TERRE HAUTE —
The recent Ryder Cup matches are over, but not done with! At the time the final match had concluded the “talking heads” had already gone to work assessing blame to those who didn’t live up to their preconceived expectations.
So it was with Team USA, on paper it looked like a walk in the park for the Americans who appeared stronger on a man-to-man basis than the Europeans.
Baldy Tim Rosaforte could quote statistics on top of statistics that would demonstrate how Team USA would be victorious. There was a huge problem with that type of thinking. The Ryder Cup was not to be won on paper, but on performance.
One look at the European squad’s gear would have given most an excellent idea of what awaited the U.S.A. team and that was the mystical presence of Seve Ballesteros, a hero of numerous Ryder Cup battles in years gone by.
Ballasteros died about a year ago after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Seve’s likeness was emblazoned on shirts, jackets, and head covers. Anyone could see that the Americans would be playing against not only a 12 man European contingent, but also the spirit of their fallen hero. In addition, the captain of the European squad was Jose Maria Olazabal, a protégé of Seve.
Despite these factors, Team USA went out and grabbed a 10-6 advantage going into Sunday’s singles matches, an advantage that few would expect to be in danger when man-to-man play began on the final day. In fact, the lead would have stretched to 10-4 without the heroics of Ian Poulter who birdied his last No. 5 holes.
Then it began to happen. Putts for the Americans began to slide by the cup, and the Europeans began to find the range. It would appear that the Europeans, all at once found the putting prowess they had missed earlier, or perhaps Seve Ballasteros was guiding their putts toward the hole. Soon putts were falling like snowflakes on Christmas Day.
Conversely, Team USA was having all sorts of problems on the greens. Of Davis Love’s four captain picks, only Keegan Bradley was living up to expectations. Add to those problems, holes 17 and 18 were turning into bug-a-boos for the American men.
More heroics from Justin Rose who drilled 3 crucial putts, two of which were from long range and additional help from the world’s number 1 ranked player, Rory McIlroy, the tide turned in favor of the Europeans.
Luke Donald rounded into form for Europe and the match became a stalemate with each team gaining 12 points.
With a handful of matches remaining, the Ryder Cup all at once was a white-knuckle affair that would present a win or lose proposition, which depended on which team would falter first.
Sadly for the Red, White and Blue, there would be no celebration. That was apparent the moment Martin Kaymer rolled home a six- foot putt on the 17th hole, and the Ryder Cup belonged to the Europeans.
The American team had hoped that the final singles match would extend to the 18th hole where Tiger Woods might secure the Cup, but that was not to be. Tiger would fail to win a single match, and finish with one-half of a point.
The Europeans came close to losing on a technicality when McIlroy failed to understand a time difference. He made it to Medina Country Club with 5 minutes to spare. Had he not had the help of a state policeman, the cup could have traveled in another direction.
The Ryder Cup began as a friendly get-together for professional golfers from England and the United States.
After some time it appeared that the competition was “one-sided” as the Yankees consistently cleaned up on the Brits.
Since Europe was added to team up against the American side, the pendulum has swung around to the point the U. S. has been having a most difficult time “holding its own.”
Now the popularity of the Ryder Cup is apparent with 40,000 rabid fans lining the fairways and circling the greens of Medina’s lush acreage.
The event has certainly morphed into one of sport’s outstanding spectacles.
Back in years mostly forgotten, the Rea Park golfers would make a pilgrimage to Indianapolis to play the Speedway team. The match would be held on alternate years with as many as 30 to 35 players on each team taking part.
Each team alternately furnished a great meal and a traveling trophy went to the winning team.
Those were great times.
• Tip of the week — Don’t put those clubs away yet. There is still plenty of good golf weather remaining. A bit of cool air never hurt at all when you remember the hot, humid days we experienced last summer.
Keep your head down and your shoestrings tied. We’ll be back.