SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood were the last two people Tiger Woods wanted to see Saturday afternoon.
He drew the European duo in all three of his matches and couldn’t come up with anything. The losses progressively worsened and culminated in a 5 and 4 thrashing in his foursomes match with Bryson DeChambeau, moving Woods to 0-3 thus far at the 2018 Ryder Cup.
DeChambeau filled in for Patrick Reed, who practiced foursomes with Woods earlier in the week but had to be benched after a dismal showing in a 4 and 3 four-ball loss. Woods played well enough to get another shot in the afternoon but Europe’s new power couple erased any hope and were already five ahead at the turn.
This was supposed to be the year that Woods, fresh off a win at the Tour Championship, turned things around at this event. He’s friendly with the entire team, he’s more willing to share what makes him tick and his golf swing was on point throughout the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
It was supposed to be a fitting end to a transformative year on the course and Woods looked poised to seriously help the American squad end its 25-year losing streak.
Instead he was completely overmatched by Molinari, who got the better of him Sunday at Carnoustie, and Fleetwood, who dropped big putt after big putt and even unleashed Woods’ signature upper cut fist pump after a big one Friday morning.
Woods’ partners definitely didn’t do him any favors. Reed didn’t play well Friday morning and was completely erratic off the tee Saturday, placing more and more pressure on Woods to keep his team in the match as a one-man band. DeChambeau didn’t fare much better, but the numbers are what they are and they’re not good.
The four-balls losses dropped him to 5-10 in the format and he’s now 4-9-1 in foursomes.
He’s lost seven consecutive team matches, he hasn’t won a four-balls match since 2006 and we could play this game for a while but the bottom line is that Woods’ Ryder Cup struggles continued in a big way in France.
There were some tangible reasons this time around, for sure. He only hit 6 of 12 fairways Saturday morning and that’s a must at Le Golf National. He had trouble adjusting to the slow greens and missed a lot of good putts just short. And he ran into a team that played the format to perfection.
Whenever Fleetwood or Molinari missed a fairway in four-ball, the other picked their teammate up and striped it down the middle. Whenever they needed some momentum, Molinari pured an iron shot to near tap-in range. Whenever they needed a big putt, Fleetwood drained it.
They made seven birdies in 14 holes Saturday afternoon and that’s almost impossible to keep up with in four-ball.
As for the less-tangible reasons, Reed looked pretty tight in the first two matches. DeChambeau missed some big putts. Playing with Woods carries more pressure than playing against him. There’s always that huge bullseye on his back and Fleetwood and Molinari were playing with house money. They played loose and executed all weekend throughout a stunning 4-0 showing. Woods and Co. played tight and never looked totally comfortable on a cramped track with gruesome rough and plenty of water.
And, again, it needs to be emphasized that Fleetwood and Molinari played lights out golf.
“Just pretty pissed off, the fact that I lost three matches and didn’t feel like I played poorly,” Woods said. “That’s the frustrating thing about match play. You can play well and nothing can happen. We ran against two guys that were both playing well and when one was out of the hole the other one made birdie and vice versa. They did that a lot to us.”
Woods was also probably a little annoyed when Fleetwood and Molinari made him mark a short par putt on five Saturday morning and he responded with birdies at seven and 10. He just couldn’t sustain with little help and an unrelenting opponent.
He made costly mistakes near the end of every match, trying to make something happen and worn out from the European onslaught of birdies and ‘oles’ and opponents who played almost mistake-free.
There’s an old coaching expression that you are what your record says you are. Woods didn’t play that bad Friday and Saturday, but after another brutal Ryder Cup weekend his overall record says a lot at 13-20-3.