It's been a long time coming, but the U.S. finally wrenched the Ryder Cup from the Euros' greasy little fingers, 16.5 to 11.5. I have to say, it was pretty damn sweet. (You can't say you didn't see this coming, especially if you read this blog.)
WOO HOO! IN YOUR FACE, EUROPE!
There really is nothing like the match play/team format, because it brings out the best (and worst) in the players. It encourages players to take a gamble if they're down, because if they completely crap the bed on one hole the most they can lose is just one hole against one opponent, not a handful of strokes against a full leaderboard. Most of all, they're allowed to let their emotions loose, something that golf tradition normally frowns upon. Jim "Hitch" Furyk high-stepping after a putt swirled around the cup and dropped in? Steve Stricker pumping his fist like Tiger Woods? I never imagined I'd see those things happen, but they did.
Here are some highlights/thoughts from a fantastic weekend of golf at Valhalla Golf Club.
The Four Rookies of the Europocalypse. As I blognosticated, Hunter MAAAA-HAN! (2-0-3, a team best 3.5 points) and Anthony "You Don't Mess Around With" Kim (2-1-1) played out of their minds. The latter only lost once because FIGJAM! (1-2-2) is a chump (there's a reason he's been on 5 losing Ryder Cup teams--he has no killer instinct). J.B. Holmes was a questionable pick in everyone's eyes, but he ended up rising to the challenge, hitting a killer drive/wedge within 3 feet to win his singles match on the 17th hole. And Boo Weekley's homespun redneck routine actually seemed charming since he won his matches.
Captain Paul "Zinger" Azinger. He suggested to change the Ryder Cup qualification process, opting for 4 captain's picks instead of just 2, and it certainly paid off. Kentuckian J.B. Holmes played excellent golf (2-0-1, 2.5 pts.) as did the Mahan; Chad Campbell, the lowest ranked player present, shockingly knocked off Padraig Harrington on the final day.
Sergio "Los Pantelones Feos" Garcia. I have to honestly say that I like all the Euros, except for this annoying little swarthy douche. Back when he was just a talented kid, his impetuous and cocky attitude made him endearing; now it's just pathetic and irritating. Every time he hits a bad shot, he doesn't suck it up and hit the next one; he's forever looking for a loophole in the rules to get free relief. He's the slowest player on the course and excruiating to watch play. Anyway, I was happy to see his flawless foursomes record finally broken along with his will, as he succumbed to the driven Anthony Kim Possible in the singles on Sunday. SUCK IT SERGE! I'm glad we didn't let the Spaniards back in the pantry.
There might be one other Euro who etched his name into my shit list: Lee Westwood. Not satisfied by being completely ignored after finishing one stroke behind Tiger and Rocco at the U.S. Open, he declared today that the Kentucky crowd were full of "boorish hecklers" and the "worst I've encountered" despite being from the country that invented hooliganism. Why didn't these guys complain when they were winning all those Cups? Surely someone must have said something derogatory towards Monty or Sergio, or either of their mothers, since 2002. And I guarantee if you were wearing an American flag in Ireland last time around that you got heckled, possibly with some expletives thrown in for good measure. GO HOME AND SHUT UP. YOU LOST. GET OVER IT, YOU SISSY.
Ian "Silly Pants" Poulter. He was the lone highlight for the Euro team, garnering a team high 4 points, the most ever for a first-time captain's pick. He always seemed like a bit of a wanker, but I really respected his competitive fire at Valhalla, and his graciousness in defeat. So he's officially been upgraded to "tosser" in my book, but still has a way to go to reach "chap" status. (I still think his having his own clothing line is silly, though. It's also funny that the same guy who once made fun of him for it, Nick Faldo, was his captain.)
Unsung hero: Jim "Hitch" Furyk, who won the clinching singles match, and went 2-1-1. When Miguel Angel "The Mechanic" Jimenez paused and turned to shake his hand on the 17th to concede the hole and bring the Cup back to the U.S., the crowd went nuts and I actually got chills. (Yeah, I know, I'm a softie that way.)
Mystery man: Padraig Harrington, winner of two majors this season, all but disappeared, going out with a whimper (0-3-1, 0.5 pts.). His game has actually trended downward since winning the PGA, and he didn't even qualify for the "playoffs". He's he's either hurt, drunk, or starting to feel the pressure (or all three).
The Tiger factor. Okay, I'm not going to say that they won because he wasn't there, but they clearly seemed more focused and composed without the Red-shirted Swede-shagging Nike Spokesman. The ultimate competitor, Mr. Woods is excellent at taking his focus and internalizing it to perform at his best, but he may not be adept at pointing that focus outwards. When it's Tiger against the world, the world is usually his bitch. When he's part of a team, it's possible that the rest of his teammates simply force their game to try to impress him, or wait for him to lead them to victory. He's hard to beat individually, but he may not be a good team player, as he tends to brood and sulk instead of being open and encouraging. However, the best thing about his absence was that it forced the commentators and media to pay attention to the entire team, and not just one superstar.
Note to ESPN: after endless buildup to your Friday broadcast, you can now go back to completely ignoring golf. You know, just like last week.
Note to NBC Sports: despite the interminable commercial breaks, and incongruous Michael Jordan interview (which added nothing), and missing every final tee shot on Saturday, overall even you guys couldn't screw up this broadcast! Congrats!
Note to those at the PGA who schedule the Ryder Cup: next time around, how about you NOT schedule the final day's matches on an NFL football Sunday? How about you do this on Labor Day weekend (or earlier) instead, so maybe someone might actually get to watch it, and bars will devote at least one TV to it?
Well done, guys. You are officially the best U.S. team that virtually no one paid attention to (because the Seahawks/Rams game was so compelling).
USA! USA! USA!