By Steve Keating
MEDINAH, Illinois (Reuters) - Tiger Woods exited Medinah Country Club the forgotten man on Sunday, denied the chance to become the U.S. Ryder Cup hero then handing Europe the outright victory to cap a dismal weekend.
The Americans had started the last day with a commanding 10-6 lead but as the afternoon wore on and the advantage slowly slipped away, it appeared the Ryder Cup could come down to the final match between Italy's Francesco Molinari and Woods, leaving the 14-time major winner a shot at redemption for his miserable play.
But Woods would never get the chance to pull the trigger, as Germany's Martin Kaymer, playing in the penultimate pairing, stepped smartly into the hero's role dropping a nerve-jangling five-foot putt at the last to beat Steve Stricker and make sure Europe would retain the coveted golden trophy.
By the time the former-world number one arrived on the scene a few minutes later the party was already in full swing around the 18th green, a disinterested Woods sliding a three-footer past the cup to surrender a half-point and gift the Europeans the out-right win 14 1/2 to 13 1/2.
"To be honest I didn't really pay that much attention," a gloomy Woods told reporters. "I was trying to get my point.
"I went one up at 17, and I asked what was going on down at 18 because my responsibility was to be able to get my point.
"Then they said that Europe has a chance to win on this hole, or retain the Cup.
"Then after that all went down, my putt was useless. It was inconsequential. So I hit it too quick and gave him his putt and it was already over."
The biennial U.S.-Europe showdown has never brought out the best in Woods but the 14-time major winner slumped to new lows at Medinah losing all three of his team matches while being benched for the first time in his Ryder Cup career.
Despite his struggles, Woods had still been counted on to deliver a point in the singles.
While Woods has fallen flat in the team matches, he remains an imposing opponent in head-to-head competition coming into Sunday with a record of 4-1-1 in Ryder Cup play.
He was sent out last with U.S. captain Davis Love III saying he expected Jason Dufner, playing in the ninth of 12 singles matches, to be the man to secure an American win.
"It's the second time it happened to me being on the fairway (when the Cup was decided)," said Woods.
"It happened at The Belfry on 17, playing Jesper (Parnevik) and our match was inconsequential and same thing here, its inconsequential, the Cup is already over." (Editing by Julian Linden)