No 5 Europe All Alone in Ryder Cup Heaven

By George WhiteDecember 24, 2004, 5:00 pm
2004 Stories of the YearEditor's note: We are counting down the top 10 stories in golf for the 2004 season. This is Story No. 5.
Mickey Wright said it in 1981, in an interview in Golf Digest. When Im playing my best golf, Im in a fog standing back watching the earth in orbit with a golf club in your hands.
That was the way the European Ryder Cup looked this year. Every drive was straight, every iron was just the right distance, every putt homed in true to the cup. The Euros appeared in a fog, but they could do no wrong. Result: they mauled the Americans by nine points, 18 - 9 .
They have that intangible, said defeated U.S. captain Hal Sutton.
35th Ryder CupThey had it from the very first match, Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington slated to go out against Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. The Americans, playing at home at Oakland Hills in Detroit, were overwhelming favorites to win. But Montgomerie made an eight-foot putt for birdie on the first hole of the three-day matches, and the Euros were off and running. Montgomerie and Harrington blew a big hole in the Americans battle plan with a 2-up victory, and Europe never once trailed the entire week.
They led 3 - 1 after that first morning session, 6 - 1 at the end of the first day.
Just when it looked like the Americans were getting a little momentum after two successive wins to start Day 2, more unlikely European stars showed up. This time it was a pair of rookies, Englishmen Paul Casey and David Howell, who stemmed the tide with a 1-up win over Jim Furyk and Chad Campbell.
That's the way we've been all week - no matter what is going on, the other guys are going to pull for each other, said Darren Clarke. That's why at the end of the week, we have ended up with as many points as we have.
At the end of the second day, it was 11-5, Europe. And then, in a rousing display of European team spirit, the final day was a celebration of Euro singles superiority. Europe won that day, 7 - 4 and won the Cup by a very convincing margin.
In the end, it was a matter of who had the most skill on the greens.
We all know they are great players, all 24, and it does come down to who makes the putts, said European captain Bernhard Langer.
Bottom line is, they can all hit good tee shots and hit the green most of the time, but whoever makes the putts wins most of the time anyways, and that's what we said. Hal and I said that early in the week when we had press conferences - the team who will putt better will most likely be the winner.
And the Europeans seemed to have the edge in team spirit from the word go, said Montgomerie. We're a closer-knit team. We're one of the closest teams in international sport; we must be. It's amazing how well we play for each other, and that's huge.
I'm not saying that the Americans don't. They play for the country or whatever, that's right. But we really do play for each other. And it's amazing how we pull for each other from the word go, from the moment we get on that plane on Monday morning how we are as one. It's amazing how our record here is, belies our ranking in the world.
Was it the best team Europe has ever had? It certainly seemed that way. Montgomerie emphasized that point.
It's as good a team as we have had, he said, nodding in agreement. And it does bode well for the future. It's as good a win. We're all individually fantastic, you know, but as good a team as we have had and it all goes well for the next time around.
Monty personally had a rocky year this year with a divorce and a golf game that was sorely lacking, Montomerie-wise. But all the personal things meant nothing when it came to the Ryder Cup.
Personally it means nothing, OK? said Montgomerie. Personally it means nothing. This is all about a team event. Personally it means nothing to me. I've said that many times. That putt was not for me at all; that was to get 14 1/2 points, which we're required to do.
But I must admit here that we have come here with the best team I've been associated with. Team. All 12.
In the end, it was difficult for Langer to express himself ' the results were too overwhelming.
It's hard to put into words, he said. I can't talk enough about these 12 guys here, the three assistant captains that I had, the caddies, the wives, even the staff. I mean, just everybody did an outstanding job. They all gave 100 percent, and sometimes more.
As I said earlier in the year or in the week, the players do the job. You know, I can only prepare the way and make them feel comfortable, encourage them and provide everything they need. But in the end, they are the ones who hit the shots and hole the putts, and they have done an incredible job.
For Langer, it would seem to have been sweet revenge for that time back in 1989 when he missed the six-foot putt that gave the U.S. the win at Kiawah. But its foreign to his nature to be boastful.
I'm not that sad or depressed about Kiawah, to tell you the truth, Langer said. I was down for a couple of days, but, you know, every time I got up in the morning, looked in the mirror, I knew that I gave 100 percent out there. As long as I do that, it doesn't matter to me whether I have success or failure.
It's a famous story of which President is it of the United States (Abraham Lincoln) who failed, whatever, 12 times and then he finally became president. You gain success through failure or you learn about things. And I've had some great experiences as a player in the Ryder Cup. I've had some other ones. And this obviously was my first time as a captain. And I don't think it can get any better than this has been this week, just from the very beginning.
I knew that we would have a great time once we got here. And they actually exceeded everything that I was hoping for.
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