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Media tees off on beleaguered U.S. Ryder Cup team

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

What you have here is either an overbearing or strong leader, depending on your perspective, questioned by the multitudes in a time of a war we can't seem to win. Seldom has the U.S. undergone such gut-wrenching, psychological doubt.

No, not George Bush and Iraq. We're talking about Hal Sutton and the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Tiger Woods may not seem to care about the Ryder Cup, but the U.S. media certainly does. As you might expect after the U.S. suffered its latest loss to the Europeans, this one even more lopsided and embarrassing than the others, the media had quite a bit to say, most of it either of the soul-searching or finger-pointing variety.

Golf Week devoted almost an entire issue to the debacle, and the newspaper headlines were brutal: "Euro grit beats American quit" blared the New York Daily News.

Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe wrote: "Only some combination of American stubbornness and arrogance would prevent someone from conceding innate superiority when someone has beaten your team four out of five times in the supreme team event your sport has to offer."

Ryan went on to say: "Too many Americans offered the lame analysis that the Europeans just 'made more putts than us.' Such a handy rationalization. Such a load of horse manure."

Ole, ole! USA Today continued the theme: "You have to hand it to the rich, pampered individualists who once again were assembled to pretend to be teammates for a week on the US Ryder Cup team. They were very efficient losers."

Mark Cannizarro of the New York Post kept it up: "For the U.S., the culprits and goats were aplenty, but you have to begin with the top four players on the team - Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III and Jim Furyk. They finished a combined 5-12-1."

There were the inevitable comparisons to the failed U.S. Olympic basketball team. Steve Campbell of the Houston Chronicle referred to the Ryder Cup's version of the Dream Team as the "Creamed Team."

"Or maybe it is all of us," write Mike Lopresti of USA Today. "Too self-absorbed to notice the rest of the world plays golf...and basketball."

Individuals were singled out, of course, especially Sutton, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and poor Chris Riley.

Ryan called Mickelson's by now infamous equipment switch before the match a case of "unimaginable greed."

Hank Gola of the New York Daily News wrote: "Guys like David Love III and Phil Mickelson have had careers defined by their failures at key moments."

Amidst all this vitriol, there were few solutions offered. But, there were some. For example, the Americans all said they were unfamiliar with team play formats like foursomes and four-ball play.

"We never play it or practice it," Kenny Perry explained to reporters.

"But, if that truly is the case, there should be a simple solution: practice the format as a team more than just the few days leading up to the opening ceremonies," wrote Todd Behrendt of FoxSports.com.

The usual theories abounded of how the big, bad and wealthy Americans could lose to the pale, blonde Euro-weenies: lack of camaraderie, lack of team spirit, inability to deal with nerves, etc.

But, Ryan wrote: "Isn't it time we admit they're just better?"

The Euro players themselves were hailed as conquering heroes by the European media: one paper called them the "Detroit Lions."

The players were as diplomatic as they could be under the circumstances - sloshed on champagne and the adulation of a continent - although Ian Poulter passed around a package of tees at the American Express Championship that had the Ryder Cup score.

"I'm not using any of those," Thomas Bjorn, a European vice-captain at Oakland Hills told the Associated Press. "I think that would be a just a little bit too much of an insult."

The press on the other side of the ocean had no such sportsmanship in mind. It had a field day, again as you might expect.

One European headline sums it up: "It's Sutton death for gutless Yanks".

Among its favorite targets were the doomed "Dream Team" of Woods-Mickelson.

"I saw the bewilderment on the faces of the American fans clustered around the first green in the light of an early morning watery sun when they realized their heroes had feet of clay," wrote Oliver Holt of The Mirror in the UK. "(American fans) never learn. They never understand until it is too late that sometimes there is something more important than raw talent and world rankings.

"The Dream Team? Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson? What a bad joke that turned out to be. Scream Team maybe. Or how about the Scare Pair?...By the end of the day it had got to the point where they were so bad it was almost funny."

You might say by the end of the day, this guy could have come up with a better nickname.

In any case, Sutton, frequently referred to as the "swaggering Southerner" or "Captain Calamity," was also a lightning rod.

Holt referred to him earlier as "J.R. Ewing without the brains and the 10-gallon hat."

After the U.S. lost, Holt wrote: "But this weekend, as he steered his team to a stunning defeat, he confounded that criticism. He wore the hat."

The European press also had little advice for the Americans, one of the exceptions being David McCarthy of the Glasgow Daily Record.

