Europe closes to 6-5 at Ryder Cup, handing Woods his worst loss ever in team competition

By Paul Newberry, AP
Sunday, October 3, 2010

Big defeat for Woods at Ryder Cup

NEWPORT, Wales — Tiger Woods was just a spectator at the Ryder Cup.

After yet another rain delay at soggy Celtic Manor, Woods was quickly reduced to a cheering role on Sunday, taking his worst loss ever in the team competition. His pairing with Steve Stricker was routed 6 and 5 by Lee Westwood and Luke Donald in alternate shot.

The Europeans won the other alternate-shot match, as well, tying the score at 6-all with four crucial fourballs matches still on the course. The Northern Irish duo, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, defeated Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan 3 and 1.

Europe was leading three other matches, but the Americans were only one hole down in two of them. Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar were the only U.S. leaders, holding a 1-up advantage over Italian brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari.

Another line of heavy overnight showers ruined any chance of deciding who got the gold chalice by nightfall Sunday. So all they could do was try to finish six team matches that were suspended by darkness, then come back Monday for the 12 singles matches.

Woods and Stricker had never been beaten as a team, winning four matches at last year’s Presidents Cup and their first two in Wales. But they were thrashed by Westwood and Donald, who were 4 up after nine holes Saturday and quickly finished things off when they returned to the course.

Westwood ended it with a 6-foot par putt at the 13th.

“They didn’t play as well as they wanted to, and the other guys played well,” U.S. captain Corey Pavin said. “It happens. It happens to the best of ‘em.”

It had never happened to Woods, not this bad. Not only was it his worst Ryder Cup loss — a pairing with Mark O’Meara fell 5 and 3 to Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer at Valderrama in 1997 — it was Woods’ worst defeat in any match-play event, whether individually or with a partner.

Previously, his biggest setback was in the 2007 Presidents Cup. Vijay Singh and Stuart Appleby beat Woods and Jim Furyk 5 and 4 in a fourballs match at Royal Montreal.

In the other alternate-shot match, Johnson made a long putt at 16 to keep things going. But Mahan’s tee shot at the par-3 17th ran through the green, while McDowell stuck his ball about 20 feet behind the flag.

Johnson’s pitch slid by the hole, and McIlroy, knowing his team only had to get down in two to clinch the match, rolled in the birdie putt.

“We desperately want to win this,” said McDowell, the U.S. Open champion. “This session is enormous for us. We’ve got to go back out and cheer on the boys.”

The Americans were trying desperately to avoid a big deficit heading into the final day.

Rickie Fowler, at 21 the youngest U.S. player, holed out a shot from the bunker at No. 12 for an eagle. Jeff Overton, the first player ever to qualify for the Americans without having won a tournament, holed out a shot from the fairway at the eighth for another eagle.

“Boom, baby! Yeah! Come on!” Overton screamed as he walked toward the green with partner Bubba Watson.

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