Tiger Woods Can't Afford Mental Collapse in Ryder Cup 2012 Finale

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2012

MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 30:  Tiger Woods of the USA watches from the first fairway during the Singles Matches for The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 30, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The best word to describe Tiger Woods' play during the first two days at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club: Dreadful.

Unfortunately for the 14-time major winner, his dismal play comes at the worst possible time. Because Tiger can ill-afford a mental collapse at this stage of his career, in the Ryder Cup finale while in the midst of a four-year major drought.

Tiger and Steve Stricker failed to win a single point for the United States team over the first two days of this fall's Ryder Cup. The U.S. led 10-6 despite their struggles coming into Sunday's one-on-one action. Woods and Stricker went 0-for-3 on Friday and Saturday combined during two-on-two play.

As a year in which Tiger has won three PGA tournaments comes to an end, Woods is in desperate need of something to recharge his ego heading into 2013. Woods has earned Top 10 finishes in each of his past three tournaments, but that doesn't mean this weekend marks the first time he has looked vulnerable.

He failed to grab hold of his opportunities at this season's major tournaments, and now his chance to emerge as a hero for the United States team at the Ryder Cup is slipping away as well.

There's still a shred of hope, though, as Tiger takes on Francesco Molinari of Europe. There are no excuses, no teammates, just 18 holes of golf on U.S. soil with the crowd cheering him on. If Tiger wins, no one will dwell on his poor team play with Stricker. But if he loses, then he'll be known as the weakest link on a strong U.S. team that overcame his poor play to win the 39th Ryder Cup. 

From Augusta to Kiawah this year, we watched as Tiger squandered early-round leads during the weekend and faded from the top of the leaderboard and into irrelevance. 

At least Tiger was showing glimpses of greatness then. Now, at Medinah, he has looked like a golfer with a shattered psyche who is lacking confidence. Tiger's play has looked uninspired and he's struggled immensely because of it. 

Tiger can't afford a mental collapse in the Ryder Cup finale this weekend, though. His ego has been bruised repeatedly over the last four years, and another failure on a mighty stage will only send him further into his funk. 

It seems a United States win could come at a great cost to Tiger. 


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