“You have to make birdies in fourball," says Tiger Woods. Photo: Matt Dunham/AP

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES – Tiger Woods said that the “team is the most important thing, after USA took an early 3-1 lead in the Ryder Cup on Friday despite the 14-time major champion losing on his return to the event.

The former world number one has attracted plenty of attention this week as he plays the matchplay showdown for the first time since 2012.

But, with their match being followed by thousands of supporters, Woods and Patrick Reed blew a 2-up lead to lose 3 and 1 to Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari.

“The biggest takeaway for us as a team is that we have a two-point lead, and that’s the most important thing,” said Woods.

“It’s disappointing and frustrating for Pat and I to not contribute to the team.

“When you lose a point, you feel like you’re contributed, but you’re contributing to the wrong team. They got the points instead of us.”

The 42-year-old started his match strongly just five days after claiming his first title in over five years at the Tour Championship, but was let down by a wayward Reed and lost his own form late on.

England’s Fleetwood poured in long-range birdies at 15 and 16, before British Open champion Molinari added one of his own on the penultimate green to seal the win.

The defeat worsened Woods’ already-disappointing Ryder Cup, which now stands at 13 wins, 18 losses and three halves.

“As I said, we were in control of the match being 2-up, but we just didn’t make any birdies coming in,” added Woods.

“You have to make birdies in fourball.

“We did it early. I think I made about four birdies there on that front nine. Pat had a couple.

“We were putting it on them, and then on the back nine, it flipped. They put it on us, and we couldn’t answer.”

Woods had been well-received by the French galleries during the practice rounds, but they were firmly behind Fleetwood and Molinari at Le Golf National.

The match-changing putts that ensured Europe would avoid a first-session whitewash drew the biggest cheers of the day, although the celebrations when Woods found water on the 16th were muted.

He said he was not worried about his game heading into Saturday, despite being left out of Friday’s afternoon foursomes by US captain Jim Furyk.

“I’m not going to work on anything. My game is fine. My cut really wasn’t cutting off the tee today.

“I can accept that. That’s really no big deal. My putting feels solid. I’ll be ready come tomorrow whenever captain puts me out.”