Ryder Cup Logo Ryder Cup: Team USASeptember 22-24 2006, The K Club, Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland

Tiger wasn't very good, but Phil was worse

Friday, September 22, 2006 11:05 AM

STRAFFAN, Ireland -- Tiger and I both got off to a rough start this morning. He hit his first tee shot in the water, but at least he was on the premises. I'm still waiting for my wake-up call. Perhaps the chap at the front desk thought I meant 5:45 p.m. Nonetheless, both of us rallied.

Playing alongside Jim Furyk, Tiger played poorly on the whole but mustered enough to catch up and eventually pass Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington. After lipping out par putts at Nos. 5 and 7, Woods rolled in a birdie at 8 to square the match, another at 11 to put his side 1-up, and still another at 12. Was it a coincidence that Woods caught fire when I caught up with his match? Definitely.

Tiger may've been more inspired by the presence of one of the few people in the world who knows what it's like to be him, Michael Jordan, who escorted Mrs. Woods around The K Club for most of the morning. Tiger and MJ aren't exactly alike -- Jordan is usually coming in about the time Woods is waking up -- but they are easily the two greatest athletes of my lifetime and probably the most competitive. As I watched those two walk past me at the 11th, I wondered if Woods might actually feel around Jordan the way most of the U.S. team feels around Woods.

Make no mistake, though, Furyk carried this team most of the day, including at the final hole when he hit the par-5 in two and was conceded his short birdie putt to secure for the U.S. the first point of this Ryder Cup.

The final match of the morning fourballs saw Phil Mickelson, as he's done all summer, play the starring role in his own production of "Where's Waldo?" Paired with Chris DiMarco against Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood, Mickelson was nowhere to be found when his team needed him most. Nary a birdie after the fourth, Mickelson couldn't take advantage of his length at the par-5 16th. He settled for a par that put his team 1-down with two to play. He then blew his tee shot on 17 into the water, leaving DiMarco to halve the hole himself with a steady par. Then, on the par-5 18th, needing an eagle to halve the match, Mickelson put his second shot from the fairway over the green and couldn't make the pitch shot coming back. That gave the Euros the full point and the overall lead after the morning matches, 2 1/2 to 1 1/2.

You think it was bad for DiMarco this morning? He only had to watch. This afternoon in foursomes, he'll have to not only find Mickelson's ball but somehow figure out how to play it.

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