That would be Miguel Angel Jimenez, who was a member of the 1999 European Ryder Cup team. He remembers all too well the Americans' wild dash across the green when Justin Leonard made the now-famous 45-foot putt which all but sewed up the trophy for the U.S.
Tom Lehman, who has been appointed to head the U..S. Ryder Cup in 2006, was a ringleader in the charge across the putting surface ' remember, Jose Maria Olazabal still had a chance to tie the hole if he had made his 25-footer. Paul Casey, the Englsihman who was a rookie on Europes Ryder Cup squad this year, says there will be much resentment against Lehman when the two squads meet in 2006.
Casey has gotten a tremendous amount of bad publicity for the remarks about Americans in general - for which he has offered his apologies. His critique of Lehman has't been nearly as ill-received in Europe. But Jimenez, the Spaniard who won five times around the world this year, told the press at the recent Target World Challenge that there is no lingering animosity toward Lehman among those directly affected on the 99 Euro squad.
I believe we are intelligent people, and I don't live in the past, said Jimenez. The past is just to learn and to not make bad things happen in the future, you know.
I think what's happened in the past is the past, and that shows you that for the good of golf, it won't happen again. But just forget it, and if you're going to leave (the incident) like that, you cannot be happy at that point in your life and you cannot play golf and you're not going to win.
Lehman has spoken many times of his regret that the incident happened. Europe's Sam Torrance, then a vice-captain of Mark James, mocked him by saying that it was unbelievable that a man of God did such a thing. The European press vilified Lehman, as well as some members of the American press.
Jimenez, though, sees it differently. Without question it was a senseless act, but there is no reason to let it fester. Why let it continue to raise the hackles?
The history - all of the history, everything around the world, everything around anything, in the past - is to learn for the future, to learn for the future,' he said. 'We are here to learn. If we go away from the past and learn nothing ... I still don't think -- I don't see the point.
Jimenez, it would seem, has a huge admiration for Lehman. Does Lehman have to hang his head in shame forever over the incident? Fifty years from now, say, does Lehman still wear the tag of Ugly American? When can he get on with the business of being something other than the Grinch who stole the Ryder Cup of 99?
Look, the guy played in the Ryder Cup, he is a great player, he's a winner, Jimenez said.
He's a good player and that's it. What happened before, it happened - that's it. I cannot recall anything from that, and I have respect for any player. Just live for the moment, for here, tomorrow. Forget that thing; you cannot live there.
It is a heart-warming attitude to take into this holiday season. Live in the moment, says Jimenez. We cannot do anything about something that happened five years ago, something that occurred only moments before the person knew he had done something wrong. Jimenez has a gigantic heart, it must be said. He cant believe Lehman will have to relive the folly again.
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