- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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AKRON, Ohio -- Despite several attempts to get him to clarify his position Wednesday, Tiger Woods did not say directly that he will play in the Ryder Cup.
With two events left in the process that determines the eight automatic qualifiers for the United States team, Woods finds himself in the unusual position of ninth, meaning he would need captain Corey Pavin to make him an at-large selection if the picks were made today.
That seems a foregone conclusion, given Woods' No. 1 status in the game and despite his recent struggles on the course.
But when asked Wednesday at Firestone Country Club, site of this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, if he would accept a captain's invite, Woods said: "I'm planning on playing my way into the team."
What if that doesn't happen? "I'm planning on playing my way into the team."
Told that he was equivocating, Woods repeated, "I'm planning on playing my way into the team."
And yet that doesn't answer the question of whether Woods plans to compete Oct. 1-3 in the biennial competition, held this year at Celtic Manor in Wales -- if he makes the team or is picked.
Woods is 163 points behind eighth-place Dustin Johnson and trails seventh-place Matt Kuchar by 165 points. 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.
Phil Mickelson leads the points standings, followed by Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Jeff Overton, Anthony Kim, Lucas Glover, Kuchar and Johnson. Following Woods are Hunter Mahan, Ricky Barnes and Ben Crane.
Woods figures to make a move this week at the Bridgestone Invitational, where he's won seven times and never finished worse than fourth in 10 appearances. The event also has no cut, so Woods will earn points regardless of how he performs.
"I want him on the team, there's no doubt about it," Pavin said two weeks ago at the Senior Open Championship, where he also noted he planned to meet with Woods on the subject at the PGA. "He's the best player in the world. He's the No. 1 player and he's going to make Team USA better if he's on it."
Told of Pavin's comments, Woods was asked if it was even necessary for a meeting next week with the captain.
"I think if I do well this week, I should sew up my spot," Woods said.
Woods has played on just one winning U.S. Ryder Cup team, in 1999. He played on losing squads in 1997, 2002, 2004 and 2006. He missed the 2008 U.S. victory at Valhalla due to knee surgery that caused him to skip the second half of the season.
Last year at the Presidents Cup, a Ryder Cup-style competition that pits an American team against an international squad of players from outside of Europe, Woods went 5-0, including 4-0 with partner Stricker.
That Woods is as high as he is in the Ryder Cup standings is impressive, given his lack of golf this year.
The Bridgestone will be just his eighth tournament, and he's missed one cut and withdrew from another. Woods is ninth in the standings on the strength of three top-10s at the major championships last year (the only 2009 tournaments that counted) and two more top-fives this year, at the Masters and the U.S. Open, where points are worth double.
After the PGA Championship, Pavin will have three weeks before announcing his four captain's picks.
European captain Colin Montgomerie's team will be completed Aug. 29 at the Johnnie Walker Championship in Scotland. He will make his three captain's selections that day.
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com.
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