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Ryder Cup- 2010 FinalePosted Tuesday, October 5, 2010, at 5:12 PM
On the day after the longest Ryder Cup in history, I am feeling somewhat like Eduardo Molinari must have felt after a 21-year old PGA Tour rookie named Rickie Fowler smacked him with four straight birdies to salvage a crucial tie in one of the wildest final days ever played since the event began in 1927.
You would think that writing a finale for this week would be easy. There is nothing easy at the Ryder Cup! That was once again proven on Monday. The weather got far more publicity than the warmth and hospitality of the Welsh. Twenty years from now I suppose I will remember the mud and rain at Celtic Manor. For sure, I will remember the walk to the closing ceremony and the heartfelt handshakes offered by fans lining the walkway.
Some have said that the American players don't have the same Ryder Cup passion as do their European counterparts. I just spent nine days with our team. Trust me, they care.
"It was more than I expected," said Bubba Watson. "The best part of the week was being with the other guys. I never really knew Phil (Mickelson) that well until this week. He told some of us young guys that he wanted to be more of a mentor. Phil said he that his days are winding down and he wants to help younger guys do the things that will grow the game."
That comment captures the real spirit of the 2010 United States Ryder Cup team. It was a mix of veterans and young guns. All week, the rookies were being counseled by those who had Ryder Cup scars from previous years. Corey Pavin will never get the credit that he deserves for leaving his mark on this team. Losing captains get burned in effigy.
Facts are facts, and the last U.S. team to win on foreign soil was in 1993 when Pavin played himself. Pavin's team came closer to recording a road win than any team in 17 years. I didn't see Pavin hit one shot at Celtic Manor. He brilliantly set his lineup for the singles matches, mixing vets with rooks in hopes of always being able to stop the bleeding if things went wrong in any part of the lineup. That strategy worked perfectly.
My Monday assignment was once again with Tom Lehman, assistant captain. We worked the final four groups which included Mickelson, Fowler, Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan. As we drove to the range Lehman predicted, "We got the last four groups. If things go right it will come down to us."
Early on, the blue stripes dominated the leader board, which ditched the idea that the Americans needed to get off to a fast start. At one point during the first seven groups, the U.S. trailed in 5 matches. When all 12 groups hit the course, the Americans were behind in eight matches. As every golfer knows, things can turn in match play and gradually a tsunami of strength began to build for the U.S..
"How about Stricker? All we ask him to do is go out and beat Westwood. He is the silent assassin," remarked Lehman after the Wisconsin deer hunter dumped his English foe.
As we reached the 12th tee, Lehman showed his guile. He said, "We have got to turn two of these matches around. You take the cart and go with Slu (Jeff Sluman, assistant captain). You guys stay with Hunter. I am going to walk with Rickie."
At the time, Fowler was 4 down with 6 to play and I thought to myself that was a strange move by our most experienced assistant captain since Mahan was only 2 down with 7 holes to go.
"Little did we know," quoting Chuck Thompson who called Bill Mazeroski's famous grand slam in the 1960 World Series. Fowler was about to hit his own version of a Ryder Cup grand slam with those four closing birdies.
If much is made of Mahan's unfortunate chip on #17 to close out the 2010 Ryder Cup, it will be done by imbeciles who have never had the misfortune to experience anything even remotely close to the pressure that he did. There were probably 30,000 spectators on the hole with hundreds of millions of TV viewers watching the most dramatic finish to a sporting event in years.
Jim Furyk put it best. "I have experienced about everything you can in golf. But, I have never had the pressure of being in the match that will decide the Ryder Cup. All of the players on both teams feel real bad for him because that could have happened to anyone."
The mood in the U.S. locker room was subdued as expected. Players were offering unsolicited support to Mahan. There was already talk of 2012. "I will tell you this," said one caddy. "I will take the same 12 guys in this locker room to Medinah in 2012."
The unique spirit of the Ryder Cup is captured at the closing ceremonies. Both teams walk side by side. Standing ovations are given by one team to its opponent showing appreciation for the week of competition. The Ryder Cup is awarded to the winning captain and eyes focus to 2012. Do we really have to wait two years for this?!
On Monday night, the European team invaded the U.S. team room around 10:30 p.m. Mickelson and Woods had been taking on the world in ping pong and with a large degree of success, I might add.
Padraig Harrington interrupted the festivities and said, "Our best against your best, boys!"
The Americans sent Matt Kuchar and the Euros put up Peter Hanson, the Swede. To quote Dustin Johnson, "There was a bucket of money on the floor for this match!"
Kucher destroyed Hanson in the final match of this year's Ryder Cup. There was solace for the Americans. And for Kucher, as Sluman put it, "He just guaranteed that he will be at least a Captain's pick in the next four Ryder Cups! I think this ping pong thing started a tradition."
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