Ryder notes: Woods shows improvement, but loses again

U.S. golfers Tiger Woods (C) and Steve Stricker (R) walk past Team Europe captain Jose Maria...

U.S. golfers Tiger Woods (C) and Steve Stricker (R) walk past Team Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal (L) after losing their second match of the day on the 18th green during the afternoon four-ball round at the 39th Ryder Cup golf matches at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Illinois September 28, 2012. (REUTERS)

TIM MCKAY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:59 PM ET

Tiger Woods played so poorly Friday morning that not even the steady play of partner Steve Stricker could prop him up – and it could be part of the reason he will sit out on Saturday morning

Woods, who knocked out a spectator each of the past two days with his errant shots, left his buddy with miserable lies, missing right most of time in the alternate-shot foursomes and making Stricker attempt circus shots.

"I didn't play very good this morning at all," Woods said. "I was hitting it awful and not doing anything well."

Davis Love III has decided to bench Woods on Saturday, but he never would admit it it's because of poor play.

"I've been talking to (assistant captain) Fred (Couples) for well over a year about this," Love said last evening after releasing his pairings. "We didn't want anyone to have to play five matches on this golf course.

"We just don't want guys to be worn out. We need Tiger and Steve (Stricker) in the afternoon and we need Tiger and Steve on Sunday."

Woods carried a middling record into this Ryder Cup, an overall mark of just below .500, and it was so bad Friday morning there already were questions as to whether the world No. 2 should be allowed out in afternoon four-ball, let alone play in all five matches this week.

Love III addressed it then, apparently saying between sessions he considered benching Tiger but got "some good inside information."

Inside information? From whom?

The mystery informant turned out to be half right, anyway, because he couldn't have known about European upstart Nicolas Colsaerts.

In the afternoon, Woods made birdie to win the first hole, something he never had done on the first hole of a match with his own ball.

He hit every fairway until the sixth, he birdied 11, 14, 16 and 17, but he couldn't do it again on 18, meaning he and Stricker were skunked on the day.

The good news for the Americans and for captain Love, though, was that Woods seemed to get his game under control. He was 5-under on the back nine with own ball.

"I hit it good (in the afternoon)," Woods said. "I drove it great and was in position, but we ran into a guy (Colsaets) who just made absolutely everything."

European stalwart Ian Poulter, who benefitted from Woods' poor play in the morning with a 2-and-1 win with partner Justin Rose, said after their match that despite the shaky play, he thought it was a no-brainer to keep sending out Tiger.

Asked whether it bothered him he was sitting while a poor effort from Woods was rewarded by putting him right back out there, Poulter was incredulous.

"But he's Tiger Woods," the plucky Englishman said. "Is Davis Love going to sit Tiger Woods? He'd be a brave man.

"You know, he's Tiger Woods, he's the guy they get out there to get (the crowd) fired up. He didn't quite fire them up this morning, but you never know. When Tiger is on, he's on, and he's very impressive, but when he's not, he's not.

"It's a brave captain to leave him out."

Apparently, Love is a brave man.

NOT SO ROUGH FOR ROOKIES

If there was any question about the nerve of the rookie players on these Ryder Cup squads, it was answered Friday.

Lone European rookie Nicolas Colsaerts made one of the greatest debuts in Ryder Cup history, single-handedly wresting a much needed European point away from the Americans in what otherwise was a Friday afternoon four-ball slaughter.

"I don't know what to say, you know, when you're a kid and you dream about playing in this tournament,” Colsaerts said.

The 29-year-old Belgian went 7-under through the first 10 holes and 10-under overall with eight birdies and an eagle to, surprisingly, carry more experienced teammate Lee Westwood against Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker (three players with 15 Ryder Cups between them).

"It was a pleasure to watch, I had the best seat in the house," Westwood deadpanned following the match. "(As a Ryder Cup rookie) I think he took to it quite well."

Colsaerts made a long putt on 13 for birdie to put Europe 2-up, and again put it 2-up with a birdie on 15 and held off Tiger with a huge putt on 17 to maintain a 1-up lead heading to 18, where a par ensured victory.

Not bad when you consider Colsaerts is the lowest-ranked player in the field.

"Nicolas probably had one of the greatest putting rounds I've ever seen," Woods said after the match.

Of the five first-timers competing — including four Americans — only one was part of a losing match, and even that by just one hole.

Three Americans — Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Jason Dufner — all were integral in their team's Day 1 dominance.

The other rookie, FedEx Cup winner Brandt Snedeker, held his own against World No. 1 Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell until a bad swing on the 18th hole of the morning session led to a 1-down loss.

After trailing for eight holes with partner Zach Johnson in morning foursomes, Dufner turned the tide on 9 when his put hung on the edge, then fell. Dufner made a birdie putt on 10 to give the U.S. the lead they didn't relinquish.

"I didn't really feel nervous at all today," Dufner, who seldom shows emotion, said. "I had a couple fist pumps, which I generally never do on the PGA Tour."

FURYK GETS IN FACES

Of all the players you would have expected to get under the skin of the Europeans by flashing some attitude, Jim Furyk likely wasn't on the top of that list.

The Ryder Cup got contentious in a hurry when, in the day's first match, Rory McIlroy's second shot came to rest near a sprinkler head and partner Graeme McDowell asked for relief on the team's third shot.

Furyk wasn't having it.

"I would ask (an official) just like you are, but I just think it's my job playing against you (to question it)," Furyk said. "I don't think (relief) is 50/50, it's 20/80."

Yeah, Furyk somehow found a way to sound nice while being a bit of a jerk.

The officials agreed with the U.S. veteran and McDowell wasn't allowed relief, leading to a 1-up lead for the American. However, it seemed to light a fire under the Euros' top squad.

McIlroy and McDowell went on a tear with four consecutive birdies to take a 1-up lead and then got it all the way to 3-up before Furyk's experience again took over.

Highlighted by his gutsy move to go for the green on the short par-4 15th, the veteran and rookie partner Brandt Snedeker brought it back to all-square going into 18, where Snedeker's pull opened the door for the pair from Northern Ireland, who parred the hole for a 1-up victory.

BUBBA BEING BUBBA

As Ryder Cup rookie Keegan Bradley gushed over Phil Mickelson's shot on the 17th hole Friday afternoon at Medinah Country Club, Bubba Watson shuffled in his seat during the post-round news conference.

"Phil stepped up there and without a doubt in my mind, it's the greatest shot I've ever seen, it never left the flagstick," Bradley said, before Watson interjected.

"You ever see that shot I hit that one time?" he said, jokingly, no doubt in reference to his hook from the trees on No. 10 at Augusta in a playoff, leading to his Masters win.


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