Ryder Cup Rookies Myth

By Brian HewittSeptember 13, 2006, 4:00 pm
Time to debunk the myth that rookies are a liability in the Ryder Cup. Time to posit the notion that the U.S. is at an instant disadvantage just because the American side has four players with no Ryder Cup experience compared to just two for the Euros.
The Europeans have had 21 rookies on their squads in the last five Ryder Cups compared to only 18 rookies during that same span for the Americans. Yet the Europeans have won four of those five highly-charged meetings.
Four rookies, the critics say, is too many to carry on a roster if youre expecting to keep or take away the Cup. Yet the Europeans fielded five rookies at Oakland Hills two years ago while smashing the Yanks to bits 18 to 9 .
In fairness, it should be pointed out that the Americans also had five rookies on their team at Oakland Hills. And it should be pointed out that the Euro rookies had a semi-respectable combined record of 5-7-1 two years ago compared to the semi-disrespectable 4-9-2 of the American first-timers.
The tougher Ryder Cup result to figure when it comes to rookies is 1999. The U.S. team, which squeaked by 14 to 13 thanks mostly to an improbable Sunday putt by Justin Leonard and some questionable captaining by Englishman Mark James, brought just one rookie'David Duval'to Brookline. The Euros herded up a whopping seven rookies. Thats more than half the squad.
James didnt play three of them'Andrew Coltart, Jarmo Sandelin and Jean Van de Velde'until the singles. All three lost. But James fearlessly trotted out rookies Sergio Garcia and Paul Lawrie, both of whom compiled 3-1-1 marks for the week.
For his part, Duval was 1-2-1.
In 1995 Europe defeated the United States 14 to 13 at Oak Hill with only two rookies on board. They were Philip Walton and Per-Ulrik Johansson. They compiled a combined 2-3-0 record.
The American team at Oak Hill had five rookies. But their combined record was 11-6-0.
Go figure.
And while youre at it, please explain why Tiger Woods, the surpassing player of his or any other generation, was 1-3-1 as a rookie at Valderrama on a losing American team in 1997.
Beginning in 1995 the American rookies have gone 26-25-11. The Euro rookies have gone 21-28-15.
So, yeah, maybe this rookie thing is overrated. Brett Wetterich hadnt even met Woods until Tiger took the rookies to dinner a couple of weeks ago in Ohio. Euro rookie, Swedens Robert Karlsson, said recently he has never spoken to Luke Donald.
Karlsson and Donald are teammates this time.
Rookie all-stars in the last 10 years include Garcia, Lawrie, Loren Roberts (3-1-0 in 1995), David Toms (3-1-1 in 2002), Scott Hoch (2-0-1 in 1997, Chris DiMarco (2-1-1 in 2004), Scott Verplank (2-1 in 2002), and Phil Mickelson (3-0 in 1995).
Note more Americans on that list than Europeans.
So what does all this mean?
It all comes back to Toms observation that experience is a good thing if it has been good experience. You can make a strong argument that there is much more pressure on Woods, 7-11-2 in four Ryder Cups, than there is on any of the rookies.
Maybe Wetterich should have taken Woods out to dinner.
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    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

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