"Here's a little bit of advice for America," McCarthy wrote. "Invade Fiji and get Vijay Singh on your team."

Can't wait for 2006.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Tiger Woods and the Ryder Cup

    Ivory Rubin wrote on: Feb 1, 2005

    Tim McDonald states that, "Tiger Woods may not care about the Ryder Cup, but the media certainly does."
    I have followed this young man's (Tiger) progress since he was presented to us as a young prodigy on the various television shows. During his amateur and professional careers, he has only demontrated a strong focus on winning every time he tees it up. So, that statement is not only an error and unfair, it is absolutely a bunch of crap.


  • Media Tees Off on Ryder Cup Team

    Ivory Rubin wrote on: Feb 1, 2005

    I may be in the minority (but, being an African-American male and a golfer, it is not unfamiliar territory), but I am growing very weary of the continous negative commentary that is direced at OUR team, as well as individual team members, by the "media".
    These guys who bang out words on a com-puter seem to be afflicted with the usual American proble-solving approach: Identify the problem; determine what individual or group should harbor the blame; and, never let them forget or get past it. Geez people, enhance your lives!!
    Maybe, all of those "pundits" should determine whom among them truly possesses the necessary expertise to identify the systemic changes that are needed and can evaluate the effectiveness of those findings. Then, present their ideas (plan) to representatives of both the PGA of America and PGA Tour players. That becomes a strong mixture of meta-cognition and proven physical skills which may result in a game plan that is unbeatable.
    I think my suggestion beats this on-going finger pointing and second guessing.


  • Ryder Cup and excuses

    Bob Henderson wrote on: Oct 20, 2004

    I think that it is going miles too far to suggest that "we should admit that the Europeans are better". I'm a Scot, living in Europe. I'm pleased, of course, that Europe won. But we've lost often enough in the past.
    There are many great American players, what is missing is an American team! This is not an insult, just a comment. The whole of American society is geared towards the individual, too much in my opinion. So when it comes to taking on Europe, team spirit is lacking in some players, not all though!
    Equally, at age 63, I remember team matches that I participated in were "foresomes morning, singles afternoon". To say that US players are not used to four-ball play is rubbish- the US essentially created four-ball golf.
    A problem for US golf in terms of the Ryder Cup is that every week, their players play 72 holes individual medal. Match Play hardly exists anymore thanks (or no thanks) to TV and sponsers. It's getting just as bad in Europe.
    Let's have some imagination guys. Match play is exciting, isn't it! Are there no sponsers with the guts to promote match play tournaments (I know there is one in the World Cup or whatever it is called and that's great).
    So Tiger or Phil or Vijay don't make the final every week! So what! They are great players and, generally speaking, they will usually be there at the end.
    Maybe I should withdraw this advice so you get stuffed next time!
    Love America! Love your golf (favourite course - Forest Lakes outside Orlando, affordable golf with lovely people!


  • Ryder Cup Articles

    Rick Hand wrote on: Oct 20, 2004

    Everyday I pick up my local newspaper and read articles written by supposedly educated & professional sports columnists, and yet it amazes me on how many spelling and gramatical errors I discover.Just read what you quoted Hank Gola of the New York Daily News wrote, "Guys like David Love III". It seems to me that with all of there experience and knowledge and talent, and the ability to rewrite there articles, that they could at least get a players name correct before the article goes to print, but of course they're only minor errors and why should I fret over them. Let's see , a professional golfer with all of his experience and talent, lines up a 10 foot putt. You would think that he should make it, even with half the golfing world watching over his shoulder, and yet it bears just a little to the right of the cup. Lose of hole, lose of match! What a choker! What kind of a team player is he? Let his captain and his country down! It's too bad he doesn't have the ability to redue his mistake, like a sportswriter does! Golf is still a game and if the winner was always predetermined, why have the match. Just like golf ,sportswriters are just entertainment that add to my life, but not to be taken too seriously!


  • Ryder Cup

    Mel Robinson wrote on: Oct 20, 2004

    You can actually sum up the American Ryder Cup Team in one word “CHOKE”...


  • Ryder Cup Team

    Jack wrote on: Oct 19, 2004

    Its happened before and will no doubt happen again. In this country fame and fortune seems to breed mediocrity as demonstrated by the USA Olympic Basketball Team. Maybe Captain Sutton should have noticed that but no one seemed to. The Ryder Cup Team just didn't have the energy (desire?) to compete for the same reason. The media, well, maybe it could be more helpful.


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