Saturday, September 29, 2012
Woods Ryder Cup rollercoaster ride comes to an end
By Steve Keating
MEDINAH, Illinois (Reuters) - United States Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III kept the faith and stood by a struggling Tiger Woods as pressure mounted on Friday to bench the 14-time major winner on a wild opening day at Medinah Country Club.
But by the evening Love's trust had run out, the captain deciding to drop Woods for Saturday's foursomes, sitting down the world number two for the first time in his Ryder Cup career.
"We just felt like we didn't want anybody to have to play five matches on this golf course," Love explained. "We just don't want guys to be worn out.
"We need Tiger and Steve in the afternoon. We need Tiger and Steve on Sunday."
Woods, whose Ryder Cup results have rarely dazzled as much as his work on the PGA Tour, delivered a Jekyll and Hyde performance at stately Medinah Country Club that showcased the best and worst of the former-world number one.
The U.S. finished the first day with a 5-3 lead over Europe but Woods and partner Steve Stricker contributed little to the cause beaten 2&1 by Englishmen Justin Rose and Ian Poulter in the morning foursomes then were edged 1 up in the afternoon four ball by Briton Lee Westwood and bit-hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts.
"I didn't play very good this morning at all," Woods admitted after seeing in Ryder Cup record slip to an uninspiring 13-16-2. "I was hitting it awful and not doing anything well.
"I didn't hit it well at all warming up and it just carried into my play in the morning session but rectified it in the afternoon."
Woods' Ryder Cup rollercoaster took a frightening dip during the foursomes as he sprayed his shots across the tree-lined layout drawing more moans than cheers from the pro-American crowd and triggering speculation he could be benched.
Woods vindicated Love's decision to keep him for the afternoon fourball when he made seven birdies to keep his team in the match until the final hole.
In fading light, Woods snaked in a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th to cut the European lead to ones then followed up with a pinpoint tee shot on the par three 17th that left him with a short putt and the possibility of levelling the match.
But his magic was not enough to overcome Colsaerts' brilliance, the Belgian stealing the spotlight by hitting for eight birdies and an eagle to hold off the Americans.
"I think Colsaerts was close to 9-or-10 under on his own ball," said Love. "That's unbelievable golf, and that's usually what it takes to beat Tiger Woods.
"They (Woods and Stricker) weren't as sharp this morning but they played great and they probably would have beat anybody else on the course except for Colsaerts."
The day began with Woods yanking his opening tee shot deep into the trees before rolling to a stop against a fence.
Woods left Stricker more work on the fifth when his drive went right and bounced off a path into more trouble and he fared no better on the greens sliding a six-footer past the hole on the sixth as Europe jumped ahead 2-0.
At the seventh, Woods hit his tee shot into the crowd, striking a spectator, who needed a towel to wipe away the blood from the gash to his head.
"When Tiger is on he's on and he's very impressive but when he's not, he's not," said Poulter. "It's a brave captain to leave him out."
(Editing by Julian Linden)