Ryder Cup: Wales always brings out the very worst in Tiger Woods
When Tiger Woods stepped down from the US team's plane yesterday the memories of his last visit to Wales must have come flooding back.
Despite his claims to the contrary, it is fair to assume this tide of recollection did not leave him awash with joy.
Not only did his country lose the Walker Cup for just the fourth time in 73 years, but the most talked about teenaged amateur in the history of the game lost two of his four matches (and one of his wins was totally irrelevant).
Many who saw him on the South Wales coast that week recall a 19-year-old enduring a miserable time. Some of them even find it possible to trace his discomfort in the team environment down to that experience.
It seems a perfectly valid viewpoint as Woods had always previously stood tall and proud in his college outfit of Stanford. For the first time, Wales saw the figure slouch and the Tiger whiskers bristle. And in the opinion of his most famous amateur conqueror, some of his behaviour was indefensible.
“I look back and admit he was head and shoulders above me and everybody else when it came to playing ability,” says Gary Wolstenholme. “But as a human being and as a team player he fell some way short.”
Woods, of course, said something similar about himself in that extraordinary mea culpa in February, although that admission was strictly concerned with his private life.
About his fondness, or otherwise, of the Walker and Ryder Cups he has remained insistent. Only last month he said: “I've been to Wales previously in the Walker Cup and am looking forward to going back and having a great time with the team.”
Wolstenholme would not have been the only member of the Class of '95 to raise an eyebrow at that statement. As well as his singles misery on the first day Woods was also beaten the next morning in the foursomes by Jody Fanagan and a fellow Irishman by the name of Padraig Harrington.
“Everybody who was there remembers the awful weather,” says Fanagan.
“Although he played in the Open at St Andrews that year, it was Tiger's first experience of a links course in rough weather and to me, he didn't seem very comfortable. He seemed to have real trouble with his distance control. He also looked uncomfortable with the food back at the hotel. In fact, he looked generally uncomfortable for the whole week.”
The teams were staying on an industrial park in Cardiff, more than 40 minutes away. As Fanagan alluded, Woods was not happy with the cuisine and took to visiting a famous fast-food outlet. Furthermore, in Wolstenholme's words, “there were loads of official events to attend.”
Whatever and wherever, Woods claimed to have contracted food poisoning, which forced him to miss a day of official practice. By then, the home players were starting to see the cracks developing in the great individual and, by extension, the team.
Perhaps, they did have a chance of reversing the humiliating 19-5 result from two years previous; perhaps they did have a squeak in the competition the media had taken to calling “The Walkover Cup”. Wolstenholme recalls those taunts:
“And to make matters worse everybody was talking about this phenomenal young golfer,” he says.