From the Smoldering Ruins


Why is it that the best golfers in the United States are unable to defeat the best golfers from Europe?
It is a common refrain; a stunned searching to explain that which seems to defy world rankings, strategy and dominance in the majors. It even defies the games history, relying not upon its past, but instead forging its own unique chapter.
The theories have been plentiful. One of particular note this week is the emphasis placed upon the Irish weather. Claims that the American golfers are not mentally equipped to play in cold, windy and rainy conditions abound. Somehow the Euros are credited with being capable of tolerating, even excelling in conditions that cause American golfers to rescind to their Gore-tex shells.
Others say it is about commitment, that the Ryder Cup simply means more to the Euros than to the Americans.
I just love the Ryder Cup, I couldnt live without it, said the 4-1-0 Sergio Garcia who arguably had more to do with the European win than anyone since his mentor, Seve Ballesteros.
Some say it is about the intangible ability of the Euros to enjoy the moment, to keep the entire affair in its proper perspective.
At the end of the day, its only a golf tournament, said the nearly Zen-like 37-year-old rookie Robert Karlsson from Sweden.
Certainly, this perspective is supported by the laughing, hugging and congenial demeanor of the European team that seamed to be enjoying the ride at every measure.
I have also heard it suggested that our boys have become soft, as the trappings of celebrity, privilege and wealth have robbed them of the will to succeed. Simply spoiled millionaires.
One of these days theyre going to be as rich as our boys and theyll be easier to beat, suggested a (presumed) tongue-in-cheek Dan Jenkins.
We have all heard these theories and more, but I do not buy it.
Irish weather, sure, it can be unpredictable, but the European Tour averages two visits a year to Ireland and a handful more in the U.K. To suggest that the weather on the rest of their far flung schedule is any more prone to adverse conditions than PGA TOUR golfers face on the North American continent rings hollow. Somehow there is a perception that PGA TOUR golfers do not play golf in the wind and rain and that is simply not true. Whats more, the Euros have won five of the last six Ryder Cup matches, half of which were played in the United States, so, well; I guess we can cross that one of the list.
Does the Ryder Cup mean more to the Euros? Bull. Every American player went out there with the intention to win. Our team was beaten, not due to lack of desire, but due to lack of performance.
Do the Europeans enjoy the ride more? Perhaps there is merit to this one, but as one former European captain put it Sunday morning, 'It is easy to have fun when you are winning.'
So, have we become a land of over-fed golf professionals, fat and happy on the trough and trappings of the gluttony of luxuries thrust their way? If this theory has merit then it ignores the reality that professional golf is a global game and most of the stars of the European team regularly feed from the same troth and are millionaires in their own right.
So we are left to ponder, why? To kick aside the rubble of our failed dreams and search for a reason for our failures that have become more than an aberration, but a habit; a trend.
As an American journalist and author who has strong ties to Ireland, it is from this duality that I have a theory of my own. I believe that the Ryder Cup competition illustrates the flip side of our greatest strength. As Ireland served as a splendid host to the competition, I think this ancient land may provide us with some insight. My perception is that the Irish, and ostensibly the Europeans to some degree, are a humble people who view their own lot in life as being a part of a greater whole. This does not diminish the impact of individual accomplishment, effort and cultural nuance, but it is framed in a mentality that we are all in this together. To the contrary, America was built on a foundation of fierce individual independence. Why, the very cornerstone of the American Dream is the belief that the individual can pull himself up by his bootstraps and make of himself whatever he dreams possible. The concept of the self made man is particularly applicable in this context. It is this strong conviction of self-worth and self-reliance that I believe has made America the great country and ideal of individual freedoms that it is. Perhaps it is the ferocity of this independent-spirit that works against us in the team-format Ryder Cup during these modern times?
In an effort to make the idea of a team competition not such a foreign concept for professionals whose collegiate days are behind them, perhaps the PGA TOUR could craft a regular season event that is actually a match play, (multi) team competition with respective teams determined by blind draw, after a 36-hole, stroke-play cut. What is the likelihood that Americas top golfers would participate and allow their fate (and paycheck) to be held at least partially in the hands of another?
Will the European team members use this latest victory in the Ryder Cup to catapult themselves, individually, to victory in the majors? Maybe, but probably no more so than they have over the last decade and a half. Will American golfers continue to dominate the majors? Yes, it is likely. Which causes one to question if an American victory in the Ryder Cup is not about the selection process or an infinite list of intangibles, but is in reality about the underpinnings of our society itself?
Perhaps in our effort to answer the question of why, the first place we should look is within.
Copyright 2006 Matthew E. Adams Fairways of Life
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Editor's Note: Matt Adams is a reporter for The Golf Channel, equipment expert, twenty-year veteran of the golf industry and speaker. In addition, he is a New York Times and USAToday bestselling coauthor of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and author of Fairways of Life, Wisdom and Inspiration from the Greatest Game. Fairways of Life uses golf as a metaphor for life and features a Foreword by Arnold Palmer. To sign up for Adams Golf Wisdom email quotes or for more information, go to