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A Rude Welcome for Woods

He is angry after an Irish magazine publishes doctored photographs of his wife and links to pornography sites.

September 21, 2006|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

STRAFFAN, Ireland — The last thing Tiger Woods needed before the Ryder Cup was a distraction, but he was clearly in a foul mood Wednesday over nude photographs -- wrongly identified to be of his wife, Elin Nordegren -- that were published in an Irish magazine. The magazine also linked her photographs to pornography sites on the Internet.

The article in the September issue of Dubliner, titled "Ryder Cup Filth for Ireland," and the fake photograph with Nordegren's head apparently superimposed on a model, caused Woods to begin his regularly scheduled general media interview with a note of anger.

"My wife, yes, she has been a model prior and she did do some bikini photos, but to link her to porn websites and such is unacceptable, and I do not accept that at all. Neither does our team," he said. Woods said he and his wife were "very disappointed in how the article was written."

The article also contained unflattering comments about the wives of Ryder Cup teammates Chad Campbell, David Toms and Jim Furyk.

Woods married Nordegren, from Sweden, nearly two years ago.

The Irish magazine apologized to Woods and the other Ryder Cup players for what it said was inappropriate satire. Woods' agent at IMG, Mark Steinberg, said he was considering whether to file a lawsuit.

On the course, the main problem here for Woods, when the 36th Ryder Cup matches begin Friday at the rain-soaked and wind-blown K Club, is that his record in the two biggest match-play events in golf doesn't come close to matching his dominance in tournament play.

With 12 major titles and 53 PGA Tour victories in barely 10 full years as a pro, Woods is virtually untouchable in the regular, mainstream events, but that success ratio hasn't carried over into the premier match-play tournaments.

This isn't Superman's record -- 7-11-2 in the Ryder Cup, and 10-9-1 in the Presidents Cup -- but it is the record that belongs to Woods.

"It's disappointing," Woods said. "I've always felt like it's a two-point swing -- winning a point, losing a point, it feels like it's two points going the wrong way. And, unfortunately, I've gone on the wrong end of it too many times."

Stewart Cink has a theory about Woods' vulnerability in match play.

"I think the [other] team rises up to play against him," he said. "They see him, you cut off the head of the dragon, well, he's the head. He's our No. 1 player, no question."

In his checkered Ryder Cup past, Woods has lost to Costantino Rocca. He has halved with Jesper Parnevik. He has lost twice with Phil Mickelson as his partner. His record on the first day, when he plays with a teammate in best ball and alternate shot, is 1-7. He has lost the last seven.

The first matches Friday, weather permitting, are best ball, and Woods seems certain to be paired with Furyk. But Furyk has experienced his own discomfort level in the team portion of the Ryder Cup -- he's 1-9-1 in best ball and alternate shot.

Furyk is 4-0 in singles in the Ryder Cup, and though Woods is 2-1-1, he hasn't lost since Rocca beat him in his first Ryder Cup in 1997.

The task of getting Woods on track is his own, and he knows it. Regarded as one of the best amateur match-play performers in history, Woods won three consecutive U.S. Amateurs. But he had no partner, and blending the right player with Woods at this arena and at the Presidents Cup has become as difficult as finding a dry place on the golf course this week.

According to Woods, Furyk is the right choice for a partner. They clicked at the Presidents Cup, and Woods told U.S. captain Tom Lehman that Furyk was the guy he wanted to line up beside him the first two days here.

"Jim and I play the game almost the same way," Woods said. "I just hit the ball further. Our thought processes, the way we see shots, [is] basically, exactly the same. We read putts the same.

"I just hit the ball a little further than he does off the tee and my irons may be half a club longer, that's about it."

Furyk said he could stand up to playing alongside Woods and is more than comfortable with being his partner, even if others might have had problems.

"Obviously you know that when you're paired with him, you get to see what a day in the life of Tiger Woods is like, and it's quite a bit different than the most of us, as far as the attention, as far as all of the eyes looking at you," Furyk said.

It has become part of the U.S. team's tradition to fall behind quickly in the Ryder Cup's best ball and alternate shot formats. In 2004, Europe led, 6 1/2 -1 1/2 after the first day and 11-5 after the second, which meant it was already basically over. Europe's eventual 18 1/2 -9 1/2 victory at Oakland Hills in Bloomfield Township, Mich., was the most lopsided U.S. loss since the matches began in 1927.

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