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The Europeans continued to dominate the Americans in the 35th Ryder Cup on day three as they whipped the USA 7 1/2 to 4 1/2 to retain possession of that tiny but very special, valuable gold loving cup. Final score, Europe 18.5, USA 9.5. In Ryder Cup history this is the largest margin of victory and certainly the indication that Europe now dominates world team golf if not world golf rankings. The Americans were very simply, clobbered.

American captain, Hal Sutton, on Sunday, sent out, in order, his top four players by Ryder Cup point standings, Woods, Mickelson, Love and Furyk, in the first four singles matches but could only muster a one point advantage from these golfers of world class fame. Sutton’s team lost matches five and six and the rout was on. European captain, Bernhard Langer, said later that he could have come to America with a team of 18 to 20 Europeans and competed very well. He seemed to insinuate that Europe has reached parity with America in world golf. No one questioned his assertion. Without question, the USA is a target for all of the golfing world and we must understand and accept the fact that everyone in the world wants very badly to beat Americans in golf (or in any other way for that matter). After all, for most of the earlier years of this competition, when America competed only against the British Isles, the USA had been unbeatable. Now, with all of Europe participating, the tides have turned. The Europeans seem to have a need to win the Ryder Cup whereas the Americans don’t appear to have the same need. Europe has now won 4 of the last 5 matches and 7 of the last 10.

The Europeans seemed more relaxed, more flamboyant and much more outgoing. The Americans seemed more uptight, more withdrawn. Someone at the press conference afterwards suggested the USA team had been crushed by the pressure generated around the Ryder Cup. It seems that greatest amount of the pressure might come from the media. Perhaps the Americans need to develop a different approach with the press and not let their often ridiculous questioning put them in that position. Does that pressure to win come from the Captain? I can’t answer that one but I do know that America’s team of the future need to find a way to have fun and enjoy the event, as the Europeans have. Of course, the Europeans have had the luxury for many years as being the so-called underdogs. Probably not anymore following this outstanding, record setting performance.

Were you as impressed with Captain Bernhard Langer of the European team as everyone else was? It seemed that each and every decision he made, worked to his team’s advantage. During the closing ceremonies he showed his class as an individual with his gestures of friendship and good sportsmanship toward the Americans. He even had the courage to confess his belief in his Lord and Savior. He just might have earned himself the opportunity to serve as captain once again sometime in the future. He personified the role of team captain better than anyone from either side in recent matches. Langer knew full well that America has been very important to him during his career and to him personally. He showed a respect that was certainly appropriate.

On the other hand, American Captain, Hal Sutton seemed “more rough around the edges” and will certainly be second guessed about some of the decisions he made. In fairness to Sutton he was gracious in defeat and showed a similar amount of good sportsmanship. A great deal of good will was established between the two teams and the American fans responded fairly and with good spirit. This year’s Ryder Cup participants represented the game of golf magnificently. This is what golf is all about as it took center stage in the sports world watched by billions worldwide. Afterwards, Sutton promised that the Americans “aren’t dead yet, we’ll get back up and try again.”

So what went wrong? Well, the world’s number two ranked golfer, Tiger Woods managed to win two matches but lost three. Phil Mickelson, ranked fourth in the world picked up one win while losing three matches. Davis Love, ranked sixth, won one match but lost three and tied one. Our number four golfer, Jim Furyk, captured one point and went down to three defeats. These are your team leaders and the experienced Ryder Cup players. They managed to pick up five points between them out of a possible 18 up for grabs. To look at these numbers differently, they lost 13 times. By contrast, the top four and most experienced Europeans, Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clark and Colin Montgomery led their team with 14 victories, three losses and two ties. The next question is why? Do the Europeans have less pressure on them? Is it cultural in some way? Was the American Captain the problem? Do the world rankings lack creditability? When you take a good look at the American PGA Tour a lot of tournaments are being won by foreign players. Perhaps the biggest change needed is to somehow establish an environment that allow our guys to relax and go have fun. They can start by playing loose in next year’s President’s Cup.

Tom Finley
September 19, 2004

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