Originally created 09/21/04

Few excuses for U.S. Ryder slump



BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. - The Americans have run out of explanations, but not excuses.

It should no longer be a mystery - nor an upset, for that matter - when the Europeans go home with the Ryder Cup, because that's what they have done seven out of the past 10 matches.

Just never like this.

For the first time, Europe won every format over three days at Oakland Hills - alternate shot (4-3), better ball (6-1) and singles (7-4) - and wound up handing the Americans their worst loss (18-9) since this friendly little exhibition began in 1927.

The United States was gracious in defeat until someone mentioned the Presidents Cup.

"It's harder on us, playing it every year," Davis Love III said.

"It does take a lot out of you," Tiger Woods added. "As the Europeans said, if they had to do this every year, it would be very difficult."

Funny, but that's what the Americans said in 1998 after getting drubbed Down Under at the Presidents Cup. It has become a convenient excuse for them to complain about playing in these team events every year - against Europe in the Ryder Cup, then against everyone but Europe in the Presidents Cup.

And maybe there is some truth to that.

The arrival of the Presidents Cup coincided with the Americans' slump in the Ryder Cup; they are 1-4 since 1994.

Against a stronger International team, they are 3-1-1 in the Presidents Cup.

They can handle Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Mike Weir and Retief Goosen, four of the top seven players in the world with nine major championships among them. They get badly beaten by Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia.

Does anyone really think doing away with the Presidents Cup will help the Americans in the Ryder Cup?

If anything, they should see the Presidents Cup as a solution. It is more like a working vacation. The Americans are far more relaxed, and it brings out the best in their golf.

Woods is 8-7-0 in the Presidents Cup, while he has never had a winning record in any of the four Ryder Cup matches he has played.

Maybe the Americans simply care too much.

For anyone to suggest they don't get as excited as Europe about the Ryder Cup is to ignore what happened on the 12th green Sunday at Oakland Hills. In a singles match he already was winning handily, Woods watched his 35-foot eagle putt track to the hole, then removed his cap and thrust it toward the crowd when it disappeared. It was the most emotion he has shown all year.

Hal Sutton made some curious decisions as the U.S. captain, although the nine-point loss will spare him much of the second-guessing that follows any Ryder Cup.

Sure, the Woods-Phil Mickelson pairing was a bust and gave Europe early momentum. But who could have guessed Jay Haas and Chris DiMarco would be the Americans' best alternate-shot pairing?

"It looked like we were trying to make sure we didn't have anything bad happen," Sutton said.

Europe saw opportunity for success. The United States saw the potential for failure.

And Oakland Hills is no place to act scared.

Yes, the Europeans play better as a team. They like each other more - even Garcia doesn't get under their skin for one week every two years - and that contributes to a spirit of camaraderie.

And that allows them to have fun.

Isn't that what golf is supposed to be all about?