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The Lessons of Royal Montreal

The 2007 Presidents Cup is in the books. And it was one for the books.
The more the wonderfully-enthusiastic Canadian golf fans in Montreal rooted, the more the energized American team routed.
If this had been a heavyweight prize fight, they would have stopped it, on points, before it was over. The U.S. lead Saturday night after a stunning display in foursomes and fourballs was a commanding 14 to 7 .
That left the Americans needing just three points to win the competition in the Sunday singles. Which meant the final day would be little more than a glorified exhibition. But just try telling that to Weir, who drew Tiger Woods one-on-one Sunday. Try telling it to Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh (yes, Chris Berman, these two guys dont much like each other) who also squared off in singles.
Weir won the last two holes to upset Woods 1-up and finish as the leading point-getter for the Internationals. It was a match you couldnt take your eyes off of. Mickelson sailed past Singh 5 and 4 in a boat race that was never close past the first couple of holes.
Final winning tally for the Americans: 19 1/2 to 14 1/2.
And now the U.S. moves ahead to the Ryder Cup next fall in Louisville. There were lessons learned in Montreal that should not be forgotten when the Euros get to Kentucky.
Lessons like freshness. Its overrated. There was a lot of palaver leading up to this Presidents Cup about players not having enough time to recover from the grueling double fortnight of the FedExCup playoffs. Looks to me like it worked the other way. The Americans were competitively sharp.
In the past, too many U.S. players showed up at the Ryder Cup coming off two and three week layoffs. It showed. Especially in their putting. The 2008 Ryder Cup will begin five days after the conclusion of the 2008 FedExCup playoffs.
Ambitious scheduling? Of course. But it may work out in the Americans favor.
Did I mention putting?
If you stretched the total footage, end-to-end, of all the putts made by members of the American team Saturday, it might be longer than Woods yacht. We have watched the Europeans drain everything but the bathtub in dominating the U.S. over the last two decades of Ryder Cup play.
So heres what the Americans should do: Give the superintendent at Valhalla a paid leave of absence for a year. And pay the superintendent from Royal Montreal whatever he asks to come in and get the putting surfaces in Louisville running at the exact speed and firmness of the greens at his place.
Meanwhile, if Im American captain Paul Azinger, Im already quietly reserving a spot among my four Captains picks for Woody Aquaman Austin. Obviously Azinger wont have to use it if the vastly-improved Austin makes the team on points.
But Austin transcended the competition in Montreal at the Presidents Cup. He not only made more than his share of important putts but he had NBCs Johnny Miller drooling over his golf swing all week.
The signature moment of this Presidents Cup was Austins face-plant into a water hazard (difficulty 1.3) on Friday. He emerged to make three straight birdies and procure the most important half point of the competition for the U.S.
By the time heads hit pillows Friday night, Austin had gone from goat to hero to mascot to legend. Paul Azinger if youre reading this: You definitely want Woody Austin on your team, in your team room and in your lineup card at Valhalla. Too many American teams have shown up too tight at too many Ryder Cups. Woody Austin will keep anybodys team loose.
And how about Steve Stricker?
Simple swing. Great putter. Great story. Great guy.
There really ought to be an unofficial award given out this year: Player of the Year Other Than Tiger Woods. POYOTW. The 2007 POYOTW, hands down, would be Stricker.
Early on in the competition I criticized U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus for instructing Austin and Mickelson to concede a four-foot putt to Singh that produced a halved match on the 18th green. In retrospect, Nicklaus looks to have been smarter than the rest of us. For that matter, Nicklaus has been smarter than the rest of us, in matters of golf, for a long, long time.
But I would have liked to have seen Stricker get a chance to play one match as Woods partner. Getting to partner with Tiger is an honor. Sort of liked being able to tell your children you once were invited to the White House or got an audience with the Pope.
All right, all right, Tiger isnt the Pope. But hes golfing royalty and he plays with a religious fervor. And Stricker earned the right to get to play with him one time.
Stricker, by the way, is the last guy who would ever complain about not getting to play with Tiger.
So theres another one, Captain Azinger: In case you havent already figured it out, Strickers a guy you have to have on your team in Louisville, too.
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