Tiger Woods benched at Ryder Cup
Tiger Woods played so poorly losing his first match, Davis Love III might have been tempted to sit him down Friday afternoon in the Ryder Cup.
The way his day ended encircled by thousands of fans in the dusk at Medinah Country Club, Woods might have wished Love had.
A 12-footer that scraped the left edge of the cup on the final hole left Woods bent over in agony, a big loser again on the first day of the Ryder Cup. With it, a European team beaten badly in every other afternoon match suddenly had some hope for the weekend.
And Love was left with another decision: Should he sit Woods down for the alternate-shot matches Saturday for the first time in any Ryder Cup he has played in?
The US captain did, meaning Woods will be nothing more than a cheerleader in the morning matches. But Love said it was a decision long in the making, not one based on the results of the first day.
"We just felt like we didn't want anybody to play five matches on this golf course," Love said.
It goes down in the books as two losses in two matches for Woods and playing partner Steve Stricker. But the difference in the two rounds was night and day.
Woods nearly hit his opening tee shot out of bounds, hit a fan on the seventh hole, and struggled to do much of anything in the morning alternate shot matches. Then he went out and made seven birdies in better ball, only to be beaten by a Belgian who couldn't miss.
Almost unbelievably, for the fourth time in seven Ryder Cups for Woods, he left the course on the first day without a point to show for it.
"I drove it great this afternoon and was in position," Woods said, "but we ran into a guy who just made absolutely everything."
The guy was Nicolas Colsaerts, who played with almost no help from Lee Westwood and ended up beating the greatest player of his time and his playing partner, one of the finest putters in the world.
Colsaerts did it not by the long drives he is known for, but by making putts and lots of them. The last one came on the 17th hole when he sunk a 25-footer for his eighth birdie of the round — plus an eagle — after Woods had hit his tee shot to 4 feet for a birdie that would have evened the match.
"Nicolas had one of the greatest putting rounds ever," Woods said. "There weren't too many putts that he missed."
One Colsaerts did miss was a 30-footer on the final hole that he cozied up to the hole for a par. With players from both teams standing next to the green watching, Woods had 12 feet for birdie to get the US team a tie and a half point.
He thought he, but the putt lipped out on the left. And for a few seconds, at least, Woods struggled to control his emotions.
"We had a chance to all square on the last hole, and I missed it," Woods said.
That Woods would be the center of attention on the opening day wasn't surprising, despite Rory McIlroy having taken over as the No. 1 player in the world. That he would play so badly in the morning match was, since his game had been good for the last month or so in the PGA Tour playoffs.
He was teamed with Stricker in the morning, too, against Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, who took the lead with a birdie on the fourth hole and never surrendered it. Woods and Stricker made more bogeys than birdies, and Poulter made a clutch putt on the 16th hole on the way to a 2 and 1 win for Europe.
Woods said a quick talk with swing coach Sean Foley between rounds helped him turn his game around, even though the U.S. didn't get a point to show for it. That was largely due to Colsaerts and Stricker, who didn't make a birdie of his own past the seventh hole.
Woods nearly pulled off the match by himself, making a curling downhill 25-footer on 16 to get the Americans within a hole, then stiffing his tee shot on the par-3 17 after Stricker had put it in the water.
The losses dropped Woods to 13-16-2 in Ryder Cup play, and 9-15-1 when he has played with a partner. He has only played on one winning Ryder Cup team, the 1999 team that came back to win on the final day.