PARIS • Tiger Woods expects some nervous excitement when he steps on the first tee for the trophy-holders United States against Europe in the Ryder Cup before 7,000 screaming spectators at Le Golf National just outside Paris today.
The 14-time Major champion snapped a five-year trophy drought last weekend to lift the season-ending Tour Championship, capping a successful comeback season from spinal fusion surgery and will be the star attraction when the biennial team showdown tees off in the morning.
"It's going to be fun, an awesome environment," Woods said. "There's a lot of nerves. It's excitement. Basically, it's the final round of a tournament on the very first hole and every match, you tee it up. It's a different atmosphere and one that we absolutely love."
The huge grandstand will create a crucible for Woods and his American teammates to start En Avant, the opening 419-yard par-four hole known as Go Ahead in English.
Tee shots will be critical to setting up approaches as water comes into play from the start.
"When I first saw that, I looked up and felt like I kept looking up, up and up," Patrick Reed said.
Woods expects the noise to reach a crescendo to rival Celtic Manor in 2010, when crowd noise shook the American players.
Players to watch
Team United States
Considered such a long shot as he returned from spinal fusion surgery that he accepted a non-playing vice-captain's invitation, Woods now gets to take his clubs and momentum from his Tour Championship triumph to France. He did not play in either Team US wins in 2008 (knee surgery) and 2016 (back).The 14-time Major winner is just 13-17-3 (win-loss-halves) in Ryder Cups and will not be asked to carry the team.
Since the Masters champion finished fourth at the US Open, he has just one top-10 finish, on European soil no less, at the European Open in Germany. But he has shown a flair for the Ryder Cup stage, bursting onto the scene with a 3-0-1 mark in 2014 while famously trying to shush the Gleneagles crowd, and leading the 2016 charge with a 3-1-1 record.
As the first man to win back-to-back US Opens in nearly three decades, Koepka has already shown a knack for defying historical odds this year. He also won the PGA Championship and will be counted on to continue his strong form. His power game is a prime fit in four-ball play, allowing him to risk the occasional wayward drive for birdie chances with short irons and wedges. He owns a 3-1-0 mark in the format across stints in the Ryder and Presidents Cup.
A sparkling 11-month run briefly lifted the Englishman to world No. 1 this month, adding the FedExCup season title on Sunday. He was one of the heroes of Europe's 2012 "Miracle at Medinah", winning the final two holes to snatch victory from Phil Mickelson.
He is back in form, with a victory in Houston in tow, after injury kept him out of consideration in 2016. His Ryder Cup legend is well-established: A 72.2 winning percentage, on a 12-4-2 record, is the best of any European in history with more than five matches. His zenith came at Medinah in 2012, as five straight birdies to conclude Saturday four-ball clinched an unlikely win to set Europe up for their Sunday miracle.
Perhaps the most controversial selection on either roster, last year's Masters champion endured an awful summer in which he produced just one top-10 finish since March and missed the cut in all four Majors. His best Ryder Cup work came more than a decade ago, when he went 14-6-4 in his first five appearances, highlighted by winning 41/2 points in a 2004 road win at Oakland Hills. In this decade, he is just 5-5-3, with a break-even mark in all three editions.
Friday morning four-ball pairings
• 2.10pm (Singapore time): Brooks Koepka/Tony Finau (USA) v Justin Rose (Eng)/Jon Rahm (Esp)
• 2.25pm: Dustin Johnson/Rickie Fowler v Rory McIlroy (Nir)/Thorbjorn Olesen (Den)
• 2.40pm: Jordan Spieth/Justin Thomas v Paul Casey (Eng)/Tyrrell Hatton (Eng)
• 2.55pm: Patrick Reed/Tiger Woods v Francesco Molinari (Ita)/Tommy Fleetwood (Eng)
"I don't know what it was acoustically, but they were so close together that it was reverberating. It was so loud," he said. "This week will be exactly like that but the decibels will be up a little higher."
While the 80-time PGA Tour winner has not won a Ryder Cup match since a 4 and 3 victory over Italy's Francesco Molinari eight years ago, he has fond memories of Le Golf National, having clinched the World Amateur Team Championship there in 1994.
The 42-year-old is also hoping to arrest his Ryder Cup slide, having played on only one winning team - 1999's Battle of Brookline when the Americans made a record last-day fightback - in seven attempts.
"Haven't done well," Woods admitted. "My overall Ryder Cup record, not having won as a player since 1999, is something that hopefully we can change. We haven't won as a US squad here in 25 years on foreign soil, so hopefully, that will change this week, as well."
Given the longevity of Woods and Phil Mickelson at the top, Jordan Spieth does not feel they will be affected by the "scar tissue" from the long wait for an away win.
Still, their teammates know how much a road victory would mean to the duo. "It would be a dream to be a part of that," said two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson.
"I'm pretty sure Tiger and Phil would start crying if they did win. And I'll probably cry too."
And the US team have turned to National Basketball Association great Michael Jordan for advice on how to deal with vocal home fans in their bid to break the jinx abroad.
"He talked about how he didn't hear the crowd. It's kind of the same thing," three-time Major champion Brooks Koepka said yesterday. "I took that as he couldn't wait to shut them up... you might hear a few boos, but the quieter they are, you're kind of laughing inside."
RYDER CUP Day 1: StarHub Ch204, 2pm