Cupboard Looks Bare for US

By George WhiteSeptember 26, 2006, 4:00 pm
Well, the 2006 Ryder Cup belongs to the ages now ' and that seems like an overly dramatic way to express the situation if you are a USA fan. People, 2004 wasnt a fluke. America got beat by nine points then, and it would have finished even worse this time were it not by a supreme act of benevolence from Paul McGinley in conceding a 25-foot putt to J.J. Henry.
Its already in the record books, friends. Is it going to be the same for the next six to eight years for the U.S.?
Im searching now, going through page after page in the PGA TOUR media guide for the good young Americans. Lets see now hmmm wait a minute, Im sure theyre here someplace.
And ' they are few and far between.
Europe had three men on their team in their 20s, and all three figure to be around a long, long time ' Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey and Luke Donald. The U.S., alas, had none in their 20s. Its difficult to rebuild when you are handicapped by the likes of that. Critics are saying that we should sacrifice a Cup or two by going with more young players. But whom?
According to my calculations, there were 24 American men in their 20s on the PGA TOUR this year. Twelve of them wont be make the top 125 to keep their cards unless something unforeseen happens.
That leaves 12 to develop into star material - in a hurry. Oh, there are a few candidates - J.B. Holmes (24) won early this year in Phoenix and Bubba Watson (28) has a T3 and a fourth. He leads the tour in driving distance, but alas, he's 157th in putting.
Bill Haas (24) has a T4 at Wachovia, Lucas Glover (28) almost made the Ryder Cup this year and has a win at Disney. Ryan Moore (23) finished T2 at the Buick Championship. Sean O'Hair (24) won the John Deere last year.
Charles Howell III (27) is a terrific ball-striker but a poor putter. Ben Curtis (29) has shown flashes of encouragement, winning the British Open three years ago and winnning two more times this. But he's missed the cut six times this year. Jonathon Byrd (28) is 18th on tour in scoring.
The big question mark in all these 20-somethings is putting, and that is where Europe consistently has the edge. Howell is 194th on the tour rankings. Curtis is 128th. Glover at No. 44 is the best of the lot.
The sad thing is ' for the U.S., at least ' that the European threesome of Garcia, Casey and Donald are individually better that any of the American youngsters. For any of them to make a difference in the Ryder Cup, the U.S. men will have to show vast improvement.
The Americans? Dont look for much help from the older players. The worlds second-best player, Phil Mickelson, finished winless at 0-4-1. As long as he insists on shutting down the engines after the PGA, he wont help. Jim Furyk, No. 3, didnt do much to change the final result after his opening match with Tiger Woods, finishing with one win and three losses in his last four outings. David Toms? 0-3-1. Chris DiMarco? 0-3-1.
Tiger Woods finished at an acceptable 3-2. The rest of the battle-tested veterans ' Mickelson, Furyk, DiMarco and Toms - finished 2-13-3. Remove Furyks team wins with Woods and you have a winless 0-13-3 record.
Poor Tom Lehman say what you will about his captaincy, but he was in dire situation before the matches ever began. There wasnt ANY American - or Americans ' who could have made the winning difference, no combinations of players paired up for the team matches who could have brought about a victory for the U.S.
And the question now is ' when will it turn around? Well, what do you see? Are Garcia, Casey or Donald suddenly going to fade from world competition? Highly unlikely. Will the U.S. suddenly discover three or four golfers who are hiding in the shadows ' thats how far away they were from making this Ryder Cup competitive. And thats highly unlikely.
The possibility exists that it will take two or three players who are right now still in high school to again tilt the balance in favor of the Americans. Maybe, in spite of all the scoffing, a certain 16-year-old girl from Hawaii maybe some 12-year-old staying late after school to practice chipping at his local muni course. Maybe maybe maybe
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