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Kuchar adds to Watson's woes

The problems continued to mount for US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson in the early stages of the US PGA Championship yesterday, even though Tiger Woods was fit enough to take part.

Just days after withdrawing from the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with a back injury, Woods declared himself pain free after nine holes of practice on Wednesday and teed off alongside Pádraig Harrington and Phil Mickelson.

But fellow American Matt Kuchar was not so fortunate, the world number six pulling out after suffering back spasms as he warmed up on the range.

Dustin Johnson has already declared himself unavailable for Watson's team to deal with "personal challenges", while defending US PGA champion Jason Dufner is struggling with two bulging discs in his neck.

Kuchar, who has already sealed his place on the Ryder Cup team for Gleneagles, was replaced in the draw by first reserve John Huh, who teed off at 9:05am alongside major champions Louis Oosthuizen and Justin Rose.


European captain Paul McGinley, meanwhile, will follow in the footsteps of Watson when he names his remaining vice-captains for the Ryder Cup.

Watson named Steve Stricker as his third and final vice-captain on Wednesday, the 47-year-old joining Andy North, 64, and 71-year-old Ray Floyd on the US captain's backroom staff.

McGinley has so far chosen Sam Torrance and Des Smyth as his assistants and will name the others once the European team is finalised at the end of August.

"It's a very strong appointment from Tom," McGinley said at Valhalla, where a shoulder injury means the Dubliner is restricted to commentating, rather than playing.

"I know Steve very well. Not only has he been a great golfer but he's been a great person, as well. I think he will complement very much what Tom has got in terms of Ray Floyd and Andy North in being a current player. It's something that I will be doing when I do appoint my vice-captains... those vice-captains will be current players."

The likes of Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and Victor Dubuisson are guaranteed their place on the team for Gleneagles, but the remaining three places remain up for grabs.

Graeme McDowell moved into the automatic places by finishing joint eighth in the Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday, but the man who claimed the winning point at Celtic Manor in 2010 is just 1.98 points ahead of Jamie Donaldson.

Donaldson occupies the last automatic place but is less than one world ranking point clear of Luke Donald.

"There's two big events left in terms of ranking points from the European perspective," McGinley added. "One is obviously this week but the first event in the FedEx Cup play-offs (The Barclays from August 21-24) also counts for world ranking points.

"There will be a lot of points available for that so the guys who are playing in that have a real advantage. The last three events on the European Tour will have a factor, but the points available will not be as large.

"It's still all up for grabs. I know the players are not taking anything for granted.

"Thomas Bjorn, for example, really feels he still has to have some more good weeks, because he realizes the quality of players chasing him are so strong."