MEDINAH, Ill. Tiger Woods has been dropped for the first time at a Ryder Cup, after U.S. captain Davis Love III elected to leave him out of Saturday's foursomes.
Woods had played every possible match since making his debut in 1997. He did not play in 2008 while recovering from knee surgery, and he only played four matches in Wales two years ago because the matches were reconfigured due to rain.
Love had said all week he didn't want players to be in all five matches so they could conserve energy for the singles on Sunday.
Woods played poorly in a foursomes loss Friday morning, and might have wished he'd been left out then instead of Saturday morning.
In the afternoon, he played much better but still came out on the losing end as he and Steve Stricker could not match a superb effort by Nicolas Colsaerts.
A 12-footer that scraped the left edge of the cup on the final hole left Woods bent over in agony, a big loser again on the first day of the Ryder Cup. With it, a European team beaten badly in every other afternoon match suddenly had some hope for the weekend.
But Love said the decision to keep Woods out on Saturday did not arise from his performance on Friday, but was a long time in the making.
"We just felt like we didn't want anybody to play five matches on this golf course," Love said.
It goes down in the books as two losses in two matches for Woods and playing partner Stricker. But the difference in the two rounds was night and day.
Woods nearly hit his opening tee shot out of bounds, hit a fan on the seventh hole, and struggled in the morning alternate shot matches. Then he went out and made seven birdies in better ball, only to be beaten by a Belgian who couldn't miss.
Almost unbelievably, for the fourth time in seven Ryder Cups for Woods, he left the course on the first day without a point to show for it.
"I drove it great this afternoon and was in position," Woods said, "but we ran into a guy who just made absolutely everything."
"Nicolas had one of the greatest putting rounds ever," Woods said. "There weren't too many putts that he missed."
One Colsaerts did miss was a 30-footer on the final hole that he cozied up to the hole for a par. With players from both teams standing next to the green watching, Woods had 12 feet for birdie to get the U.S. team a tie and a half point.
He thought he, but the putt lipped out on the left. And for a few seconds, at least, Woods struggled to control his emotions.
"We had a chance to all square on the last hole, and I missed it," Woods said.
That Woods would be the center of attention on the opening day wasn't surprising, despite Rory McIlroy having taken over as the No. 1 player in the world. That he would play so badly in the morning match was, since his game had been good for the last month or so in the PGA Tour playoffs.
He was teamed with Stricker in the morning, too, against Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, who took the lead with a birdie on the fourth hole and never surrendered it. Woods and Stricker made more bogeys than birdies, and Poulter made a clutch putt on the 16th hole on the way to a 2 and 1 win for Europe.
Woods said a quick talk with swing coach Sean Foley between rounds helped him turn his game around, even though the U.S. didn't get a point to show for it. That was largely due to Colsaerts and Stricker, who didn't make a birdie of his own past the seventh hole.
Woods nearly pulled off the match by himself, making a curling downhill 25-footer on 16 to get the Americans within a hole, then stiffing his tee shot on the par-3 17 after Stricker had put it in the water.
The losses dropped Woods to just 13 wins from 31 matches in Ryder Cup play, and nine of 25 when he has played with a partner. He has only played on one winning Ryder Cup team, the 1999 team that came back to win on the final day.