completely lost it after that," said Woods.

He did well to limit the damage to a 73, his par on the 18th summing up the recovery powers which he can still call upon on occasion.

With the ball above his feet in the rough, Woods somehow drew in a three-wood on to the putting surface. From there he proceeded to leave the putt seven feet short. He holed the putt. "Where do I go now?" he said. "I go home."

At least he can carry on the rebuild with the tag of world No 1 in his possession. Phil Mickelson needed to finish in the top four to make Tiger an inferior in the rankings for the first time in more than five years. But despite a 67 which featured one of Phil's thrilling charges, he could only threaten the top 10 on six-under.

The fluidity on the scoreboard was inevitably reflected in the fluidity of the Ryder Cup standings. Paul Casey did his unlikely chances of qualifying by right no harm with a final-round 69 to stand alongside Mickelson.

He faced an anxious wait to see if it would be enough to move in the top-nine automatics if only for a week.

Belfast Telegraph