Ryder Cup: Gah!

Posted: October 1, 2012 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Such a strange event, the Ryder Cup. A team competition in one of the ultimate individual sports. A supposed rivalry between Europe and the United States, even though we’re as familiar with the foreigners as we are the Americans. Of the 24 players, Luke Donald has more Chicago in him than any of them. If the United States battled, say, Iran in the Ryder Cup, or the Soviet Union back in the day, it might be easier to understand the emotions, both from the players and the fans.

Yet Sunday afternoon, I barely moved from my couch for seven hours and I watched only a handful of NFL action. When Martin Kaymer drained his final putt I slapped my hands in frustration and let out a “Damn it,” that the neighbors might have heard if they weren’t still loudly chanting for Tim Tebow. The Ryder Cup almost always produces memorable moments, and every so often it delivers epic ones. Some Ryder Cup results are forgotten a week after Johnny Miller utters his final words, but others live on forever. We all know where the 2012 Cup falls.

Some final thoughts after watching those damn Europeans — oh, those damn Europeans with their flags, chants and American residencies — rally in historic fashion.

* Wish I had the energy to stroll through European message boards to see what they think of Keegan Bradley’s theatrics. Give the man a white towel and he’s the M.L. Carr of the country club set. He called to mind Hulk Hogan refusing to give in to the Iron Sheik at Madison Square Garden, and if at one point he had set fire to his clubs or eaten his putter in celebration it would have barely qualified as a surprise. Still, those types of moments are what make the Ryder Cup different and do add a fun element. If he had ever faced Ian Poulter, by the 16th hole those two would have been preening more than Farley and Swayze in their famous SNL stripper sketch.

* Phil Mickelson’s thumbs-up: A tribute to Chicago’s Roger Ebert? A call-out to presidents  in attendance? He looked like an astronaut walking past the cheering throngs on his way to a space shuttle launch.

* Davis Love III received criticism for benching Mickelson and Bradly on Saturday afternoon and it did seem like an odd call. It was the plan. And plans — as any NFL coach who still scripts his first 15 plays even after his team is down 21-0 — can not change. But forget their 3-0 record for a moment. Not only did those two dominate, on Saturday morning they only played 12 holes. Mentally they perhaps needed a break, but they also cruised through all three matches and didn’t face any 18th hole stress. Physically it shouldn’t have been an issue at all.

* Tiger did his normal Ryder Cup thing, although I don’t know if it’s every event that has him hammering spectators with drives or if it’s only when he’s going through swing changes. He used to be paired with Jim Furyk and lately it’s been Steve Stricker and those two have had some success before this year’s competition. Both Furyk and Stricker are veterans and both are usually scrappy, the two qualities that apparently Tiger needs in his playing partners. But maybe Tiger with one of the younger guys might help pull him out of his foursome slump (insert your own joke here). Bradley seemed to do it with Mickelson, another great player who was never a great Ryder Cup performer, until this year. Perhaps someone could have done the same for Tiger. Maybe Bradley himself could have done it, if Love wanted to sit Mickelson Saturday.

When the pairings were announced, people didn’t think Tiger’s match would even matter. And of course it didn’t, although not in the way anyone imagined. And while Tiger did get half a point and even that one likely becomes a full point if Kaymer doesn’t finish everything in the group ahead, he could have swung the momentum a bit if he had dominated Molinari. If his match finishes early, perhaps on the 15th hole, maybe Furyk and Stricker ahead of him aren’t feeling quite the same pressure.

* For as much importance bestowed on the Ryder Cup, it’s sort of strange the players who become legends in the event. Does it really affect how people think about their golfing legacies? Colin Montgomerie, Sergio Garcia and Poulter are three of the best to ever play in the event, but the first two are probably much better known for their failure to win a major and Poulter’s in the same category, though his failures haven’t been as disappointing to people. Or maybe that view is too American-centric; surely in Europe those Ryder Cup triumphs are as celebrated as their major defeats. Also, if the Ryder Cup is the most pressure-packed event in golf, why do those players — and others who excel every two years but not in the big moments in between — fall apart down the stretch at key moments of majors?

