Woods and Steve Stricker lost their third straight match Saturday, falling 1 up to Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald despite a furious back-nine rally by the world’s No. 2 player.
Down 4 at the turn, Woods made four birdies on the last six holes to give the Americans a chance to salvage the match. But he couldn’t make the one that mattered, getting the right distance but wrong line on a 22-foot birdie putt that would have been worth a half-point.
”We fought hard. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough,” Woods said. ”We gave ourselves two good looks and 18, and didn’t get it done.”
The Americans lead Europe 10-6 and need only 4 1/2 points Sunday in singles to regain the cup. But they have gotten nothing so far from Woods, a shock considering the success he’s had in match play with Stricker. Woods will face Francesco Molinari in the anchor match.
Woods is 13-17-2 in the Ryder Cup, but he seemed to finally have found the right partner in Stricker. They arrived at Medinah with a 6-2 record in match play, including going 2-1 two years ago at Celtic Manor.
But they were downright dismal in the opening foursome, and came up against one of the finest single-match performances in Ryder Cup history Friday afternoon. European rookie Nicolas Colsaerts beat Woods and Stricker 1 up without any help from Lee Westwood, making an eagle and eight birdies.
For the fourth time in seven Ryder Cups, Woods has left the course the first day without a point, and U.S. captain Davis Love III decided to give him and Stricker a break Saturday morning.
”I put so much effort into that last match yesterday afternoon, and I was pretty spent,” Woods said. ”I’m one of the older guys, and it’s nice to get a little bit of rest.”
Woods still looked sleepy when it came time to play, and Stricker had to carry them early. Woods knew he had to pick it up, telling former President George H.W. Bush he ”needed to play better” when "41" said hello on the sixth hole and asked how things were going.
Once Woods got on track, though, he was relentless.
He won his first hole on the par-5 10th, running his second shot through a bunker and over the lip before the ball finally came to a stop, 15 feet from the pin. He missed the eagle by 2 feet, but the Europeans conceded anyway. He put his tee shot to 5 feet on the par-3 13th for another win, paring Garcia and Donald’s lead to one hole.
The Europeans went back up by 2 after Woods missed an 8-footer on 15. But Woods came right back, sticking his approach on 16 to 9 feet and rolling in the putt. He pointed at the hole as the ball dropped in, prompting one of the loudest cheers of the afternoon.
”I knew we had to make birdies coming in,” Donald said. ”You never give up against Tiger and Stricker. They are a formidable pairing and they played great on the back nine.”
Woods put his tee shot on 17 within 4 feet and Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal, sitting behind the green, winced. But Donald put his just a hair closer, holding his club high when the ball landed. McIlroy pounded him on the shoulder as they walked to the green, and Donald made the putt to clinch at least a half point.
The Americans had one last chance, even after Woods botched his putt. Stricker’s 7-footer lipped out, however, and the Americans came up empty.
”We (won) six out of eight holes and had a chance on 18,” Woods said. ”Just didn’t do it.”