MEDINAH, Ill. -- No other trio of American golfers has qualified for more consecutive Ryder Cup teams than Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk. Collectively, they have won 146 official tournaments around the world, including 19 majors.
That makes their Ryder Cup record look only all the more inferior.
They have been the core of the U.S. team since 1997 at Valderrama, where they combined for a 3-6-1 record as the United States lost the cup. Perhaps it was a sign of what was to come. For all their individual achievement, none has a winning record in the Ryder Cup. They have been on six teams together -- Woods missed in 2008 at Valhalla while recovering from knee surgery -- and the only celebration they shared was that remarkable comeback at Brookline.
"I would have expected and definitely wished for a much better record than that," Furyk said Tuesday.
It leads to a question that brings to mind the chicken and the egg.
Do they all have losing records because they are playing on losing teams? Or does the U.S. keep losing because this triumvirate has losing records?
"I think it's both," Woods said Tuesday. "In order to win cups, you have to earn points. And we certainly have not earned points. And on top of that, Phil, Jim and myself have been put out there a lot during those years. So if we're not earning points, it's hard to win Ryder Cups that way."
So much has been expected. So little has been delivered.
Furyk is 42 and has gone four of the last five PGA Tour seasons without winning, though the exception was in 2010 when he won three times and was voted player of the year. Even so, he had to rely on being a captain's pick for the first time.
Mickelson, also 42, has qualified for nine straight teams dating to 1995. He will set an American record for most Ryder Cups when the matches began Friday. Even so, he narrowly qualified for the team this year.
They will be leaned on heavily again at Medinah as the U.S. tries to win back the cup.
They Americans, dressed in navy blue shirts, headed out for the first full day of practice under warm sunshine in the Chicago suburbs. They played fourball matches among the three groups.
U.S. captain Davis Love III finally showed his hand -- and confirmed some obvious pairings in mind -- by sending out Woods and Steve Stricker, Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, Watson and Webb Simpson. Other pairings were Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson, Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, and Furyk and Brandt Snedeker.
There were few surprises on the European side.
European captain Jose Maria Olazabal had Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood in one group; Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia and Paul Lawrie in another; and Martin Kaymer, Nicolas Colsaerts, Francesco Molinari and Peter Hanson in a third.