* Attention Michael Jordan supporters: Say what you will, but at least Kobe Bryant has never been on a team that collapsed on the final day of the Ryder Cup and disgraced the entire country.

* Rory McIlroy’s Central/Eastern time zone excuse would qualify as the worst one ever given for being late, except for the fact J.R. Rider’s “frozen pipes” line will never be erased from our memories. It’s a credit to his incredible natural ability that it didn’t even matter.

* Anyone watch that closing ceremony broadcast on The Golf Channel, which caused the royal wedding planners to complain about it being a tad over the top? Olazabal gave a nice speech, an understandably emotional one. But the U.S. players — and you can’t blame them for this — looked like high school dropouts invited up to the stage on graduation day, only to be told they’ll sit on the opposite side of the kids who did make it through school and their failures will also be pointed out to everyone in attendance. Even Dufner looked depressed and not just placid.

* Not that it ultimately matters, but was this more of a choke or just great play by the Europeans? That 1999 comeback, when people talk or write about it, rarely do you see it categorized as a European choke. It was the gutty Americans, rallying behind their Patton, Ben Crenshaw. But I think the Americans will receive more blame than the Euros get credit for this one. With it being on their turf, maybe they should. But it wasn’t a team collapse, simply because in the end the Sunday singles turn golf back in to what it is — an individual sport. Do players get caught up in the momentum of what their teammates are doing behind and in front? Sure. But it’s still 12 individual matches. The world’s best player, Rory, beat the Americans’ hottest player, Bradley, but that’s hardly a choke from Keegan. Luke Donald hasn’t won a major and Bubba has but Donald has been the No. 1 guy in the world. His victory shouldn’t be shocking. Justin Rose hit a ridiculous putt on 17 and a clutch one on 18 to top Mickelson. Someone like Brandt Snedeker getting rolled by Paul Lawrie was eye-opening but how many times do we hear that anything can happen in match play?

Who choked? Well, probably Stricker on 17. And Jim Furyk on 17 and 18. Furyk, the controversial captain’s pick who was seen all summer with his hands on his knees, exasperated after missing key putts. He needed at least a half-point against Sergio. The most intense moments of the day — outside of Kaymer’s final putt — were waiting for Furyk to hit those two putts, the one on 17, another on 18. He approached and backed off time and again on 17. He looked at it from every angle. At one point you had to think, maybe he’d just be better off stepping right up and hitting it. Think how much time he gave himself to think about those putts, and think about what putting demons must have crawled in to his mind as he read the break. After the summer he endured — and the miss on 17 — I doubt many fans expected him to drain the one on 18.

The Ryder Cup returns to Scotland in 2014. No one knows who will serve as captains or who will play. Will Mickelson be too old, will young American stars join Bradley and step forward? Will Tiger be Tiger again or will he simply be two years older and still stuck on 14 majors? One thing that seems certain? A European victory. One thing that is certain? On that final Ryder Cup Sunday in 2014, we’ll watch golfers play under unrelenting pressure. And someone will crack.

  1. Rob Beer says:

    Why Stricker chipped that ball the way he did on 17 is a mystery.

  2. Jerry says:

    Have to love it when you get a Hulk Hogan reference in the same paragraph with ML Carr! Choke is a tough word but it seems appropriate for this. Not to second guess but why did Mickelson and Bradley not play together in the Saturday afternoon session is and always will be a mystery to me and to probably many others.

  3. shawnfury says:

    Stricker’s chip was definitely the abysmal shot on 17. Once he hit that, I had no confidence he’d make the putt coming back. And how many American players hit it 40 feet past on 18? Couldn’t someone get on their earpiece and radio back about how the hole was playing?

    “Frustrating,” said Love.

    I just read a story where they talked about how Johnny Miller somehow didn’t utter the word choke yesterday, even though it probably deserved it more than when he usually uses it.

    FYI, I liked Colin Montgomerie on the broadcast.

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