- The Washington Times - Monday, September 30, 2002

Golf got it's Grand Sam after all.
Monty was brilliant.
McGinley was clutch.
And Mickelson and Tiger were indeed America's top dogs.
But the deciding factor in Europe's upset victory over the United States at the 34th Ryder Cup Matches at the Belfry was the superior captaincy of Sam Torrance. No Ryder Cup skipper has ever made a bolder move than Torrance's front-loaded lineup for yesterday's Sunday singles. And none has ever been rewarded in more emphatic fashion than the 49-year-old Scot.
"They have all done a great job," said Torrance, tears streaming down his face after his Euros turned the deft strategy into success in all but two of yesterday's 12 closing singles matches. "This had nothing to do with me. I led them to water, and they drank copiously."
In actuality, the victory had everything to do with Torrance, who clearly outmaneuvered U.S. captain Curtis Strange. With the score tied at eight points on Saturday night, Torrance sneaked into Strange's psyche and emerged with the red, white and blue battle plans. Thus armed with Strange's rather predictable lineup, which featured the world's top two players in anchor position, Torrance sent his troops out in reverse order.
His first-to-worst lineup accomplished three things. First, it took the pressure off his horses, pitting them against less daunting Americans. Second, the predictable fast European start leadoff man Colin Montgomerie started it with a brilliant 5-and-4 win over Scott Hoch created a frenzy of excitement and momentum that sparked the massive galleries, buoyed the European lesserlites and stressed the U.S. stars. And perhaps most importantly, it took the pressure off those unheralded extras at the bottom of his order who were pitted against American goliaths they couldn't possibly be expected to beat.
"I think that's the real genius of it," said 11-time Ryder Cupper Nick Faldo early in the day of Torrance's scheme. "These guys in the rear, these rookies and lads in poor form, they go out there feeling like they've got nothing to lose against the Tigers and Mickelsons."
That fearless attitude led to the shocking contributions of unlikely European heroes Paul McGinley, Phillip Price, Pierre Fulke and Jesper Parnevik, who went out in the last four matches of the day and earned 2 points against the strength of Strange's roster.
Price posted the most dazzling upset. The 36-year-old Welshman, ranked 119th in the world, took down Mickelson 3 and 2. That's a stunner on the order of Howard bouncing Duke from the NCAA tournament. Of course, it had to happen to the maligned Mickelson, who now has one more major disappointment on his resume. But don't blame Lefty for the outcome, praise Price. The two-time winner of the Portuguese Open (apparently there is at least one course there) carded five birdies and no bogeys against Mickelson, an effort which would have easily clipped any of the Americans.
"I took strength from watching Phillip's match with Mickelson," said McGinley, who clinched the Cup and a halve with Jim Furyk on a never-a-doubt 8-footer for par at the 18th. "I kept watching his score and thinking about what he said at breakfast this morning. He said basically that we couldn't win all the early matches. That one of us in the rear was going to have to rise up and play the hero. It looks like we all did our part."
In fact, Europe had a pair of potential heroes on deck when McGinley sank his Cup-clinching putt. In the only two matches left on the course, both Fulke (halved with Davis Love) and Parnevik (halved with Woods) were in perfect position to wear the laurels if McGinley failed.
If anyone deserves one last jab for his Ryder Cup performance, it's Woods. The 26-year-old phenom began the week by jokingly informing the world there were "a million reasons" why he'd rather win the American Express Championship than the Ryder Cup. And he ended it by playing that way, making just one birdie against two bogeys in his match with Parnevik. Among the 24 players present, only Mark Calcavecchia and Stewart Cink played more poorly than Woods yesterday. It's amazing to think that Tiger's pedestrian 2-2-1 performance at the Belfry actually improves his weak Ryder Cup record (5-7-2).
In the final analysis, Woods is the perfect poster child for America's bust at the Belfry. Like Jack Nicklaus before him, Woods is all about collecting majors and cashing checks. He's just not into the team thing. He's too cool to cheer. And too accomplished to care.
Maybe that's why the Ryder Cup means so much to a guy like Colin Montgomerie, a guy who has never quite been able to stand on his own long enough to claim a major title.
"This team thing just seems to bring out the best in me," said Montgomerie, the unofficial MVP after finishing the matches 4-0-1. "I love playing for the team more than I love the game of golf This means everything."


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