Tiger yet to leave mark on Ryder Cup

SUTTON COLDFIELD, England -- Major titles? Eight.

Career tournament wins? Thirty-six.

Money? Enough to count his own gross national product.

Ryder Cup success? Finally, a corner of the golf market Tiger Woods doesn't own.


Woods is a paltry 3-6-1 in two Ryder Cup appearances since turning professional. He lost three of his four matches with a partner in 1999 at The Country Club, and was spanked 4 and 2 by Costantino Rocca in singles. As a rookie, he earned just one point.

"It's just one of those things," Woods said. "I've played well and I've gotten beat in this thing, and I've played poorly and won matches."

Not nearly as many as most would think, however -- especially for a player who won three U.S. Amateur titles, all in match play.

Woods' first Ryder Cup experience, in 1997 at Valderrama, was humbling. Teamed with his buddy Mark O'Meara (in the first three matches, he lost two -- including a 5 and 3 spanking by Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer in foursomes. He halved a match with Justin Leonard against Jesper Parnevik and Ignacio Garrido.

The U.S. lost by a point -- though Woods wasn't alone in his struggles. He, British Open champ Leonard and PGA champ Davis Love III were a combined 1-9-3 that year.

"I know back in '97, I was pretty nervous," Woods said. "It was my first Ryder Cup, and I was lucky enough to be paired up with my best buddy. And he kind of nursed me around Valderrama a little bit."

Three years ago at The Country Club, Woods was the consensus No. 1 player in the world and came in having won the PGA Championship a month earlier. But he lost when partnered with Tom Lehman, David Duval and Steve Pate in team matches (he and Pate did combine to win one foursome match). Woods then beat Andrew Coltart 3 and 2 in singles as the Americans rallied to win.

There are a myriad of theories about Woods at the Ryder Cup. His patience in 72-hole events is less of a factor in match play. His length is negated by match play, where a birdie on a par-5 is still worth just one point. His teammates are sometimes intimidated. His opponents, who should be, play like they have nothing to lose.

Woods cautions not to read too much into any of this.

"In match play, in 18 holes, anything can happen," he said. "It's not a 72-hole even where usually (the best player) wins. This is a boat race for 18 holes. Guys with less experience can go out and get hot. And guys with more experience can get hot as well.

"Anything can happen," he said. "That's what's fun about it."

But Woods can't escape his Ryder Cup struggles, certainly not this week. He made headlines last week in Ireland for saying he had a "million reasons" why winning the American Express Championship was more important than winning the Ryder Cup. He said this week that he was joking.

Every match is like playing the final day in a major championship. That's the kind of atmosphere it is. "

-- Tiger Woods

Certainly none of his teammates question his readiness.

"Anytime Tiger Woods steps on the golf course, he steps on to play well and to win," Strange said. "He has that personal pride. He has pride in his team. And I think he's here to play well this year."

"Guys get all jacked up to play Tiger, because they know they've got to play great to beat him," American Mark Calcavecchia said. "And on occasion, that happens. A few other occasions, maybe Tiger wasn't at his best or what have you."

Calcavecchia, who will likely play with Woods during the alternate-shot competition, does give some credence to the Woods intimidates his partners theory.

"There's a little extra, different kind of pressure of being his partner in the sense that you want to play so well to try and help him out," he said.

But he can't imagine Woods struggling yet again.

"He may go 5-0 this week and all of a sudden be 8-6-1," Calcavecchia said. "You never know. Match play is an interesting game."

Woods played at 6:45 a.m. on Thursday with Calcavecchia -- more than two hours before he was scheduled. It rankled some of the British fans who came to see him, and forced the marshals to scramble to protect him.

For Woods, it is how he prepares for big competitions. He was off the golf course early, worked out and will be first off the tee Friday -- front and center, just like he wants to be.

"Every match is like playing the final day in a major championship," Woods said. "That's the kind of atmosphere it is."

Usually, it's the kind of atmosphere Woods thrives in. Starting Friday, he'll get a chance to erase one of the only black marks on his resume.