The Man of the Matches

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 24, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesIn the land of Guinness, Europe once again was brilliant. In the Ryder Cup competition, the United States once again was not.
 
Little more can be said than those two statements, in terms of the winning and losing of this event. For further proof, check the final score: Europe 18 , U.S. 9 ' just as it was two years ago.
 
Darren Clarke
Darren Clarke raises a pint of Guinness to the European victory.
From top to bottom, start to finish, this European team was just plain better than their American counterparts. They beat them with brilliance, beat them with class.
 
They proved to be, arguably ' or maybe overwhelmingly ' the best European team ever comprised.
 
In surmising this 36th edition, it would be pointless to harp on the Americans shortcomings. For any fault one can find in captain Tom Lehman or Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or the team as a whole, there is no need to waste time and effort and writing space in doing so.
 
Just give credit where credit is due. Tip your cap to the Europeans and applaud them. They deserve it wholeheartedly.
 
Outside of Dublin, Ireland, Irish eyes were not only smiling this Sunday at the K Club; they were weeping. Shedding tears of joy and empathy for one of their own.
 
Darren Clarke didnt clinch the winning point for the Europeans. He didnt produce the most points. But his performance in his native country was equal parts spectacular and emotional.
 
Clarke, who lost his wife, Heather, to cancer six weeks ago this Sunday, made every unimaginable shot imaginable. He won all three of his matches.
 
But this week was about more than just results for the Northern Irishman. That was evident when he completed his singles victory over Zach Johnson.
 
After being conceded the winning putt by his opponent, he let it all go; everything that he had been trying so hard to keep hidden, to keep all to himself, he finally relinquished for the world to see and share in.
 
Clarke broke down, his eyes flooded with tears, showing everyone how great his loss was, and how much this week meant to him. He hugged his caddie and didnt want to let go, just as Woods had done immediately after winning the Open Championship in the wake of his fathers death, also to cancer.
 
He received a hug from Johnson. He received a hug from his captain, Ian Woosnam. He was physically embraced by all those who had emotionally embraced him throughout his ordeal, including Tiger, who gave him both a hug and some comforting words that will forever remain between these two friends.
 
Clarke, if he didn't already know, discovered something very important this week: he is loved.
 
It's done a lot for me for people to show me how much they care,' Clarke said. 'And it's done a lot to show how much they cared about Heather, and that means a lot to me. It's been a difficult week.
 
The saga of Darren Clarke, a widowed father of two young boys, transcended this Ryder Cup. It added the human quality that a competition such as this one ' one seen by so many as a matter of life and death ' really needed.
 
After all was said and done, and the Europeans had won the Cup for the fourth time in the last five contests, Clarke stood with his mates on the balcony of the clubhouse hotel. With a bottle of champagne in his left hand and a pint of Guinness in his right, he downed the latter in one great gulp.
 
He then raised the glass to an adoring crowd of thousands. The tears on his cheeks had been wiped away, replaced with beads of alcohol streaming down his face. And he smiled. One great big grin. For perhaps the first time in a very long time, he was genuinely happy.
 
As Sergio Garcia said during the celebration: '(Right now), he may be the happiest man alive.'
 
The Ryder Cup is a wonderful competition, one of the best team events in all of sports. But, whether American or European, accept it for what it is.
 
This is an event, a game.
 
Winning is wonderful; losing is painful. Winning can help heal wounds. It can bring excitement to life. But losing is not death. Not even close.
 
Darren Clarke can attest to both.
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
 
Related Links:
  • Scoring - 36th Ryder Cup
  • Full Coverage - 36th Ryder Cup Matches
  • Getty Images

    After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

    Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

    Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

    Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

    It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


    On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

    There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

    He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

    His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

    Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

    Getty Images

    Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

    With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

    He picked up one more No. 2, too.

    The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

    In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

    Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

    “It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

    Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

    Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

    He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

    Getty Images

    Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

    Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

    Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

    His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

    “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

    Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

    Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

    Getty Images

    Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

    By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

    Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

    Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

    What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

    Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

    Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

    Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

    Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

    Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

    Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry