USA won’t bow to change - Golf

September 25th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: USA won’t bow to change - Golf

Tom Lehman yesterday described as "insulting" a suggestion that the United States, after two heavy defeats, should consider calling on assistance from Canada and South America in a bid to make the Ryder Cup more competitive.

The Ryder Cup team on this side of the Atlantic were changed from Great Britain & Ireland to all of Europe in 1979 to make the biennial match more of a contest. Fast forward 27 years and the boot is on the other foot.

The American captain said: "That sounds a little insulting in some ways. We have extremely talented players on our tour and I go right down the line here. I'm continually impressed by the calibre of play and the heart and courage these guys have.

"These things go in cycles, and there will be a time when we'll be sitting here saying to the Europeans that this is in danger of getting into trouble because the Americans are on top. That will happen. Our guys are great guys and great players."

There has been some comment following Europe's third victory in a row that the US could call on Canada and South America for some much-needed assistance to make it a more competitive Europe v the Americas, but that is rather mischievous.

Tiger Woods, the world No.1, who has won 12 majors but just one Ryder Cup in five attempts, said: "I'm not real happy. It doesn't sit well. They just outplayed us. They made more putts than we did. When it comes right down to it, in all these cups that I've been part of, it's whoever plays the 18th the best and whoever makes the most putts for the week."

Europe were last night priced at 4-6 to win in 2008 at Valhalla, Kentucky, the shortest odds ever of a European team in the US and there are a few theories as to why this situation has developed:

Europe have a more natural team spirit (the corollary is that they are not so good as individuals).
nEurope have a greater strength in depth.

Europe are driven by need, as Ryder Cup wins tend to result in increased European tour prize-funds.

The camaraderie comparison with the US has always been reflected by the rows of room service trays outside players' rooms on the PGA Tour, while Europeans tend to go out to restaurants in groups to chew the fat.

Lehman recognised the team factor this year and impressively managed a bonding session in Ireland a month ago with his entire team, Woods and Phil Mickelson included. Woods independently took the four rookies out to dinner.

In the team room, Woods, under some duress, even sang his school song like all his team-mates had done in another Lehman ploy designed to create more togetherness. "Our team came ready. I guess we weren't quite ready enough," said Lehman.

It is certainly a step in the right direction and there should be something in his preparations that the next captain can build on even if Lehman was at a loss yesterday to specify exactly what.
There still seems to be a problem in dealing with Woods and Phil Mickelson. While both have embraced the team spirit this time more than ever and the accusation of prima donnas no longer applies, there seems an unwillingness of captains to alter pairings or even drop them when things don't work.

The Woods-Jim Furyk partnership was only a qualified success, gaining two points out of four, and the Mickelson-Chris DiMarco pairing was a failure, yet Lehman persisted with both into a third session before finally resting Phil Mickelson.

Lehman, of course, had more limited options compared to the Europeans who could have gone out in almost any pairing and in any order. Having four debutants limited his hand and while Woosnam used all 12 players on both days, the Americans had two – Vaughn Taylor and Scott Verplank – who were idle on the first day.

In contrast, everything Woosnam did worked wonderfully. His two wild-cards, Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood were unbeaten, contributing three points out of three and four out of five respectively.

Paul Casey was another who was unbeaten, and his pairing of the two Spaniards, Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal, for the first time was inspired and so was his tactic of fielding all players on the first and second days, giving them a taste of the action before the decisive singles.
September 27th, 2006  
See what happens in America when we go from dominating a sport to being merely competitive? The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

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