It was a day of such turbulence, on and off the course, that even the guard of Tiger Woods was beaten down. Normally so resistant to cheap controversy - if you cut him you tend not to draw blood but a resolve to settle the matter quite soon - Tiger on this occasion charged into what might be described as a storm in a bra cup.
The garment in question belonged to his model wife, Elin, although the problem in one photograph in a Dublin magazine was that the bikini top had been discarded for a frame of a swim-suit shoot. One tabloid translated this into an erroneous connection with soft porn (her arms were, after all, discreetly placed). Woods' demeanour suggested that weeks of Ryder Cup psychology had to be swept away into the category of phoney war. Here, maybe, was a hint of the real thing two days before the start.
A furious, at times almost incoherent Tiger dismissed questions about his visit to Stamford Bridge last Sunday and the menace of the winds blasting across Co Kildare and said: "For me and my wife things have occurred over here that have been very disappointing - very disappointing in how the article was written... My wife, yes, she has been a model and she did do some bikini photos. But to link her to porn sites and such is unacceptable - and I do not accept that at all. Neither does our team."
Woods' humour took some further blows. Some fans booed the American team when they refused to follow the Europeans in a full-scale afternoon practice, merely taking second shots at most holes and walking as a 12-man unit to the greens for some chipping and putting work. This was after someone reported to the great man that Sergio Garcia - not Woods' favourite person ever since he brattishly tried to intrude into his glory at the USPGA six years ago - had been drawing attention to his poor record in Ryder Cup team play and was very much looking forward to playing against him some time over the next few days.
Here at least the Tiger could respond to the insult with a simple coherence on a par with a rifle shot. "As far as Sergio's comments are concerned," said Woods, "hopefully we can get together out there and play." This sounded more like a threat than an invitation, and one all the more serious when you remembered how quickly the ageing infant prodigy's game collapsed in the Open at Hoylake when the defending champion began to turn a few screws.
In fact, through all the windblast and the acrimony one theme was barely touched by a single gust of doubt. It is the argument that as a Ryder Cup star rather than the author of one of the most bewilderingly brilliant bodies of work in the history of golf, the 30-year-old Tiger may well be coming to a glittering age.
"I want my Ryder Cup record to be better and that's what I'm working for here," he said. "It's always hurt losing points in Cup play - it is always a two-point swing, two points going the wrong way - and unfortunately I've gone on the wrong end of it too many times. It's frustrating because you feel like you've not only let yourself down but you've let down your team-mates who are trying to win this Cup for their captain and their country.
"As far as setting the tone this year, yeah, I would like to do that. I want to get points for my team, and when I'm put up there it is my responsibility to get those points. If I play one match or five the responsibility is there."
Woods, for the first time, appears to be admitting that it is in the interests of his image - and maybe even his pride - to show that he can be a team man, no longer the austere loner who practised at the crack of dawn, who at times made Greta Garbo's old need to be alone seem like no more than a passing fad, but someone prepared to take four Ryder Cup rookies out to dinner.
The suspicion must be that eight years ago the Tiger, on balance, might have preferred to immerse his hand in a vat of boiling oil. But now, with other furies spent, you would really struggle to find a more "clubbable" guy. He said of his burgeoning partnership with the deeply committed Jim Furyk, "Jim and I play the game almost the same way. I just hit the ball further. Our thought process, the way we see shots, is basically exactly 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 it."
Woods' amiability was almost oozing now. When it was suggested he liked to play with Furyk so much because it gave him such a long time to watch his partner's swing, the Tiger agreed he did draw much enjoyment from the experience. It was intriguing. "Yeah, it's true," he said, "because I'm always wondering, you know, how he makes contact."
He said he would play through the anger created by the magazine and tabloid caperings. "We'll just go and play; you do things for the people you love and you are about. My father got ridiculed for years and I always felt for my father and my mother in the same way. With my wife, we're in it together: we're a team and we do things as a team, and I care about her with all my heart."
Quite soon now we will know if America's chances of regaining the Ryder Cup - and addressing network television fears that the public back home love golf only when their boys are winning - can ever mean anything remotely as much to Tiger Woods. On a rancorous day the verdict was that it could, but not before that storm in a bra cup had blown away.Reuse content