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20 Sep 2004 00:00
There is no “I” in Ryder Cup. It’s a lesson the United States players and captains on the past 10 teams have stubbornly refused to learn.
Europe won seven of those matches, including four of the last five, and the only US win in that latest run—at Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1999—required the greatest final-day comeback in the history of the tournament.
The Americans had home-course advantage again, but that wasn’t the only thing that must have felt familiar at Oakland Hills.
The plucky dozen from the other side of the Atlantic get points from the top to the bottom of the roster and build a lead in team competition on the first two days. The Americans, who keep waiting for one of their superstars to step forward and take the lead, try to come back in singles and rarely make up the deficit.
“Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love are supposed to play great,” Love said, “and none of us did.”
The final score, Europe 18 and-a-half, United States nine and-a-half, made that point convincingly enough. It was the Americans’ worst beating in the 77-year history of the Ryder Cup.
But more than the margin, the two players who struck the clinching blows should have reminded the Americans what the Ryder Cup is really about—teamwork.
Moments after Englishman Lee Westwood rolled in a tricky four-footer at the 18th green for a one-up win over Kenny Perry, someone asked him about the key to his spectacular play this week, contributing four and-a-half points out of a possible five.
Instead of detailing his own hard work during a recent slump that dropped him all the way to 265 in the world rankings, the first thing Westwood talked about were his teammates.
“I had two great partners,” he said, referring to Sergio Garcia and Darren Clarke. “Whenever I needed help, Sergio stepped up or Darren stepped up. When I finally got rolling, I was able to do the same for them.”
Scotsman Colin Montgomerie’s one-up victory over David Toms on the same green a few minutes later gave Europe the point that made the win official. Like Westwood, his career has hit a rough patch, so much so that after playing in six consecutive Ryder Cups, he slipped below 80 in the world rankings and made the team only after Europe captain Bernhard Langer chose him as one of two wild-card selections.
Montgomerie’s record in golf’s majors remains dreadful—0-for-52—but his Ryder Cup record is Europe’s best. Still, he voluntarily sat down on Saturday, ending the longest streak of consecutive matches by anybody on their side, because at 41, Montgomerie felt it was more valuable for the rookies to get some
As he followed the matches a day earlier riding around in a golf cart, he stopped long enough to try to explain the wide gulf in results between majors and the Ryder Cup, both of them held on stages as pressure packed as the game can produce.
He talked about the “safety of having 11 guys standing behind you,” and he drove that point home one more time as champagne flowed on every side of him.
“We really do play for each other. It’s amazing ... from the moment we get on that plane Monday morning, how we are as one,” Montgomerie said.
“It’s amazing what our record here is, how it belies our ranking in the world.”
The US team came here with the world’s number two and four players (Woods and Mickelson), three of the top 10, and five guys who owned 12 majors between them. Their average pro ranked 19th.
Europe’s top player, Padraig Harrington, was ranked eighth, and the only majors on the team were both won by Langer.
With a little variation, those numbers haven’t shifted much over the last 20 years.
On top of that, the US tour is bigger than the European version, it pays much better, the courses are better groomed and even the weather is more conducive to playing better golf.
But all those factors have piled on top of each other to create a huge chip on the shoulders of Europe.
The Europeans get tired of hearing how good it is in the States, and how great their much more famous US counterparts are, and they have exactly one chance every two years to do something about it.
So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that six of the 12 guys on their team contributed more points than Woods, and three of those totalled more than Woods and Mickelson combined.
Add those numbers up and it proves that when it comes to the Ryder Cup, the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts. - Sapa-AP
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