Tiger joins Lefty as leader in all-time U.S. losses

USA team captain Davis Love III greets Tiger Woods on the 18th green after Woods' afternoon four-ball loss Saturday at the Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club.

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MEDINAH, Ill. – With the scoreboards awash in a sea of red flags, it’s hard to find much wrong with the American effort in this edition of the Ryder Cup.

After all, with a 10-6 lead, the Americans have piled up their second-highest points total into singles since the current format was adopted in 1979. (The 1981 team, considered the greatest U.S. Ryder Cup entry ever, had 10 1/2. The dynamic European team of 2004 set the standard, an 11-5 edge into singles.)

But if you want to search for some negatives, you can start with Tiger Woods. Now he is used to going to the top of most lists, but he did so in a dubious manner when he and Steve Stricker got thumped by Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald in four-ball.

Though Woods played brilliantly down the stretch, making five birdies on the back nine, it was not only his third loss in this week’s action at Medinah Country Club but the 17th of his career. That ties him with Phil Mickelson for the most in American history. (It’s also the fourth time that Woods has lost three times in a Ryder Cup, having done that in 1997, 1999, and 2004.)

That down note can be trumped by the positive news surrounding Mickelson. He joined Keegan Bradley to become the first American team to go 3-0 since those titans of 1981, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. Like Mickelson and Bradley, Nicklaus and Watson won two foursomes matches and a four-ball, but they had to go 47 holes; Mickelson and Bradley needed just 44.

(Of course, the bar for American teams was established in 1979, when Lanny Wadkins and Larry Nelson went 4-0.)

• • •

NOT THE WAY HE’D START: Bubba Watson’s urging the fans to kick up some wild cheering so that he could hit the opening tee shot of his match gathered quite a bit of attention. Ian Poulter, in fact, knew that Watson had orchestrated that Friday morning, so when he stepped to the first tee Saturday morning, the flashy one from England nodded his OK.

Watson encouraged the fans to cheer, and so did Poulter as the Englishman stepped over his tee ball. The roars escalated, the flags waved and Poulter swung away. He pulled it into the bunker left, but with the noise still in force, Watson delivered his tee shot down the left side, just into rough.

While some wonder if this will become a Ryder Cup tradition, Keegan Bradley apparently hopes not.

“For me, personally, I’d probably miss the ball,” Bradley said. “I’m already so jacked up on the first tee that if they started doing that, I don’t know where it would go.”

• • •

GRAB SOME PINE, KID: When Lee Westwood was held out of the afternoon four-ball, it was just the second session he has missed since he made his Ryder Cup debut in 1997. The Englishman played every session in each of his first five Ryder Cups, then was benched by captain Nick Faldo for Saturday foursomes in 2008. He returned to play every session in 2010, but with his form laboring this time around, Westwood clearly needed to sit out.

• • •

NO LUCK OF THE IRISH HERE: How badly did things go for those good mates from Northern Ireland, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell?

After squandering a comfortable lead and then scratching out a foursomes win Friday morning, McIlroy and McDowell came up empty in their next two games. Losing in a Friday four-ball (to Mickelson and Bradley) and Saturday foursomes (to Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker), the one-time World Cup champions played 35 holes, never had a lead and won just five holes.

• • •

REMEMBER THEM? The Europeans will put out a singles lineup Sunday that includes two players, Peter Hanson and Martin Kaymer, who have played just one match each.

In this day of greater team depth, that sort of maneuver is unheard of. Usually everyone gets at least three games – or at least they have since 1999, when captain Mark James famously kept Jean Van de Velde, Jarmo Sandelin and Andrew Coltart on the bench until Sunday singles.

Each of them got whacked pretty good that unforgettable Sunday at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., a key reason the Europeans squandered a lead and the Americans pulled off a dramatic rally.

• • •

NICE TRY, ANYWAY: It was a nice touch and it offered something to look up at, but whoever hired the plans to do some skywriting didn’t generate the sort of European mojo they had hoped for.

As Saturday morning’s first foursomes match of Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson against Justin Rose and Ian Poulter got under way, planes high left smoke that spelled out: “Do it for Seve – go Europe,” and also “Rory’s gonna getcha.”

There probably were others, but after a while, the neck started getting stiff from looking skyward.

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