- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2006

STRAFFAN, Ireland — The United States should retire from the Ryder Cup.

We always get it wrong. And the Europeans always get it right.

Let’s face it, even our last victory in the event, which came last millennium, was a total fluke, a Sunday miracle aided by a mean-spirited gallery.

“If it wasn’t for a very difficult Sunday at Brookline [in 1999], we’d have been six out of six.” European stalwart Colin Montgomerie said after Europe strapped a second consecutive nine-point shellacking on the Americans yesterday. “So that’s fairly dominant.”

The Euros were pretty chippy yesterday after crushing their American counterparts for the third consecutive time. The fact is they have a right to be. They might have held the Ryder Cup since 2002, but now they officially own it. And us.

They always have been better at the team formats. Their guys are actually friends; ours are simply friendly. And that makes a huge difference in the two-ball matches.

They always have cared more. When Euros like Sergio Garcia and Paul Casey say they would rather win the Ryder Cup than a major, it’s easy to believe them. No American has ever made such a claim, and there’s a reason for that.

And now, the Europeans are actually better players from top to bottom than our guys. There was a reason the Europeans were favored coming to K Club. They’re not just better at the Ryder Cup; they’re better golfers. The European roster featured eight of the world’s top 20 players. The American roster had five.

Heading to Ireland, the only American advantage was supposed to be at the top of the lineup, where the game’s top three players (Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk) and a couple of successful Presidents Cup power pairings (Woods/Furyk and Mickelson/DiMarco) were supposed to keep this Ryder Cup close. Yep, the American squad was top-heavy all right. The anchors at the top of the roster dragged the Good Ship Uncle Sam right to the bottom of the Liffey.

Tiger didn’t dominate, but he did his part with a U.S.-best 3-2 record.

Furyk (2-3-0) was fair. DiMarco (0-3-1) was a dog, though in his defense last year’s Presidents Cup performance bequeathed him a reputation his short, crooked, three-victory career never merited. And Mickelson … well, Lefty didn’t bring his clubs to Oakland Hills in 2004. This time, he left his entire game at home, finishing 0-4-1. But even if Mickelson had remembered to pack his mettle, Europe still would have won.

Europe had the better captain.

Tom Lehman made a handful of tactical blunders, most notably mishandling rookies J.J. Henry and Vaughn Taylor. And he still didn’t foster the type of loose atmosphere the American team room obviously has needed for a decade. European captain Ian Woosnam operated entirely on instinct and ethanol and, as usual, struck exactly the right chord with his charges.

While watching Woosie guzzle an entire pint of Guinness in one gulp during the impressive postmatch celebration, a member of the European press sagely remarked: “In a pinch, our man grins and orders a pint; yours grimaces and calls a prayer meeting. Who would you rather play for?” Europe has the best fans.

It was a boisterous scene at K Club, but it wasn’t Brookline. The Irish galleries were both the loudest and most respectful ever at a major golf event. They cheered the Americans almost as ardently as they cheered their own. They were simply both delighted and appreciative to witness the most important sporting event held on Irish soil.

Europe was more courteous.

Witness two scenes that took place on the 18th hole yesterday: In the first, Ireland’s Paul McGinley came to the final hole all square in his match with U.S. rookie J.J. Henry. Europe was leading 16-8, so the Cup already was clinched. With a birdie already in his pocket, McGinley conceded a 25-foot birdie putt to Henry because he thought the American youngster deserved a halve for his play.

An hour later, DiMarco came to the final hole 1-down to Jose Maria Olazabal in the last active match. With Ollie on the green in three and just 12 feet from the pin, DiMarco proceeded to hit his second and fourth shots into the water. The best he could hope for was a six, and yet he still made Ollie walk all the way to the green before he grudgingly conceded the match.

The Euros even whipped us in the caddie category; Steve Williams accidentally dropped Tiger’s 9-iron into the pond fronting the seventh green.

It was that kind of week for the United States. Heck, it has been that kind of decade.



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