Excuses for U.S. Ryder loss are wrong, says Ferguson
The U.S. team didn't lose the Ryder Cup because of the rookies or because they didn't care enough, says AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson. Europe just had a better team this year, he believes, and they just outplayed the Americans.
By Doug Ferguson, AP Golf Writer
September 26, 2006
STRAFFAN, Ireland (AP) -- Some Americans keep looking for a quick fix in the Ryder Cup.
After watching the Europeans post their biggest blowout in 2004 and capture the cup for the seventh time in 10 tries, the PGA of America revamped the qualification process by stacking the deck in favor of the hottest players, no matter who they were.
And who were they, anyway?
The bottom four players who earned a spot on this U.S. team -- Vaughn Taylor, J.J. Henry, Zach Johnson and Brett Wetterich -- have a combined five victories on the PGA Tour, and only Wetterich (EDS Byron Nelson Championship) won a tournament against a decent field.
Europe won by the same score Sunday, 18 1/2 - 9 1/2, leaving the Americans searching for a new fix.
"Everyone wants answers out there," Jim Furyk said. "What happened? Why? What's the difference between 18 1/2 and 9 1/2? And I don't think there's a guy up here that can give you that answer."
Joe Steranka, the PGA of America's chief executive, already was trying to figure what to do next.
"We'll start talking about it on the way home," Steranka said.
Those four unheralded rookies were not the problem. In fact, they contributed more points than four of the veterans ranked ahead of them. Phil Mickelson, Chad Campbell, David Toms and Chris DiMarco didn't win a single match among them over three days at The K Club.
So what went wrong?
U.S. Captain Tom Lehman said the Europeans made more putts. But that's true every week at any golf tournament.
The cheap explanation is that the Americans don't care, which is an insult. They cared enough to take a two-day trip to Ireland for practice three weeks before the matches. And if they don't care about team events, how did they win the lesser Presidents Cup against a team that was every bit as strong as Europe, one that didn't even include Geoff Ogilvy?
It's not the money and the exorbitant lifestyle, either, because half of Europe's team has taken up PGA Tour membership, and most of the other half also fly in corporate jets, drive courtesy cars and get everything handed to them.
And please stop with the notion that Europe gets along better than the Americans.
If anything, the Americans might be guilty of liking each other too much. A couple of Europeans still don't like Colin Montgomerie for that questionable drop he took in the Indonesian Open a few years ago, especially when they thought he was let off the hook. Jose Maria Olazabal has kept his distance from Sergio Garcia, his fellow Spaniard, the past several years.
For one week, they manage to put that aside and build each other up.
Sure, there were some problems with this U.S. team, same as always.
Mickelson likely will take the brunt of the criticism.
He has won only one match in the last two Ryder Cups and is 1-9-1 dating to Saturday afternoon at The Belfry in 2002. Lefty shuts it down after the PGA Championship in August, which is a problem because the Ryder Cup is played in September.
Mickelson was asked if he was shocked at how the Ryder Cup unfolded and if he felt he played well.
"I don't know what to say. That's a tough, tough question," Mickelson said. "Obviously, I expected to get more points than a half. But I felt like we were in every match. Things just didn't go our way."
Mickelson played 86 holes, but with Americans desperate to see their red scores on the board, he led a total of four holes all week. Of the five matches he played, only two reached the 18th green.
Lehman deserves some criticism, too, at least as much as Hal Sutton in 2004 considering the score was the same.
Sutton's biggest error was sending Woods and Mickelson out a second time. Lehman spent a captain's pick on Scott Verplank, then used him only twice (both wins, by the way). He failed to recognize that neither Mickelson nor Chris DiMarco was playing well, yet he left them together for three matches (0-2-1). He twice sat Henry in the afternoon after the rookie had given the U.S. team a spark.
Lehman spent time with basketball coaches John Wooden and Mike Krzyzewski, but apparently they didn't tell him about making adjustments. He had his pairings set before he arrived in Dublin, while Ian Woosnam waited until watching his boys practice before coming up with teams that not even the British press saw coming.
Even if the Americans find their answers, it might not be enough.
Perhaps the most troubling trend for the United States is that there doesn't appear to be any help on the way. The youngest player on this team was Taylor (30), who is about three months younger than Woods.
Europe had the players in their 20s -- Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald and Paul Casey -- and 30-year-old Henrik Stenson finished first in its Ryder Cup standings.
The Europeans are so strong that Woosnam thought he could have fielded a capable team by taking the next 12 guys in line.
"I'm not saying that we would have gotten this result," he said. "But it just goes to show the potential of European golf. We've got strength and depth for a long time to come."
Perhaps the European Tour can borrow the slogan from their peers across the pond: These guys are good.
And maybe it's time to lower expectations of the Americans in the Ryder Cup.
Europe had a better team and played better. This time, it was the Americans who spend the first two days trying to hide its weaker players. The outrage comes from fans who expect the United States to own every sport, whether its basketball in the Olympics for the World Baseball Classic.
Keep in mind, though, Americans didn't invent golf. And they sure don't own it anymore.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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