The fortieth Ryder Cup Matches concluded Sunday much as they were predicted. The Euro’s dominated the contest by capitalizing on the afternoon foursomes from Friday and Saturday to earn an easy 16 ½ — 11 ½ victory. This cup literally runneth over the Americans who were sent packing empty-handed from distant shores once again. Keegan Bradley will now have another duffle bag of Ryder Cup gear that will sit next to the one from Medinah’s matches. He could probably throw ‘em on EBay.
Captain Tom Watson, Scotland’s adopted son was selected as the American messiah, the man who knew the formula to retrieve the cup. But even messiah’s have bad days, especially sixty-five year olds managing a squad from another generation. Criticized for not picking Billy Horschel, golf’s newest $12 million man, in all likelihood wouldn’t have mattered.
On a cool, stocking-capped Friday morning the 2014 matches began when Web Simpson popped out to the second baseman. The tee shot was so bad it took awhile for the camera to locate it. Teaming with the mercurial Bubba Watson, a player who either likes a course or dislikes it, it was apparent Bubba didn’t feel like playing on opening day. Too cold, too windy, greens too slow and stern rough that seized his freak-show tee shots, he and Webster didn’t make a birdie during their four-ball match. Simpson looked like a deer-in-the-headlights throughout the exercise. In the Ryder Cup you don’t back into victory reminiscent of what occurred at the Olympic Club. You need to step up and assume control. For lessons on that, just ask the Euros.
Watson was second-guessed for maybe outguessing common sense when Spieth and Reed were asked to sit down after demolishing Gallacher and Poulter in Friday’s four-ball. Then on Saturday he sat Phil and Keegan for the whole day so they could take in the sights and sounds of their fellow teammates getting thrashed in the afternoon foursomes. It was déjà vu all over again. Some said without Tiger this was supposed to be Phil’s team. Maybe his Saturday sabbatical served to show him what it will be like when he is selected captain.
Naturally NBC had to conjure the comeback scenario that occurred at Medinah for the Euros and The Country Club for the Americans to get folks to tune in and watch a mega-dose of commercials. My gosh, I haven’t seen that many ads in ten years of viewing The Masters. If I see that Cadillac spot one more time with the nerd walking down the street I might need a lobotomy. You could smell the amount of advertising dollars coming through your TV in high def. Too bad the PGA of America can’t buy a winning formula with that loot.
To say the Americans had no chance on Sunday would be inaccurate. Early matches put plenty of red on the board but the leads for Team USA fizzled like cold haggis. Spieth gave his lead and momentum to the patient McDowell. Mahan showed that his flop shot needs work and Web couldn’t bring home a full point against a struggling Poulter. In the end it was Europe that reminded viewers matches may indeed go eighteen holes. Down early means little to experienced, patient players who are used to winning matches. They showed it at Medinah on Saturday afternoon. Momentum swings? They turn quickly in the Ryder Cup and you can feel them coming. On Friday and Saturday afternoon a “foursome tsunami” washed over the Red, White and Blue with such a force that Gleneagles was lucky not to be underwater on Sunday morning. Instead it was the Americans trying to keep their heads above sea level.
If you would have picked Jamie Donaldson as the man to deliver the nail in the coffin for the Euros, you might have been in a small sample. Donaldson is virtually unknown in the US but has fashioned himself into a prominent figure on the European Tour. It would have been easy to pick Rory or Rose, Kaymer or Poulter but those speculations didn’t matter. As long as it was one of the twelve, who cared? The Euros are great at leaving their ego’s behind when they pack for these matches.
So despite Mikelson ranting about not following Azinger’s winning formula, Fowler’s attempt to steal some glory from Rory, or Furyk trying to survive a four hour match on three hour energy, you can only say at these matches Europe played like champions. Even the reclusive Victor Doo-B-Son showed off his game on one of golf’s biggest stages. He didn’t say much but did he have to? Victor can flat out play.
I’m not quite sure what derailed Team America this time around. Several other paid scribes can contemplate their theories on this mismatch. There will be plenty of discourse on not utilizing Azinger’s pods, preparing for the Scottish weather, an out-of-touch, old captain, when the captain’s picks should be made, pairings and personalities, uniforms, greens speed, Poulter’s hair, and the such but I saw what I needed to. I would’ve liked to see an American victory but in the back of my mind I prepped for reality. The Euros were just a better team.
Kudos to the youngsters Spieth and Reed for showing a little American spirit. So long to Jim Furyk who has donated much of his time and solid play to the Ryder Cup. At least he got to win a couple. Web and Bubba; this duo needs to put their heads in the moment. Jimmy Walker threw a little dy-no-mite at Gleneagles. Too bad Ricky couldn’t complement the blast. Phil was predictably Phil. You can’t fault him for speaking his mind but it would be nice if he could hit more fairways. Also, there is a time and a place to bash an eight-time major champion who happens to be your captain. Certainly the closing press conference may not have been the wisest choice. I doubt the two will be sitting next to each other at the Champions Dinner at Augusta National next April. Keegan, EBay those duffle bags. You don’t need them.
In the end, out of all the coverage, commercials, and comments one image sticks in my mind. Matt Kuchar casually smiled his way around his singles match on Sunday against veteran Thomas Bjorn. He looked more like a country club member participating in his club’s blind-bogey event. He brought home his point but “Kuch” added a bit more. He showed us golf is just a game even on the biggest stage. There will always be a winner and a loser. There are millions of golfers who would love to be on that stage, win or lose. Yet there are only twelve for each team. For any of those individuals to walk away with disdain, well, I wonder if they “get it”. This is so much more about winning and losing. It’s about life’s on-going process of character development. The game is bigger than the result and it is surely bigger than the participants.
For now the Ryder Cup will rest in Europe until the next match takes place in Minnesota two years from now. Hopefully Team America will just come to play like “Kuch” and perhaps smile their way to a win. Forget the media hype. Disregard the player rankings. Emboss big “smiley faces” on the golf bags. Show up and be ready to play. Not much else has worked. It’s worth a try.