There is pressure -- and then there is Ryder Cup pressure.
When playing for country, team and captain, the intensity level can be petrifying for the 24 players in this week's 39th edition of the biennial tussle between the USA and Europe that begins Friday at Medinah Country Club. The Ryder Cup is where flags of countries fly high, boos ring loudly across the golf course and grown men are sometimes reduced to tears.
Tiger Woods played in his first Ryder Cup in 1997 in Spain, but he got a taste for international team contests at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Wales two years earlier in the Walker Cup, which features the leading amateurs from the USA and Great Britain and Ireland.
"I was introduced and just got a huge ovation of boos. I'm like, 'Oh, OK, welcome to the Walker Cup.' Well, I got to Spain for the Ryder Cup, and it was even more so. And that was nice. That was good. It was fun," said Woods, who was paired with good friend Mark O'Meara for his first three matches.
Woods is now a veteran and will play in his seventh Ryder Cup. While his individual record outside of the Ryder Cup is unmatched in his generation, his mark in the matches is 13-14-2, and he has been on one winning U.S. team. Woods said this week he shouldered the blame for the USA losing six of the last eight matches and was intent on changing things.
"Certainly I am responsible, because I didn't earn the points that I was put out there for," Woods said Tuesday. "I needed to go get my points for my team, and I didn't. Hopefully I can do that this week, and hopefully the other guys can do the same and we can get this thing rolling."
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