Tiger Woods has had a complicated relationship with the Ryder Cup. Fresh off a historic victory at the 1997 Masters, he was envisioned to go 5-0 in his first taste of golf’s premier biennial competition. Instead, he did no better than post a 1-3-1 slate, and so shocking was his pedestrian showing that it shared headlines with living legend Seve Ballesteros’ victorious valedictory in Valderrama. Since then, his performances have been spotty at best, fueling the contention that he’s dominant as a lone wolf, but reduced to a cub when forced to be in a pack.
To be sure, the numbers don’t help Woods in his attempted pushbacks of the narrative. Heading into the 2018 Ryder Cup, he has had just two winning records in seven starts, and only in 1999 was he part of a winning campaign. His marks for his stints with teammates prove telling: He’s 5-8 in four-ball play and 4-8-1 in foursomes. Meanwhile, he owns a remarkable 4-1-2 line in singles by contrast, his one defeat dealt when he was a rookie.
To be sure, the argument is debunked in no small measure by Woods’ outstanding output in the Presidents Cup. Over eight appearances all told, he has been solid; he holds a 24-15-1 record while never having sat out a match. Don’t tell that to purists, though; the Ryder Cup, they insist, is unique, and juxtaposing it with any other team-based event would be tantamount to placing an apple beside an orange. Which, in a nutshell, was why he had something to prove in Paris over the weekend.
When the 2018 Ryder Cup is remembered years from now, fans will, no doubt, highlight Woods’ inability to improve his standing. Having just come from a career-reviving triumph at the Tour Championship, he had the perfect opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, he ran into bad luck, thrice partnered with players in poor form and going up against the red-hot pairing of Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari, who had hitherto stared him down in their final-round pairing en route to claiming the British Open championship.
There will, of course, be more Ryder Cups in the offing for Woods. However, his time inside the ropes figures to be increasingly reduced, giving him little chance of bettering his numbers. And the fact that most of his American contemporaries likewise have subpar slates offers no consolation. He is, after all, first among equals, perhaps the best of the best ever — just not when part of a team.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.