They try again this week, the boys from America. And actually, theres no science to describe it. Europe shows up at the matches and, for some reason, applies the perfunctory death grip on the Yanks. Result ' the Europeans have won the four of the last five, with only a superhuman rally by the U.S. in 1999 keeping it from being Europe 5, America 0.
I used to scoff loudly when someone bought up the concept of team or mentioned something as vague as bonding. Hey, this is golf. It isnt football, where you have 11 men whose duties are vastly different. In golf, what do you do? You hit the ball off the tee, you knock it on the green, you putt it. It seemed like a simple enough assignment without any room for mysticism. The 12 men who were the best, be they from the U.S. or from Europe, won.
But this has gotten way out of hand, and I cant make myself believe that for the last 10 years, the Europeans have so dominated golf. And ' they havent. Americans have a big lead in the number of wins in majors. Americans have won 10 of the last 12 British Opens. But Europe has the 4-1 lead in the Ryder. And that can no longer be written off to coincidence.
Ergo, I am beginning to believe in the M-word ' meshing, and the T-word ' team. I have also begun to believe in voodoo and black cats and the foolishness of walking under ladders.
Lets look at the last four matches, dating back to 1997, since only American (Phil Mickelson) and one European (Colin Montgomerie) played in '95.
Its been a lopsided story since 97. The U.S. has won only one daily session in that timespan ' in 02 when the Yanks prevailed, 4 - 3 , on Saturday. Every other day of the last four Ryder Cups, the Europeans either beat the Americans in the team matches or at worst tied (once). You think the karma isnt impressive on the European side?
Now, in the singles, its a different story. America leads in that category, 25 -22 1/2. More on that later ' right now, lets concentrate on the pairs, where the U.S. has a poor record with Europe leading the last four Ryder Cups by 39 points to 24.
Incidentally, most people believe the Europeans have a big lead in the alternate-shot (foursomes) because the men of the U.S. never play that format. In the U.K., as a matter of fact, alternate-shot is quite often played when four men go out in the evenings for a friendly match. Its a much quicker game, of course, when you have just two balls in play amongst the four players, rather than four balls for four players.
Better-ball (fourballs), of course, is the game almost always played in the U.S. when four men get together for Saturday outings. But ' Europe has a more commanding lead in better-ball. In that exercise, they are 20 -11 . Alternate shot (foursomes)? They had a 6-2 advantage the last time out, but except for that one, they are up by only 13-11. Hmmm
The singles story has become much closer the last couple of times the Ryder Cup has been played. The pattern was nearly always the same ' Europe would keep it very close in the team matches, but would absolutely get murdered in singles. In both 2002 and 2004, Europe actually won the singles, 7 - 4 each time.
A side note here: Jim Furyk is unbeaten in the Ryder Cup in singles. And in fact, he is unbeaten in the Presidents Cup. He is a combined 7-0-1, a draw with Irishman Paul McGinley the only blot on an otherwise perfect record.
Chris DiMarco, incidentally, is a perfect 3-0 in the Ryder and Presidents singles. Tiger Woods is 5-2-1, having lost to Costantino Rocca and Retief Goosen and drawing with Jesper Parnevik.
Woods, though, has a disappointing mark of 2-6-1 in team play in the Ryder Cup. But dont tell Tiger that he doesnt care about these matches!
I put my heart into it each and every time, said Tiger. I hate losing, and I go out there and I play with all my passion. It's just unfortunately sometimes I do not win.
I've had some of my best matches where I've shot some of my best scores - shot 64 twice and only won one match in best ball; 65 two times, and again, only won one match. And one of the matches I shot 63 with Davis (Love) in best-ball and barely won that.
So I've played some of my best golf and haven't gotten all the points that I felt I could have. There's times where I've played like a dog, as well. So I don't know. I try so hard, and unfortunately sometimes you just don't win.
Its a mantra that could be repeated by just about all the American players of late. Yes, Europe had to have better team players, whatever that meant. That doesnt necessarily mean that the Europeans wanted it more, or tried harder. What it definitely means is that they have known how best to mesh together. And dont ask me to explain that, because it goes far beyond what I can express.
Jose Maria Olazabal says that the Americans cant be faulted for their team spirit, nor can they be faulted for not having a greater will to win.
I think they care, and they have cared in the past, he said. And I think they care this time. I'm pretty sure that theyre more eager to do well this time because of what happened the last two editions.
We are all competitors, and none of us likes to lose. I know they are fighters. I know they have come with one goal, and that one is pretty simple - trying to beat us. We're going to have to play really, really well if we want to keep that trophy with us.
But, lets face it ' Europe in the past has had that certain mojo, that karma, that ' team spirit? Whatever it is, it has worked exceptionally well for them.
Email your thoughts to George White