Commentary

Trevino would sit Tiger in foursomes

Originally Published: September 28, 2012
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

MEDINAH, Ill. -- Without hesitation, the Merry Mex said he'd sit Tiger Woods Saturday and put him on the sideline.

Lee Trevino, the Hall of Famer who followed Woods inside the ropes for most of his opening match Friday at the Ryder Cup, had no qualms about his opinion.

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
Ross Kinnaird/Getty ImagesTiger Woods struggled in his foursomes match. On the first hole, Woods' tee shot went well left of the fairway. Steve Stricker had to play a recovery shot just to give them a chance to halve the hole, which they did.

Then he stopped in the middle of the 18th fairway, and upon a moment or two of further reflection, said Woods should play in the afternoon four-ball match -- which is exactly what happened Friday.

Few would have been surprised if U.S. captain Davis Love III elected to give Woods a break to work on his game. Woods' form was that poor along with partner Steve Stricker in a match they lost to Ian Poulter and Justin Rose 2 and 1, the fourth one out Friday morning that left the Ryder Cup tied at 2-2.

"I'd put him in the four-ball, hell yes," Trevino said. "But foursomes? No. He's not hitting his driver well enough. But what the hell do I know? I was captain once and lost."

Trevino, 73, roared that loud laugh of his, enjoying the Ryder Cup atmosphere with his wife, Claudia, and youngest son Daniel. They walked inside the ropes as guests of the PGA of America, Trevino having participated earlier in the week in a captain's challenge at Medinah.

He was captain of the 1985 U.S. Ryder Cup team that lost for the first time in 28 years. The Americans fell 15-13 at The Belfry in England, the start of European dominance that has seen them go 8-4-1.

As a six-time participant in the matches, Trevino went 17-7-6 and never played on a losing U.S. team. The format was different then, and so was the event. A six-time major champion, Trevino -- and contemporaries such as Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson -- never endured the type of scrutiny that exists today.

And when it comes to Woods, there is usually an opinion to be offered.

"He's struggling off the tee," Trevino said. "He can't get the ball in play, you saw that. They would have won that match if Tiger would have drove the ball better. And that doesn't work in foursomes."

To put it simply, Woods was poor and Stricker was not much better. They made three birdies, two on par-5s. They never led, got down 3 holes early on the back nine and made a brief rally when an errant tee shot by Woods on the par-15th struck a tree and luckily kicked back into the fairway. From there, the U.S. team made an easy up-and-down on the short par-4 to win the hole with birdie.

Earlier, Woods had caught a spectator in the head with a tee shot on the par-5 seventh hole. The Chicago area golf fan went to the ground, dazed, his head bleeding. The ball got a 30-yard carom into the fairway and the team made its first birdie of the day.

Two bad shots, two good breaks.

But there were enough poor shots without the breaks for plenty to question Woods and whether this is the first Ryder Cup in which he will miss a session.

Trevino argued that you don't take Woods out of best ball, the afternoon format at the Ryder Cup. Having long hitters in the format is always an advantage because of the par-5s, and sure enough, Woods birdied the first hole of the afternoon session with Stricker again as his partner against Lee Westwood and Nicolas Colsaerts.

But the question remains: Should Woods sit during Saturday morning's foursomes matches?

The alternate shot format is brutal when one player is struggling off the tee, as Woods was Friday morning. And after a strong run together at the 2009 Presidents Cup and 2010 Ryder Cup, the Woods-Stricker tandem is not so hot any more.

They lost their last match together in Wales -- a foursomes match -- as well as a foursomes match last year in Melbourne at the Presidents Cup. After that, Woods was grouped with Dustin Johnson. Back together again Friday, Woods/Stricker suffered their third straight defeat.

Love said he considered not playing Woods, "but we talked about it amongst ourselves and we just felt like once they started playing best ball, they'd be right back on their games. It was tricky this morning, windy, cold. ... It doesn't take much to get you off your game. We decided to stick to what we had."

It didn't help that they were going up against Poulter and Rose. Poutler's record is now 9-3 in the Ryder Cup, but two of his losses had come against Woods.

"Tiger has been two of my three defeats in this Ryder Cup format, and Justin and I were pretty pumped to get out there and kind of get that point on the board,'' Poulter said. "It was all blue early, but turned it around, and we managed to secure that point right at the end."

The key to the match?

"I think putting it in play more than what they did," said Poulter, who was clearly talking about Woods. "They got out of position a lot off the tee. That was obviously going to be very difficult from there to kind of hit it close on a number of holes."

Woods hit just two of seven fairways, and one of those was the tree shot at the 15th hole. He opened the tournament for the duo and promptly hit it well left into trees, from where Stricker was fortunate to advance the ball in front of the green, helping the Americans get a par. The only other fairway Woods hit was at the third hole with an iron.

A victory in the match would have brought Woods to .500 in the Ryder Cup for the first time since he was 1-1 following his second match as a rookie in 1997. He dropped to 13-15-2 with the defeat, and left many wondering if it was time for him to finally play the role of cheerleader.

Asked about the very subject last week, Woods said he was "not volunteering" to sit out a session, but the question was asked in the context of the U.S. depth this year and making sure he is rested for Sunday singles -- not under the assumption he would play poorly.

"I've had a good singles record," said Woods, who is 4-1-1 in the format and hasn't lost since his first Ryder Cup in 1997. "That's why we train, run all those miles, lift all those weights, so we're fit for these things.''

Poulter was asked about the irony of sitting the afternoon session while Woods was playing.

"Yeah, but he's Tiger Woods," Poulter said. "Is Davis Love going to sit Tiger Woods? He's a brave man. You know, he's Tiger Woods. He's the guy they get out there fired up. He didn't quite fire them up this morning, but you never know. When Tiger is on, he's on and he's very impressive, but when he's not, he's not. It's a brave captain to leave him out."

Trevino would plan to do it, at least Saturday morning. But he's not in the hot seat. He was headed out to watch more golf.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com