What goes faster than Ryder Cup week? Answer: a four-point U.S. lead – ba-da-boom.
A week removed from the Meltdown at Medinah, Cut Line is still trying to score a hectic week that featured more plot twists than a Clive Cussler tome. Before we put the 39th matches in the books, however, it’s time to applaud Europe’s MVPs (most vocal players) and send out an APB (all-points bulletin) for America’s missing stars.
MVPs. To suggest that the Europeans care more about Samuel Ryder’s golden chalice is a disservice, both to the Americans and the matches.
The U.S. side cares, maybe too much, but there is no mistaking Europe’s passion for the event. From Ian Poulter’s bug-eyed perfection to Rory McIlroy’s inspired sprint to the first tee on Sunday, the Euros have become adept at delivering when it counts.
“It’s a passion I've seen at the Ryder Cup for years and years as a kid growing up, and it's something that comes from within,” said Poulter, the undisputed man of the match with a perfect 4-0 record. “I just love it.”
No, the Europeans don’t want it more than the Americans, they’ve just figured out how to turn their passion into performance.
Tweet of the week: @McIlroyRory “Wow! Did that just happen! Unbelievable performance from all the boys today! Seve (Ballesteros) . . . this one is for you! #Europe”
Editor’s note: Given the gravity of the comeback, we forgive the Ulsterman for his overuse of exclamation points.
Tweet of the week, II: @IanJamesPoulter “On the plane on the way back to Orlando, why does it feel like we robbed a bank? Not sure how long it’s going to take to sink in.”
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Oh, captain. Martin Kaymer’s 6-foot clincher at Medinah’s 18th hole hadn’t hit the bottom of the cup and the hand-wringing had already begun.
U.S. captain Davis Love III failed to adjust on the fly; he allowed his players to dictate the plan when a command decision was in order; he over-thought Sunday’s lineup and allowed the Europeans to build momentum.
Lost amid the armchair quarterbacking was the fact that Love and Team USA had built a four-point lead through two days and Sunday’s singles card, at least on paper, accounted for every possible contingency save one – a suddenly hot-putting European side.
As expected, Love owned the defeat, “If you need to blame somebody for this loss, blame me,” he wrote in a captain’s diary on golf.com. History will not be kind to Love when the 2012 Ryder Cup epilogue is written, but the harsh reality is sometimes you just get beat and no amount of scripting and pop psychology will change that.
Tie-d up. Maybe European captain Jose Maria Olazabal was caught up in the moment, maybe he wanted a measure of revenge for America’s Brookline faux pas. Either way the Spaniard missed the exit for the high road late Sunday at Medinah with the Ryder Cup already decided.
Amid the mayhem of Kaymer’s cup-clinching putt at the 18th, good for a 14-14 tie which assured the Europeans would retain the cup, Ollie told Francesco Molinari, who was locked in a meaningless bout with Tiger Woods at the time, “It's not the same, winning or halving.”
Per the captains' agreement, all matches must be played out to conclusion even if the cup has already been decided, so the American and Italian continued to play with Woods eventually conceding a 4-footer to Molinari to lose the hole, halve his match and give Europe an outright 14 ½ to 13 ½ victory.
There are no hard and fast rules for these types of surreal episodes – although Jack Nicklaus’ famous concession to Tony Jacklin at the 1969 matches, which ended in a tie, would seem to be the gold standard – but at worst, Ollie’s insistence on a victory seems petty and at best an opportunity missed.
What happens in Vegas . . . News last week that Justin Timberlake will step down as tournament host of the PGA Tour’s Sin City stop was particularly curious considering the event’s move to the FedEx Cup portion of the schedule beginning in 2013.
Seems Timberlake, according to the report, wasn’t exactly the host with the most.
“Justin’s a wonderful person,” Raoul Frevel, the tournament chairman, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “But we tried everything we could to get him more involved with our kids and the hospitals. But it seemed that when the TV cameras weren’t on, he disappeared.”
Just a hunch, but that cheesy poem at last week’s Ryder Cup likely didn’t help Timberlake’s street cred with the Tour either.
Missing persons. You can blame Love, the Europeans' sizzling Sunday putters and even Lombard (Ill.) deputy police chief Patrick Rollins, who rushed McIlroy to the golf course on Sunday, for America’s Medinah meltdown. But for those intent on assigning culpability look no further than the U.S. three-ball of Woods, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk.
Combined, the power threesome contributed 1 ½ points to the U.S. effort, with Stricker posting an 0-4 record including a singles loss to Kaymer, who was a pedestrian 1 over par on Sunday.
“In order to win cups, you have to earn points and we certainly have not earned points,” Woods said before the matches began, his words echoing late into Sunday night in the aftermath of the U.S. loss. “Phil (Mickelson, who actually went 3-1 in Chicago), Jim and myself have been put out there a lot during those years. So if we are not earning points, it's hard to win Ryder Cups that way.”
In match play it is the hot hand, not historical context, that counts, but if the U.S. is going to wrench itself off the Ryder Cup schneid it will need more from its veterans.