United States' Ryder Cup team motivated by Tiger Woods' text message

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- The United States got off to a rousing start at the Ryder Cup on Friday, taking a 6-2 lead over Europe at Whistling Straits following two sessions of the three-day competition.

An inspiration text message from Tiger Woods did not hurt.

Several players on the U.S. team acknowledged they were moved by the message, but unwilling to reveal its exact contents as parts of it were not suitable for public consumption.

"We knew he was fist-pumping from the couch,'' said Xander Schauffele, who won his morning match with Patrick Cantlay and again in the afternoon with Dustin Johnson. "Whether he was on crutches or not, he's as fired up as any back at home so it's nice to have his support.''

Woods, 45, was involved in a serious auto accident in February that kept him from competing all year.

At one time, there was thought that he might be at Whistling Straits as one of Steve Stricker's vice captains. Stricker said he's been in touch with Woods often to consult and get ideas.

The 15-time major champion was captain of the winning U.S. Presidents Cup team in 2019 and had a playing record of 3-0 at Royal Melbourne. He also assisted Stricker's 2017 Presidents Cup team and Davis Love's 2016 Ryder Cup team. All three were winning efforts.

"No better role model, no better leader, just somebody you can always learn from,'' Cantlay said. "I saw him last week at home and just picked his brain on Ryder Cup and applied some of that here today.''

It appears some of his message was to not let up, no matter how well things are going.

"We're all square [tied in the match], keep pushing,'' Schauffele said. "We got a nice message from Tiger last night, obviously we're not going to reveal what he said, but Pat and I knew we referred to it a few times today and we knew what we needed to do.''

Tony Finau and Harris English also references Woods' words.

"Harry mentioned to me walking down No. 9, like how cool it was that Tiger is so into it,'' said Finau, who won his match with English over Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry 4 and 3. ''I think that's the big thing is he's so invested in this team. He's not here physically, but I think the gist of basically what he was saying was I'm cheering you guys on, I'm right there with you and go fight and make us proud.

"We were able to do that, and if TW's watching, thanks for that text, brother, I think it helps us a lot.'' Said English: "Tiger's not with us in person, but I know he's watching and talking to Stricker a lot. We know he's got our backs, so that's really cool, and we kind of used that energy today, which we could feel it.''

Stricker said that he received the message from Woods but was unable to read it to the team, so he forwarded it on to them.

"The overall picture was just wishing the guys good luck and congratulations for making the team, and a few personal things from Tiger himself,'' Stricker said. "He's a friend of a lot of these guys and these guys look up to him, and I lean on him a lot throughout this whole process. So it was great to hear from him and provide some words of encouragement to these guys.''