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Tiger fails to clarify Cup enigma

September 21, 2004 10:24 IST

Tiger Woods finished the 35th Ryder Cup on a personal winning note in the last-day singles, but the enigma of his relationship with the biennial team competition remains.

Widely regarded as the best player in the game since Jack Nicklaus, Woods has never been entirely comfortable with the event's playing format.

He has been criticised in the past for lacking team commitment at Ryder Cups, although the 28-year-old American claims this is more a reflection of his personal style.

But the bare statistics reflect his failure to make much of an impact in his four Cup appearances to date, with a mediocre return of seven wins, 11 losses and two halves.

On Sunday, he did his best to spark a miracle last-day comeback by the United States at Oakland Hills, beating Britain's Paul Casey 3 & 2.

Although the Americans had early leads in the first five singles matches, the momentum swung back to the rampant Europeans by mid-afternoon.

By early evening, the U.S. had suffered their worst defeat in the competition's 77-year history, by 18-1/2 points to 9-1/2, and Woods ended the week with a personal return of two wins and three losses.

"We're very disappointed for the team," he told reporters. "We came here to win as a team and we ended up losing as a team.


"It's very frustrating. It's hard to swallow, the fact that we lost as a team. I was responsible for five points this week and I didn't get the job done in all five points, only two.

"So I know I contributed to their victory, that's three points right there."

Although no one can deny the effort Woods puts in, he probably has no equal in the modern game, his innate lack of enthusiasm for the Ryder Cup is apparent.

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While many of the European players regard the contest as more important than a major, Woods holds the opposite view and made this clear to reporters during the build-up.

Asked how motivated he was to match the Ryder Cup record of Nicklaus, the eight-times major winner replied:

"I'm sure all of you guys probably know what Jack's record is in the Ryder Cup, right?"

Met by deafening silence, he added: "Anybody? No? How many majors did he win?

"Oh, really?" he laughed when he heard the answer of '18'. "Okay."

Enough said.

The youngest player on the U.S. team for the fourth successive time, Woods produced a mixed bag at Oakland Hills.


He lost twice on the first day after being paired with Phil Mickelson as a 'dream team', a high-risk strategy by U.S. captain Hal Sutton given the pair are hardly the best of friends.

Even worse, Mickelson had been struggling off the tee after switching to a new make of driver the previous week and Woods found himself in a few nasty situations in the alternate-shot format in the afternoon.

Sutton conceded his gamble had badly backfired. "In pairings, there's either good karma or bad karma," he said.

"They went south midway through that (second) round. That was pretty evident to everybody."

The pair hardly spoke to each other on the course and Mickelson was dropped from the four-ball matches the following morning, when a relaxed Woods and his good friend Chris Riley comfortably won their match against Britons Darren Clarke and Ian Poulter 4 & 3.

The former world number one displayed good form with Riley but then slipped to a 4 & 3 defeat in the afternoon foursomes with Davis Love III after the Americans had made a fast start against Ireland's Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley.

Woods, deposed as world number one by Vijay Singh three weeks ago, needs to adjust his Ryder Cup priorities if the U.S. are to get the best out of him in the future.

Sutton, a passionate and highly patriotic American, tried hard to light a fire under Woods in the run-up to Oakland Hills. Like Woods last week, he largely failed to deliver.
Mark Lamport-Stokes
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