To lose is to hurt and this was Grade A, top-of-the-line, embarrassing type pain. Europe’s 18 ½ points next to America’s 9 ½ was humiliating stuff, especially since there was a loss by that same score two years ago.
“It doesn’t sit well. Nor should it,” said Woods.
He’s been part of five Ryder Cup teams now and only once has Woods walked away a winner. The first four trips? He was the youngest guy on the team — the best player, yes, but still the youngest — and he didn’t feel it was his place to take the lead role ahead of veterans such as Payne Stewart, Mark O’Meara, Davis Love, and Fred Couples.
But trip No. 5? The old guard wasn’t there, new faces abounded, so Woods agreed it was time for him to step up.
Phil Mickelson was in line to do it, but he has never shown a bit of passion for the Ryder Cup, so Woods embraced the opportunity. No, not in a fist-pumping, back-slapping sort of way; instead, he pulled four rookies aside, told them what to expect, told him he was there if they had any questions.
It wasn’t going to be an easy assignment at the K Club. Woods knew that, but he loves a golf challenge and this was as great a challenge as he had faced. It is team golf and it is so different from the golf he dominates on a weekly basis, but Woods has constantly been badgered about his record in it, that he was determined to silence the critics.
Give him credit, for in a way, he did. Oh, the final score was a disaster. No doubt about that. There was his very first shot of the competition — a pull-hook into the water — and there were a series of shots in Saturday morning’s four-ball that looked like nothing he had delivered since his amateur days, wild drives and errant approaches, no sense of distance control at all. It was bad and he’d be the first to admit it, so rip away at him.
But consider the way he played in Saturday’s foursomes, the toughest format, and how a victory there helped get his team within 4 points. Then consider how he took command of his singles match early and went on to win, the only American to score 3 points.
Mickelson is the biggest disappointment, not only because he’s ranked No. 2 in the world, but because he’s on his sixth Ryder Cup team. He knows the competitive atmosphere and he knows that one has to be on form, or else. While Europeans tuned up in Madrid or at the HSBC Championship outside of London, Mickelson started his vacation.
He had played a lackluster tournament in Akron, Ohio, then decided on three weeks off. Mickelson probably has nothing scheduled for the next four months — at least not until the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic gets underway. It’s a meaningless tournament — the Ryder Cup isn’t, yet, Mickelson wasn’t prepared for the K Club, not in a fashion that goes with his world-class status.
Woods couldn’t do anything about the captain’s decisions, though had things worked out his way two years earlier, Mark O’Meara would have been the captain and consideration would have gone to different names and not members of the “good old boy club.”
Ryder Cup rout
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