Bet on the Vets for Ryder Cup Victory


04 Ryder CupEvery two years, the European Ryder Cup captain looks into his stable and surveys his horses. He usually has two kinds in there: stallions and Clydesdales.
The stallions are often young and wild, bundles of nerves and energy. Theyre ready to run and run. Yet, they often spend more time than not tied up inside the stalls.
When it comes time to win the Ryder Cup, the European captain saddles up his Clydesdales and rides his big horses right into the winners circle.
The Europeans have never relied too much on their stallions ' their rookies, unless they had to (see 1999). They win with their Clydesdales ' their veterans.
Two years ago, none of the four first-time European Ryder Cup team members produced a winning record ' while two of the three American rookies did. Nonetheless, Europe won back the cup by three points ' the largest margin of victory since 1985.
In 99, Europe had seven rookies to just five vets. Captain Mark James opted not to play three of those seven until the singles session, and built up a four-point lead heading to the final day. Five of the seven rookies lost on Sunday ' including the three without a match under their belts, and Europe lost the cup.
It goes without saying ' though well write it: Experience wins the Ryder Cup.
Bernhard Langer knew this when he selected Colin Montgomerie as one of his two captains picks.
Montgomerie is the most decorated Ryder Cup player on either side. He has played in six Matches, compiling a 16-7-5 overall record. His 18.5 career points are 8 points higher than anyone else on either team (Davis Love III has 10).
Europe and the United States each have seven players with Ryder Cup know-how on their team and five rookies.
The Americans feature Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Love, Jim Furyk, David Toms, Jay Haas and Stewart Cink. The Europeans counter with Montgomerie, Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Darren Clarke, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Lee Westwood and Paul McGinley.
Both teams are very close on paper, said Golf Channel analyst and six-time European Ryder Cup team member Peter Oosterhuis. The Americans might have a slight advantage. The world rankings favor them; they have the major champions. But Europe always seems to make a match of it dont they? More than a match, they seem to win.
The names may favor the Americans, but the numbers fall in favor of the defending champions.
Europe has won or retained the cup six of the last nine times the biennial matches have been contested.
And they can chalk up that record to the Big E ' Experience.
The Europeans won 15 points two years ago at The Belfry. Of those points, 12 came courtesy veterans. Rookies ' individually or as a partner on a team ' helped contribute only three points.
As previously mentioned, the U.S. had just one rookie in 1999 to the Europeans seven ' its the only Ryder Cup the Americans have won out of the last four.
Two years prior, the Europeans had five rookies, and they helped give their squad a five-point lead heading into the final day. But with the cup on the line, it was the veterans who accounted for 3 of the four singles points won on Sunday that allowed them to claim victory.
Philip Walton, a rookie on the European team, will be forever remembered for earning the final point that won the 1995 Matches. But he and fellow first-timer Per-Ulrik Johannson provided only two points the entire week. The Europeans won because they had only two rookies to the Americans' five. And on that Sunday, the European veterans pounded the U.S. rookies into submission in the singles.
This time, each team will have seven old hands on board. And U.S. captain Hal Sutton isnt afraid to use the European strategy of taking the veterans to the whip, while the rookies sit and cheer from the sidelines.
We are going to take 12 egos up there, and everybody thinks that they are going to play a part in winning the 2004 Ryder Cup, Sutton said. The truth is, some will play a bigger part than others. That is just the reality of it and I hope everybody can accept that and understand their role.
In comparing the Seasoned Seven, the Europeans hold the advantage in almost every category ' pertaining to the Ryder Cup.
The seven European veterans have a combined 37-30-13 Ryder Cup record; the U.S. has a 31-35-13 record. The Europeans are 16-11-3 in foursomes; the U.S. 10-13-5. The Europeans are 15-11-6 in four-ball; the U.S. 11-16-5. The Euros, however, are 6-8-4 in singles, while the U.S. is 10-6-3.
Montgomerie and Harrington are not only the only European players to post a winning singles record, theyre the only Euros to have won a single singles match. On the other hand, Mickelson, Love, Furyk and Toms have winning singles records, while Tiger is 1-1-1. Haas is 0-2-0, while Cink is 0-1-0.
Sam Torrance said two years ago that out of the shadows come heroes. And true there are players like Walton or Phillip Price, who defeated Mickelson in singles in 2002, or McGinley, who made the cup clinching putt in 02, who add the final straw that breaks the other teams back.
But its the heavyweights who dog pile on top of the Americans to give such players that opportunity.
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