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Tiger Woods ready for first-tee tension and big crowds at Ryder Cup

The 14-time major champion snapped a five-year win drought last weekend to cap a successful comeback season from spinal fusion surgery and will be the star attraction when the biennial team showdown tees off Friday morning.

other sports Updated: Sep 27, 2018 13:39 IST
AFP
AFP
Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines
tiger woods,ryder cup,Phil Mickelson
US golfer Tiger Woods plays a chip shot during a practice session ahead of the 42nd Ryder Cup at Le Golf National Course at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines(AFP)

Tiger Woods expects some nervous excitement when he steps on the first tee for the trophy-holders United States against Europe in the Ryder Cup before 7,000 screaming spectators at Le Golf National.

The 14-time major champion snapped a five-year win drought last weekend to cap a successful comeback season from spinal fusion surgery and will be the star attraction when the biennial team showdown tees off Friday morning.

“It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be an awesome environment,” Woods said. “There’s a lot of nerves. It’s excitement. It’s something we don’t get to experience in that regard because basically it’s the final round of a tournament on the very first hole and every match you tee it up.

“It’s a different atmosphere and one that we absolutely love.”

The huge grandstand will create a crucible for Woods and his American teammates to start En Avant, the opening 419-yard par-4 hole known as Go Ahead in English. Tee shots will be critical to setting up approaches as water comes into play from the start.

“When I first saw that on the first tee, I looked up and felt like I kept looking up and up and up,” American Patrick Reed said. “It’s going to be an unbelievable atmosphere.”

Woods expects the noise to reach a crescendo to rival Celtic Manor in 2010, when crowd noise shook US players.

“I don’t know what it was acoustically, but they were so close together that it was reverberating. It was so loud,” Woods said. “When you get on the first tee, you could actually feel it. That was fun to be a part of.

“I think this week will be exactly like that, but I think the decibels will be up a little higher.”

Woods has not won a Ryder Cup match since a 4&3 victory over Italy’s Francesco Molinari at Celtic Manor in 2010, going winless in 2012 at Medinah and missing the past two Cups with back issues.

There is already trophy-case hardware for Woods from Le Golf National. In 1994, he won the World Amateur Team Championship as a teen.

But Woods has played on only one Ryder Cup winner in seven attempts, that in 1999’s Battle of Brookline when the Americans made a record last-day fightback.

He’s only 13-17 with three halved overall in Ryder Cup play, with 8 losses in 13 matches each from foursomes and four-ball pairings but a 4-1 with two drawn mark in singles.

“Haven’t done well,” Woods said. “Looking back on my entire Ryder Cup career, that’s not something that I’ve really enjoyed.

“My overall Ryder Cup record, not having won as a player since 1999, is something that hopefully we can change. We haven’t won as a US squad here in 25 years on foreign soil, so hopefully that will change this week, as well.”

- Tiger-Phil duo unlikely -

That 25-year European win drought hits Woods, 42, and Phil Mickelson, 48, the hardest.

“There’s only a couple guys that have any kind of scar tissue on playing on away soil, and those guys have won a combined 120-something times,” teammate Jordan Spieth said. “We’re not worried.”

Woods will probably not be paired with Mickelson, even though he’s the only teammate he has been matched with before in the Ryder Cup.

The duo lost twice with little chemistry in 2004 and while relations appear cordial, it’s not a risk US captain Jim Furyk likes.

“I won’t ever say it wouldn’t happen,” Furyk said. “But it’s probably not too likely.”

Still, their teammates know how much a road victory would mean to Woods and Mickelson.

“It would be a dream to be a part of that,” said two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson. “Their legendary careers, to be with them and be a part of that, I’m pretty sure Tiger and Phil would start crying if they did win. And I’ll probably cry, too.”

First Published: Sep 27, 2018 13:36 IST