What We Learned About Tiger Woods at the 2012 Ryder Cup: It's Not There

Mike DudurichContributor ISeptember 30, 2012

Tiger Woods was winless in the 2012 Ryder Cup
Tiger Woods was winless in the 2012 Ryder CupMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

We didn’t get the Tiger Woods-Rory McIlroy singles matchup that seemed to top everyone’s must-see list for the weekend.

We also didn’t see the kind of play from Tiger Woods that he showed while being a serious contender in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Do you suppose those two facts are related at all?

We didn’t get either of those things for a simple reason: This is a new era in the chronology of Tiger Woods' career. It’s an era when Woods may well continue to be a good golfer on the PGA Tour and worldwide, but it’s also an era in which the word “dominant” will not be seen in the same sentence as Woods’ name.

The 36-year-old who once personified domination showed, in the Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club this weekend, that his ability to hit those clutch shots on demand is no longer there.

He went winless in four matches, dropping his record to 13-17-2 overall, 4-2-1 in singles, 4-9-1 in foursomes and 5-7-0 in four balls.

Earlier in the week, Woods had done a mea culpa in the media center for the fact that he had been a member of a winning Ryder Cup team only once. He graciously took the blame for not earning enough points to help his teammates, as well he should (via Jill Painter of the Daily News).

He was, outside of a few holes, basically useless the whole weekend.

In the first round of matches on Friday, Woods and partner Steve Stricker did not play well and were beaten by Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, 2-and-1. In the afternoon, the United States pair fell to Ryder Cup rookie Nicolas Colsaerts and Lee Westwood, 1-up. However, it should be noted that Colsaerts had eight birdies and an eagle on his own ball in that match. Woods made seven birdies in that session, but it wasn’t enough.

Coach Davis Love III did the wise thing and sat Woods Saturday morning but paired Woods and Stricker again in the afternoon—with predictable results. Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia beat them, 1-up.

Love III has made no mistake in benching Woods Saturday morning. His mistake was not keeping him there in the afternoon. The Europeans got a monstrous boost from coming back and winning points in the last two matches of the day, including the Woods-Stricker match.

Sitting out a match is something new for Woods—Saturday was his first time. But the spin early in the week was that many players were going to get a rest so they could be fresh for the Sunday singles.

It became obvious, however, Woods needed a rest not to get ready for Sunday but to try to win a point or two. Even with a session off on Saturday, Woods still struggled Sunday.

More telling, however, is how Love III tried to hide Woods in the singles lineup. Instead of putting him in the middle of critical early matches as he might have done in his younger days, he put Woods in the “anchor” position, 12th.

With a lead of 10-6 going into the singles, Love III stuck Woods in a place where he didn’t think he could hurt the team. The ultimately unfunny joke was on Love III when the Europeans ran off wins in the first five singles matches and suddenly thrust his two winless players, Stricker and Woods, into the spotlight.

Both of them failed, Stricker losing outright and Woods throwing away an opportunity to at least get an overall tie in the matches. He three-putted the final hole.

When the U.S. team needed him most, Woods didn’t make a birdie all day.

Woods never felt the Ryder Cup was all that big of a deal when he was the young phenom. That has changed as time has moved on, but Woods hasn’t been able to find success in this prestigious event. The only time the U.S. has won in the last six Ryder Cups (2008 at Valhalla), Woods didn’t play. But, hey, there are other great golfers in the history of the game who could never find Ryder Cup success as well. Guys like Fred Couples (7-9-4), Ben Crenshaw (3-8-1), Raymond Floyd (12 16-3) and Curtis Strange (6-12-2) all struggled.

Woods said in an interview with NBC taped before the event that, after being the youngest guy on the U.S. Ryder Cup teams, he suddenly finds himself as one of the oldest.

Woods continues to maintain his swing is very close and he’s on to something very good. Healthy or not and new swing or not, his record in the Ryder Cup doesn’t make sense. By contrast, he’s 18-11-1 in Presidents Cup competition.

He’ll continue to make Ryder Cup teams, no doubt, but he should not be relied on so heavily in future competitions. Hey, he had a very good year on the PGA Tour with those three wins, but he once again didn’t get it done when his teammates needed him most.

Hopefully, Woods will accept a lesser role with the grace and professionalism that might be expected from the former No. 1 player in the world. Now that he has progressed into the role of “good teammate,” perhaps he can take that one step further and take the younger guys who will be making the team under his wing and help them learn from his seven Ryder Cup appearances.

That learning would be of the “do as I say, not as I do” variety, of course.

This is, by no means, a closing of the casket lid on Woods’ career. Remember, he’s only 36. If his body holds up and he remains focused on his chase of Jack Nicklaus’ major championship record, there is still much success out there to be had.

Just don’t expect that success to happen in the Ryder Cup. There is no real explanation for it, but it’s obvious Woods is not a Ryder Cup kind of guy.