America’s Ryder Cup Nightmare

Bobby Curran
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Friday - September 29, 2006
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Another Ryder Cup is now in the books, and the scene shortly after Sunday’s single matches was all too familiar. The Europeans were celebrating wildly, and the Americans lined up 12 across at a press conference like men awaiting sentencing.

Again the Euros had triumphed, and had done so going away. The final score was 18 1/2 to 9 1/2, and the Europeans won each of the five elements in the three-day competition.

Which makes five of the last six Ryder Cups won by the team across the pond.

How can this be when the top three players in the world are Americans? Wouldn’t Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson be able to dominate their counterparts, thus setting the tone for convincing U.S. victories?

Well, you’d think so, but it just hasn’t happened. Partners Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco managed just a half point between them in team play; both were beaten in the singles. Woods and Furyk also partnered and split their four team matches, but it was hardly the intimidating team that Team USA expected.

There seems to be a very different attitude on the Euro teams. The Europeans seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the galleries and each other. The Americans acted like they’d just been told they’d need another colonoscopy. They looked grim, and frequently could be seen muttering and frowning. They didn’t seem to be having much fun. Ironically, many USA team members say that participating in the Ryder Cup was a huge goal, and most obsessed over the point totals needed to make the squad.

And maybe that’s the point. The American approach is exemplified by team captain Tom Lehman. Lehman got consumed by the job, consulting people such as legendary basketball coach John Wooden, and current hoops coach K from Duke and more recently U.S Olympic head coach. Lehman left no stone unturned in his quest to give the U.S team every advantage. From selection of uniforms, travel schedules, practice formats to banquet seating charts and press conference timing, no detail was too small to prevent endless discussion.

That contrasts sharply with the style of European captain Ian Woosnam, the diminutive Welshman who appeared quite content to shrug off questions and retire to the pub and quaff a pint or two. When a certain pairing was suggested to him at a press conference, he said “Great idea!” and allowed that it had not previously occurred to him. That relaxed attitude apparently filtered down to the players. Colin Montgomerie, successful on the European tour but without a win on the U.S. PGA tour turns into a Goliath in the Ryder Cup. Likewise Sergio Garcia, who wilts like cooked spinach on Sundays in the majors, yet becomes the reincarnation of Bobby Jones when matched against the U.S. in Ryder Cup play. He came within a couple of shots of becoming the first European to deliver five points last week; only a sterling effort by U.S. captain’s pick Stewart Cink in the singles prevented that.

Perhaps it’s time for the U.S. to treat the Ryder Cup more like the Europeans do. Forget all the hand-wringing and angst, and just go play. Have a little fun, even.

Maybe in two years, when the Ryder Cup is played on American soil, the entire U.S. team can take a page out of Ian Woosnam’s book. Just raise a glass and say “Cheers!”

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