Operation Gladiator

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Ryder CupLOUISVILLE, Ky. ' The scenes played out in my house probably 50 times.
 
Babe, can you walk the dog?
 
I cant, Gladiator is on.
 
Babe, can you review the taxes with me; theyre due in a few days?
 
I cant, Gladiator is on.
 
So Im thinking about Gladiator as Paul Azingers tossing USA lapel pins to the crowds like confetti. Give us the love, baby, he shouted. Youre the 13th man!
 
In the movie, Proximo says to Maximus, Win the crowd, and you shall win your freedom.
 
Operation Gladiator is underway at Valhalla. Anthony Kim signed autographs for five minutes on his way to the 10th tee. J.B. Holmes played home run derby on the range, bombing balls over the far fence and drawing roars from the fans.
 
These are our people, one American team member told me.
 
If those people are to be that 13th man, the U.S. must get off to a good start. They havent recently, going 2-8-2 in the last three Ryder Cup matches in the opening four-ball session. Using his prerogative as host captain, Azingers flipped the format with alternate shot to lead on Friday.
 
I expect Perry and Holmes to be first on that tee on Friday, said Azinger.
 
The vibe between the two felt good on Tuesday, even if all the shots werent. No. 16 is a 511-yard, par-4. J.B. had 140 yards to the middle. Do the math. He hit, no, he fractured his tee ball 370 yards. Dead center. And then he chunked a wedge into the front bunker.
 
Kenny looked at him and without missing a beat ' and loud enough for the huge galleries to hear ' deadpanned, Nice drive, though.
 
The place, and the players, busted up.
 
One of the assistants quipped, Thats the beauty of J.B. in foursomes. Someone else will be hitting that shot!
 
Are the Yanks loose? Yes. Will they be loose when it matters on Friday? Well see.
 
In any event, the other piece of grade A prime filet that Azinger can feed to the frothy masses is a Kim/Mickelson pairing. They did play nine holes together on Tuesday; Kim oozing a kind of NBA cool.
 
He grew up hooping at MacArthur Park in inner city L.A. Quickest guy on the court, he told me, flashing a big smile. Always came away with the most cuts and scrapes, too.
 
Kim plays golf the same way: Fearless.
 
And if the games tight deep into the fourth quarter? I want the ball in my hands, he said.
 
The U.S. hasnt had a young Ryder Cup stud since probably the Reagan administration. Kims it. If he can channel Kobe Bryant, one of his favorite NBA players, and go for the proverbial 35 this week, America will win.
 
For now, Team USA plans to hang at their downtown hotel Tuesday night, play some foosball and Ping Pong.
 
Theyll probably razz Perrys caddie, Freddie Sanders, too. Sanders accidentally grabbed Stewart Cinks golf bag on his way up the hill from the putting green to their first tee shot today. He handed Cinkss driver to Perry. Slightly embarrassed, he hustled back down the hill to retrieve his mans bag. A minute later he appeared on the tee box with the right sticks. The crowd gave him a huge ovation.
 
Win the crowd, and you shall you win your freedom.
 
Email your thoughts to Rich Lerner
 
Related Links:
  • U.S. Report Cards
  • European Report Cards
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup