RYDER CUP: Behind Tiger’s awful record

Why has the 14-time Major champion been so unsuccessful?


Quite simply, Tiger Woods has an awful record on the opening day of the Ryder Cup. Excluding Celtic Manor, where the schedule was interrupted, the analysis is based on five matches: 1997, 99, 2002, 04 and 06 (Tiger did not play in 08).

He is yet to miss a session in the Ryder Cup, so has played 10 times. He has won two and lost eight. And this after easily winning his first ever match, at Valderrama.

Since then, his only other opening-day success came at the K Club in 2006, though he and Steve Stricker did win in the first session at Celtic Manor. 

Taking things a stage further – Tiger has never even managed as much as a half in the second session of the first day.


Things get better here. In fact, he averages more than half a point per game on the second day, which is a solid record. In total, Tiger has collected five and half points from a possible 10 and he has never failed to score on Day 2.

His best effort was in 2002, at The Belfry, when he partnered Davis Love to two important wins, both against strong European pairings – Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia in the morning, then Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn in the afternoon.

Curiously, given their success, two years later at Oakland Hills it took Hal Sutton, his captain, until the Saturday afternoon to re-unite Woods and Love, whereupon they were beaten by some inspired play by the Irish pair of Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley.


It didn’t start well – but Tiger is unbeaten since unforgettably losing 4&2 to Italy’s Costantino Rocca in 1997. Last time around he faced another Italian, Francesco Molinari, and destroyed him. Seven birdies and an eagle meant Molinari did well to get as far as the 15th before shaking hands.

Other victims to date include Coltart (1999), Casey (2004) and Karlsson (2006). In the record books, there is also a half in 2002 against Parnevik.

The pair were in the last match and therefore still on the course when McGinley holed the winning putt. With no disrespect to the Swede, it is hard to imagine Tiger would not have gone on to win the match had it been played to its conclusion. It all adds up to a highly impressive four wins and a half from six outings.
Taking things a stage further – Tiger has never even managed as much as a half in the second session of the first day.


Let’s start with the answers, in chronological order, to what is a brilliant quiz question for golfing nerds: O’Meara, Leonard, Lehman, Duval, Pate, Azinger, Calcavecchia, Love, Mickelson, Riley, Furyk, Stricker.

It began well with O’Meara, then they lost their next two. He and Leonard then earned a half before, at Brookline, he was alongside Lehman and Duval on the first day, losing both. The next day Pate was his partner.

At The Belfry, Azinger, Calcavecchia and Love were all tried before, infamously, he and Mickelson were brought together at Oakland Hills, losing twice. Riley and Love were also chosen. Since then there has at least been consistency – Furyk at the K Club and Stricker last time out.


Presumably Tiger is seen as too intimidating for a rookie to play alongside. On the other hand, how much better could a new boy feel than with the 14-time Major champion by his side? The former argument seems to have been more persuasive to his various captains.

Back in 1997, both he and Justin Leonard were on debut, halving a foursomes. Then, in 1999, he stepped out in the fourballs alongside the then Open champion David Duval – the best two players in the world according to the rankings – and lost.

Tiger was paired with his friend Riley in the fourballs at Oakland Hills to beat Clarke and a debut-making Poulter. Mystifyingly, Riley said he was too tired to play again and so another partnership was consigned to history.


Strange, who led America in 2002, obviously thought he was on to something in pairing Tiger with his most grizzled veterans. So it was that first Azinger, in the opening match, then Calcavecchia both got the nod. When neither pairing proved successful, Strange turned to this year’s captain, Love, and they won twice in a day.

After all the chopping and changing (two partners in 97, three in 99, three in 02 and three in 04), captain Lehman had a different strategy at the K Club. Furyk was alongside Tiger for the duration – but the results were mixed, with two wins and two defeats. It was the same idea at Celtic Manor, and he and Stricker won their first two games, only to get whipped by Westwood and Donald 6&5 in the foursomes.


It took Tiger until the sixth attempt to avoid defeat in Ryder Cup fourballs – but things have got better since. In total, he has managed four wins against seven defeats. By contrast, his foursomes record was shaping up nicely in the early days but now looks ordinary. There are five wins and a half to set aside six defeats and at Celtic Manor the hitherto unbeaten pair of Woods and Stricker were blown away 6&5 by Westwood and Donald. It is Tiger’s heaviest defeat to date.

If Love does decide to rest Tiger for a session – and there is a trend for fewer players to be asked to play five times – he will presumably do so in the less-taxing fourballs. Love has already hinted he’s more concerned with working out his foursomes pairings.


P29 W13 H2 L14

Day 1 2 points out of 10
Day 2 5 1/2 points out of 10

P11 W4 H0 L7
P12 W5 H1 L6
P6 W4 H1 L1

Worst match
1997 – 1 1/2 points out of 5
Best match
2010 – 3 points out of 4

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