The face of a dejected and tired-looking Tiger Woods told the story as the deflated USA team met reporters at yet another losing Ryder Cup media conference, this time near Paris.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this. They were supposed to be celebrating an historic Ryder Cup win in Europe. A first for 25 years, a hoodoo finally broken.
Instead, joking and laughing their way through their meeting with the media, it was the champagne-clutching European side who had dismantled arguably the strongest team in history.
Tiger’s toil, ‘Moliwood’ magic
The 42-year-old had been selected as a player for the first time since 2012, but the energy and emotion of a remarkable season took its toll and he lost all four of his matches at Le Golf National.
Despite his stellar career, the Ryder Cup has never been a happy hunting ground for Woods, and his performance in Paris took his record to played 13, lost 21, halved three.
“I’m one of the contributing factors to why we lost the Cup and it’s not fun,” he muttered from under the peak of his red cap as the incessant “Ole, ole, ole” chants from jubilant European fans rang out over the course.
The architect of Woods’ downfall was Italy’s British Open champion Francesco Molinari, who beat him three times in team play with partner Tommy Fleetwood.
The pair earned cult status during the week, fans created songs in their honor and devised a new nickname, “Moliwood,” or “Machinari” for being like a machine. Woods also lost to passionate Spaniard Jon Rahm in the singles on Sunday.
Picking the right partner for Woods — Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau joined the list of unsuitables — remains one of golf’s great unsolved mysteries. Do they not ignite him, does he intimidate them, or do their opponents try extra hard because it’s Woods?
After a third straight defeat at Gleneagles in 2014, followed by Phil Mickelson’s public slating of captain Tom Watson, the USA set up its famous “task force” to address its Ryder Cup failings.
The commanding victory two years ago at Hazeltine suggested it was on the right track with a crop of powerful young stars.
But Europe’s victory near Versailles will send the task force back to the drawing board. One issue to address will be individual performances and the reasons behind them.
The 48-year-old Mickelson, handed a wildcard by captain and close friend Jim Furyk for a record 12th Ryder Cup, was a major culprit.
The fading left-hander misfired and contributed exactly zero points. It was his tee shot into the water on the 16th that sparked the concession that handed over the Cup. Very possibly the last shot he ever hits in the Ryder Cup.
Mickelson conceded he had struggled to find his game, but Furyk will be questioned for not choosing an in-form young gun, though he insists “Lefty” brings far more to the team than just his performance on the course. Somewhere back in Kansas, Watson must have allowed himself a wry smile.
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson failed to ignite and added a single point. Reed, dubbed “Captain America” for top-scoring for the USA in 2014 and 2016, was out of sorts and scored just one point. Another of Furyk’s four wildcards, DeChambeau, was also pointless.
For Europe, Thomas Bjorn’s wildcards Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson added 9.5 points between them.
The clinical Molinari won all five of his points to become the first European to go through a Ryder Cup unbeaten. And all 12 players contributed at least a point.
As Europe won eight straight team matches across Friday and Saturday, including an historic session whitewash Friday afternoon to lay the foundations for its 17½-10½ victory, the USA came under fire for struggling to adapt to the set-up of the golf course.
The tight fairways, thick rough and plentiful water largely took the driver out of the hands of the US bombers, and played to the shot-making strengths of the Europeans. Europe has big-hitters too, such as Rory McIlroy, but the feeling is they just figured out better answers to the questions posed by the course.
One significant stat was that the USA team had played only eight competitive rounds over the course before the tournament, compared with Europe’s 236.
Only Justin Thomas competed in the recent French Open at Le Golf National. Furyk insists the practice days he organized with some of his other team members were well attended.
“We were prepared, we played our practice rounds, we understood the golf course. We got out played,” Furyk told the sombre news conference.