Tiger Woods lost his firrst three matches in the 39th Ryder Cup. Picture: Fran Caffrey/www.golffile.ie.When the United States of America last claimed the Ryder Cup in Kentucky in 2008, they did it without the help of the injured Tiger Woods.

The golfing gods appear to have decided that they will may do it without his help again this week.

Following two opening day defeats alongside Steve Stricker, the 36-year old former world number one was benched for the first time in a Ryder Cup career that goes back to 1997.

Davis Love was hoping that Woods and Stricker would be rested and hungry for the fourballs. But the magic came far too late and the European pair of Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia responded brilliantly to some late Woods fireworks, hanging on for a one up win in a pulsating match that epitomised everything that is noble about the biennial team contest.

Buoyed by some trademark Woods magic, the Americans came to the last needing a win to salvage a half. But Woods missed from 20 feet and Steve Stricker’s seven foot birdie putt lipped out.

The result leaves Woods with a Ryder Cup record that is hardly commensurate with his stature as a giant of the game - 13 wins, 17 defeats and two halves from 32 matches.

Cold and calculating like no other golf star since Ben Hogan, Woods appears forever doomed to the role of lone wolf rather than team player.

He arrived at the Ryder Cup flying solo. Unlike his team mates, he has had no wife for company and no girlfriend’s shoulder to cry on this week. Not even his mother Kultida made the trip and his entourage was reduced to caddie Joe LaCava and coach Séan Foley.

Left out for the first time yesterday morning, no-one expected to see him cheerleading at dawn.

But he almost did his cheering with his clubs, producing flashes of the brilliance that were vintage Woods down the stretch. He certainly made Donald and Stricker sweat for their first point of the week.

Asked what helped him turn his game around on the back nine, Woods said: “I don’t know, just kind of happened to be that way.  Just kind of had to make some birdies and we were able to get it going.

“We fought hard.  Unfortunately it just wasn’t enough.  Strick’s made a huge birdie at 12.  We gave ourselves two good looks on 18 and didn’t get it done.

“Feeling good about my game but just unfortunately haven’t got a point.  Yesterday I played terrible in the morning.  Really, really struggled.  Turned around in the afternoon and unfortunately we ran into a guy who made more putts than anyone I’ve ever seen.

“And this afternoon, we got down early, battled back.  As I said we were six-under through eight holes on the back nine playing the last hole, and I thought we were going to get allsquare there at 17. 

“It was a nice birdie at 16 and then I stuffed it there on 17 and Luke stuffed it inside of me.  It was a great match all around.”

While he split the first fairway, Woods overcooked his wedge, flying 20 yards over the green. He chips dead but Garcia has already hit his approach stone dead and the Americans go one down.

When Stricker found water at the second, they need Woods to deliver. But he missed the green and lips out from six feet for par and a half. Two down.

The 36-year old flew the green from 77 yards at the third as well but Stricker matched Donald’s par to maintain Europe’s two hole advantage.

Woods was wild off the fourth tee and Garcia pounced with a birdie to put Europe three up.

And while Stricker eagled the par five fifth to cut the gap and while Woods holed a nine footer for a half in par at the sixth, he looked lacking in confidence.

Europe moved four up at the turn when Donald made his first major contributions to the match with birdies at the eighth and ninth. That appeared to stir Woods into action and he was a transformed man on the back nine.

A Woods birdie at the 10th left the US pair just three down before Stricker brilliantly birdied the tough 12th with a stellar five iron approach to reduce the gap further.

Woods then stepped up, hitting a three-iron to three feet at the 236-yard 13th to leave them just one down with five to play. The stage was set.

Woods kept the pressure on Europe, holing a clutch 10 footer for birdie at the par-five 14th that Donald matched from four feet.

The American icon kept the pressure on Europe, holing a clutch 10 footer for birdie at the par-five 14th that Donald matched from four feet.

But while he couldn’t hole a 15 footer for birdie at the driveable 15th as Donald edged Europe two up again, he drained a nine footer for a win at the next to get the US back to one down.

A brilliant Woods tee shot to four feet at the 17th looked certain to send the match to the 18th all square.

But destiny had other ideas as Donald hit a career three-iron to 18 inches to send Europe down the last with a one up lead.

Woods couldn’t win a point but with Stricker’s help, he could still eke out a half. A bogey by Donald left him with a chance to steal some glory. But he missed and so did Stricker.