Ryder Cup: Woods happy to smell team spirit after flying high solo

A huge crwod watches as Tiger Woods practises during preview day two for the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, in Paris (Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire).
A huge crwod watches as Tiger Woods practises during preview day two for the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, in Paris (Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire).
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After ending his own winless streak in unforgettable fashion in the Tour Championship three days ago, Tiger Woods has his sights set on ending an even lengthier team drought to improve his personal Ryder Cup record.

Woods completed one of the greatest comebacks in sport after holding his nerve to win the 80th PGA Tour title of his career on Sunday in Atlanta, a first victory since 2013 coming 17 months after a last-ditch attempt to save his career with spinal fusion surgery.

Just five hours later the 42-year-old was on a plane to Paris with his team-mates ahead of this week’s Ryder Cup, an event in which he has been on the winning side just once in seven attempts.

Woods won just half a point from four matches on his last appearance at Medinah in 2012 and his level of commitment to a team event rather than individual glory has often been questioned.

Asked during the 2002 American Express World Championship in Ireland why he rated that event more important than the following week’s Ryder Cup, Woods replied: “I can think of a million reasons,” a reference to the first prize on offer at Mount Juliet.

Speaking at Le Golf National about his record in the biennial contest between Europe and the United States, Woods admitted: “It’s certainly not something that I have really enjoyed and I’ve really liked seeing.

“I’ve played a lot of the matches. Of those seven previous Ryder Cups I’ve sat out one session, and that was at Medinah. Otherwise I’ve played every single match.

“We haven’t done well. You know the year that we won in 2008 I had reconstruction knee surgery after the US Open and I didn’t play. And I was a vice captain in 2016, but it’s different being a player. It was neat to be part of the team, to be a part of helping the guys in any way I possibly could to make them feel comfortable, to get them into the right circumstances to allow them to play their best golf.

“But 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 in 25 years on foreign soil, so hopefully that will change this week as well.”

For that to happen Woods will need the support of his fellow players as they seek to retain the trophy with a first victory in Europe since 1993 at The Belfry, three years before he turned professional. But the former world No 1 admits he took great delight in getting the better of those same players, as well as key European rivals Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, in Sunday’s final round at East Lake.

“The younger guys were on their way in when I was on my way out,” Woods added. “You know they had never really played against me when I was playing well. It’s been, what, five years since I’ve won a golf tournament.

“I think that when my game is there I feel like I’ve always been a tough person to beat. They have jokingly been saying that, ‘We want to go against you’. All right, here you go.

“And we had a run at it and it was a blast because I had to beat Rory head-up in the final group. Rosey was tied with Rory.

“Obviously I had a three-shot cush (lead), which is awfully nice, but still, I had not done it in five years.

“These guys had both ascended to number one players in the world, they have won major championships, they have won golf tournaments all around the world, and I have not really played a whole lot of golf the last few years.”

The quick switch from Atlanta to Paris meant Woods has yet to appreciate fully the seismic reaction to his win, which saw thousands of fans spill on to the 18th fairway as he played the final hole.

“I’m trying to return the text messages I’ve gotten, but I’m still well north of 150,” Woods said. “I haven’t really had a lot of time to soak it in. I will post-Ryder Cup. I’ll take a look back and reflect on it.

“I saw a couple of videos on some French news channel of the people rushing behind me, but I haven’t sat down and watched it yet. I still have this event to do.

“Post-Ryder Cup it will be a different story. I will look back and soak it up and really reflect on what really transpired that entire week.”