Tiger Woods made a subdued start to his first Ryder Cup in six years as he and partner Patrick Reed squandered a two-hole lead to lose three and one to Europeans Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood at Le Golf National on Friday.
With eight holes remaining of the day’s fourth four-balls match, the 42-year-old seemed poised to mark his return with a precious point for captain Jim Furyk.
But he ran out of steam, and rookie Fleetwood and Open champion Molinari stole the show with a scintillating finish — earning hosts Europe their only point on a morning dominated by the United States.
Woods, whose Ryder Cup record is mediocre for a 14-times major champion, will not feature again until Saturday after being left out of the afternoon foursomes.
It’s only the second time Woods has missed a session as a team member — he was left off the 2014 and 2016 teams as he recovered from back surgeries. He is now battling back from his fourth operation, a spinal fusion procedure in 2017.
The former king of golf had arrived at the course close to historic Versaille on a high after ending a five-year title drought by winning the Tour Championships in Atlanta last week.
American fans, and many wearing European colours, roared him to the first tee on a fresh morning and he delivered his opening drive straight down the fairway.
Europe snatched the opening hole of the day’s fourth four-balls match, though, before a majestic tee shot by Woods to the par-three second helped level the match.
With Woods playing steadily, the United States won the ninth hole and when Reed chipped in at the 10th to put them two up it seemed Woods would mark his return with a US point.
But consecutive birdies by British Open champion Molinari levelled it up, and with Woods struggling to recapture his earlier form Europe roared to victory to give Europe their sole point.
Rookie Fleetwood rolled in a birdie on the 15th, and after a flat-looking Woods hit his tee shot into the water at the 16th, Fleetwood drained a 35-footer to put Europe two ahead.
Molinari finished the job on the 17th, leaving Woods with plenty to contemplate on his afternoon off.