Which Tiger Woods will we get? Pointless Tiger or Sunday Tiger
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org September 29, 2012 10:22PM
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 29: Tiger Woods of the USA waits on the tenth green during day two of the Afternoon Four-Ball Matches for The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 29, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Updated: November 1, 2012 9:51AM
The PGA of America is inviting fans to participate in a “Red Out” on Sunday to support the U.S. Ryder Cup team at Medinah.
That’s the trademark color of Sunday Tiger, an intimidating and unstoppable bionic being in black slacks who consistently used to steamroll mortals to close out golf championships.
But Sunday Tiger seems more like a legend lately.
Back in 2005 and 2006 when he won a combined four majors, Woods’ final-round scoring average was tops on the PGA Tour at 68.75 and 69.22, respectively. This season, Woods is 28th, averaging a 70.4, but he has been far worse in the tournaments that matter most. At the four majors, his final-round scores were 74, 73, 72 and 73. Needing a strong finish at the Tour Championship, Woods shot a 72 to finish tied for eighth.
Despite strong back nines on consecutive days, Woods walked off the 18th green Saturday evening without a point in any of his three matches with Steve Stricker.
“I’ve played well the last two afternoons and didn’t get a point,’’ Woods said. ‘‘It’s tough. Yesterday I made a bunch of birdies, today I made five on the back nine and it just wasn’t enough.”
Asked about his confidence heading into Sunday, Woods said, “I feel good about my game. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten a point.”
He’ll get his chance.
But will it matter?
Woods is in the closer’s role, the final match of this Ryder Cup, and is set to tee off at 1:04 p.m. against Francesco Molinari, an Italian golfer whose most notable victory was at the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in November 2010.
U.S. captain Davis Love III said Saturday night that he consulted six to eight players — the ones still at Medinah — on when they preferred to tee off. He said Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley were among those who favored an early start.
As for Woods, Love noted that his most accomplished player is used to teeing off last, a nod to his many experiences playing with a lead in a final round.
But Woods’ match also could be academic.
The U.S. team needs 4½ points out of 12 to take the Ryder Cup back from the Europeans.
On Saturday, for the first time in his Ryder Cup career, Woods didn’t play in a session.
He needed — and enjoyed —the time off.
“It was nice to be fresh, no doubt,’’ Woods said. ‘‘It’s a long grind, to do all five. I’ve done it before, and it’s hard. I felt great this morning. It was nice to sleep in and get some rest.
“I watched the guys on TV. I tried to get out here and watch them a little bit, but [Love] said, ‘Hey, it’s too cold out here. Stay inside, stay warm and be ready for your match.’ ”
Besides, Woods said, he was spent from an emotional round Friday afternoon, and he’s closer to the seniors than the juniors.
“Hey, I’m not young anymore,” Woods said. “I’m one of the older guys, so it’s nice to get a little rest.”
If the trend continues with the U.S. domination, he could sleepwalk through his match with Molinari. But if the Europeans get hot like the Americans did in 1999, then Woods’ match could be the decisive one, setting the table for the ultimate drama: the return of Sunday Tiger.