SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — Tiger Woods is not at Whistling Straits this week, but he’s in the minds of the 12 American players trying to make sure the Ryder Cup doesn’t leave the country Sunday.
Woods sent a text message Thursday night to U.S. captain Steve Stricker to be read to Team USA players as encouragement and inspiration. Stricker said on Friday that he wasn’t able to read it to the players, but he forwarded the text to them.
Tony Finau said there was “no doubt’’ Woods’ words helped propel the U.S. team to a 6-2 lead over Europe after Day 1 of the Ryder Cup.
“Harry [Harris English] mentioned to me walking down No. 9, ‘Like how cool it was that Tiger is so into it?’ ’’ Finau said. “I think the big thing is he’s so invested in this team. He’s not here physically, but the gist of basically what he was saying was, ‘I’m cheering you guys on, I’m right there with you, and go fight and make us proud.’
“We were able to do that, and if TW’s watching, ‘Thanks for that text, brother, I think it helps us a lot.’ ’’
English said Woods, who’s still recovering from the injuries he suffered in a February car crash, has offered some strategic advice to some of the players.
“Talking to Tony, Tiger has given Tony a little strategy for match play in fourball, and we kind of fed off that today,’’ English said. “Tiger’s not with us in person, but I know he’s watching and talking to Stricker a lot. We know he’s got our backs, so that’s really cool, and we kind of used that energy today, which we could feel it.’’
Stricker said the content of Woods’ text is “between us,’’ but he did say, “The overall picture was just wishing the guys good luck and congratulations for making the team, and a few personal things from Tiger himself.
“He’s a friend of a lot of these guys, and these guys look up to him, and I lean on him a lot throughout this whole process,’’ Stricker added. “So, it was great to hear from him and provide some words of encouragement to these guys.’’
For the Saturday morning foursomes, Stricker will roll out the same teams that gave the U.S. the 3-1 lead Friday morning. He just changed the order a little bit.
Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger will play Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm in the first match. They’ll be followed by Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa against Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton, then Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas against Viktor Hovland and Bernd Weisberger. As they did Friday, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay will bat cleanup, facing Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick.
“From the very start of this, we identified some groups that would be very good in foursomes, and we feel really comfortable with them,’’ Stricker said. “They played great today. We won that session 3-1, so in our mind, it’s like, you know what, let’s just send those four groups right back out there again.’’
Rory McIlroy, playing in his sixth Ryder Cup, lost two matches in one day for the first time ever. Afterward, European captain Padraig Harrington didn’t question his top gun.
“He’s already a leader,’’ Harrington said. “You saw him out there after a tough day, he was out following those matches and supporting his team. He is very much a leader amongst his peers and I couldn’t have asked more from him during the year, I couldn’t have asked more from him today.
“Yeah, the golf didn’t go as well as he would have liked, but I’m not second-guessing him for a second in terms of his leadership and what he does for my team.’’
Credit: Notigroup Newsroom.
[This article may have been written with information from various sources]