Tiger Woods Ryder Cup 2012: Poor Opening Foursome Leaves Room for Dramatics

Ethan GrantAnalyst ISeptember 29, 2012

MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 28:  Tiger Woods of the USA reacts to a poor tee shot on the 15th hole during the Morning Foursome Matches for The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 28, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Tiger Woods has been simply awful in what's supposed to be his return to former glory. His pairing with Steve Stricker was supposed to be a highlight for the American team, but his struggles on the fairway during the front nine and green all day were the highlights for the duo, especially in the early going of the foursomes.

The foursome team they were facing, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, had some extra incentive to beat Woods, with two of Poulter's three career Ryder cup losses coming to Woods over the years.

Well, Poulter indeed got the best of Woods on Friday, jumping out to a three-hole lead with his partner through 12 before Woods and Stricker were able to make a late push.

Then, in the afternoon, Woods had two chances on putts he's made his entire career. One would have kept the lead at 1-up with three holes to play, the other would have given the Americans a split of the final pairing of the day.

Woods couldn't drop either in the cup, so ending a rough afternoon in which he and Stricker accounted for two of the three losses, the United States suffered on Friday. It was a rough go for the pair, considering they were 6-2-0 before this tournament started as a pair.

However, it's not over for Woods. He played much better as he played his own shot in the afternoon, and if not for the 10-under by Nicolas Colsaerts with Lee Westwood as his partner, we might be singing Tiger's praises.

Still, Tiger wasn't able to come up with that signature putt; we've missed for so long watching him follow the ball into the hole with a triumphant fist pump at the end of a tournament.

There's still plenty of golf to play. Another full slate of the same action remains on Saturday, followed by the singles matches on Sunday. With that much action remaining, and the potential of a Rory McIlroy-Woods matchup on Sunday still in his sights, is it possible Tiger could continue to play this poorly with that much on the line?

My guess is no. Woods lives for the spotlight. Even in his darkest hours, we were able to see him on our television screens because he is so popular and means so much to the sport of golf, and even the world.

He and Stricker have a chance to keep their good vibe alive. It's going to be critical for Tiger's confidence and the hopes of the United States that he find a groove he's comfortable with in the coming matches, especially with so much riding on Sunday.

That final pairing will be up to Love III, and for the captain to have confidence in his best golfer to take down McIlroy, he's got to show something over the course of these next two days to prove that he can stick around.

He took steps towards that in the second session on Friday, but wasn't able to close the door for the United States to really feel like they swept in and stole Day 1.

Tiger, of course, has the head-to-head advantage over McIlroy in tournament play, and that will certainly factor into the decision on Sunday. That match may end up being one of the most-watched ever in Ryder Cup history, should it come to be.

But it cannot without Tiger showing a pulse and playing some good golf going forward. Tiger, who has never missed any of the five events during a Ryder Cup when healthy, is a sure bet to be on the course. He must earn his keep, however, to bring us the matchup of the decade on Sunday.

If I'm Davis Love III, I sit Tiger and Stricker after 35 gruesome holes of golf. Let them recharge in the morning session and ride Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, the two runaway winners in four ball on Friday, against whatever Europe has to offer.

Of course, Tiger is still Tiger, and he can go off at any moment. It will be interesting to see the strategy his captain employs the rest of the way and if we'll ever get to see that Rory-Tiger clash on the world's biggest stage we've all been craving.