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Hooks & Cuts from the Ryder Cup

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Wherever I've gone and whomever I've spoken to, the Ryder Cup is still the rage, hence this latest edition of Hooks & Cuts.

• Ryder Cup or Masters?  The Masters is by far the better pure golf experience.  The Ryder Cup is the better sports spectacle, a frenzied football rivalry played atop a tension wire fully amped from start to finish. 

• This was among the most soul-crushing losses I’ve ever seen in a team sport. The U.S. led by three touchdowns early in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, by 6 runs going into the seventh inning of Game 7 of the World Series and by 15 points with seven minutes left in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.  And it slipped away.  Brutal. 

• I don’t know yet who’s writing it, but rest assured “Miracle at Medinah” will be on sale in the run-up to the 2014 Ryder Cup. 

• They didn’t win, but the Americans played hard and they entertained. 

• Even for all their centuries-old differences and in the midst of the current financial crisis, the countries of Europe, through their itinerant golfers, continue to prove it is possible to create a more perfect union.  The passionate Spaniards are different than the disciplined Germans; the hearty Irish are different than the wry English.  Amazing how a few clutch birdie putts can bridge so many gaps, isn’t it?  They always seem to come together to fight for one all-consuming cause, to beat the mighty Americans, beat ’em again and again and again.

• Did Davis Love’s best quality, his niceness, ultimately cost him?  Phil may have been well intentioned when he told Davis that he and Keegan should sit the afternoon, but who’s the captain?  Davis is, and even if it wasn’t in the original game plan, there’s a time to deviate. That was it.  At a Ryder Cup, emotion and momentum can never be sacrificed when you own it, and Phil and Keegan owned it all.  They were six innings into a perfect game, and Davis went to the bullpen.  As a lifelong Phillies fan, I’m still haunted by Mitch Williams and Joe Carter.

• Phil’s display of sportsmanship, clapping after Justin Rose had made his improbable birdie putt Sunday at 17, was truly a good moment. I suspect Phil spoke for many American fans who could only laugh and applaud the audacity of the Europeans.

• Sneaky critical sequence came Saturday afternoon at 17.  After Tiger hit his iron close the camera cut away to Luke Donald. He appeared not to notice, lost in his own world, and then stuffed his tee shot and made birdie.  Donald and the Euros were out of their funk and into a zone they wouldn’t leave until late Sunday. 

• Speaking of zones, Ian Poulter traveled to Planet Clutch, a distant outpost few have ever visited.  He was so far and away the MVP of the Ryder Cup.  Sunday doesn’t happen if Poults doesn’t unfurl one of the single greatest stretches in cup history on Saturday.  He single-handedly rescued Europe and secured a future captaincy in the process.

• The Americans sent out three fine young major champions and the FedEx Cup champion early on Sunday.  But they’re also what Sir Nick Faldo describes as “twitchy” players.  Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and Brandt Snedeker are naturally sort of caffeinated players, and without the safety net of a partner and under the suffocating pressure they weren’t steady enough to deliver their best stuff.

• Can we all agree that until further notice we’ll not doubt Rory?  Every time he’s been questioned he’s answered with emphasis.  After the 80 at Augusta, he won his very next major by eight.  After he slumped this summer and people, including me, wondered if he’d lost focus, he decimated the field at the PGA Championship and then won back-to-back playoff events.  Saturday night at the Ryder Cup a few pundits suggested that Rory was fatigued and wouldn’t be able to handle the red-hot Bradley.  Sunday was one final reminder in a season filled with them that Rory McIlroy is without any question the best player in the world.

• Tiger’s simply been a virtuoso soloist.  How else to explain his Ryder Cup record?

• Bradley and Bubba flamed the fans, but stoic Jason Dufner also turned in a stout performance over three days.

Jose Maria Olazabal instructing Francesco Molinari to concede his match to Tiger would have been a magnanimous gesture, but you play to win and I don’t have a fundamental problem with the decision to play it out.  Of course, it would sound different if we were saying, “The Europeans fought back to tie the Americans and retain the Ryder Cup,” as opposed to “the Americans blew a four-point lead and allowed the Europeans to win the Ryder Cup for the seventh time in the last nine tries.”      

• I think the PGA of America will go outside the box for its next captain.  In other words, it may not be David Toms, who like Davis Love appears to be a nice man and well respected.  Paul McGinley, bright and highly regarded, will likely get the nod for the Europeans.  Darren Clarke wants to captain in America and figures to get the call in 2016 in Minnesota.  By then, Phil Mickelson may well be ready, if he’s not intent on playing at 46.

• Feel for Jim Furyk.  Think about how close he was to being a U.S. Open champion, a World Golf champion and a Ryder Cup hero.  Think about how gutted he must be.

• The great European captain Sam Torrance always called his men “boys.” He’d say, “Our boys gave it everything they had.” And therein lies the secret.  Under the crushing pressure, serious men must let go and play like boys.

• I’ve heard from so many friends and fans, from diehard golfers and those who barely play, that it was one of the most compelling sporting events they’ve ever seen.  It was.