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Published: Thursday, 10/3/2002

Emotional Europe brews Cup victory, while U.S. stews

We've all had a few days now to cogitate on Europe's Ryder Cup victory, and I think we can all pretty much agree on one thing.

If Davis Love III can't beat Pierre Fulke I and Phil Mickelson can't bounce Phillip Price - not Nick Price or even Prince Phillip, mind you - and Jim Furyk can't better Paul McGinley, then they might as well paint the dang Cup blue, fill it with spit-warm ale and put it on permanent display in the House of Lords.

Is that one thing? Whatever.

Here's another thing. Tiger Woods.

European captain Sam Torrance got off the best line, not to mention the best lineup, when he said that the Yanks had one Tiger, but he had 12 lions.

And speaking of lineups, U.S. captain Curtis Strange said he'd “never seen a team front-load” like the Euros did for Sunday's single matches.

Oh, really? Perhaps Cap'n Curtis didn't notice what his predecessor, Ben Crenshaw, did at Brookline three years ago when the Yanks roared back, like lions, from a large deficit to win by leading with their studs.

By the time the top Americans reached the nitty gritty at The Belfry, the Euros had clinched and Sergio Garcia was jumping around like a first-grader with a full bladder.

What a tiresome little annoyance he was, but you have to admit Sergio has the team thing down pat.

The U.S. golfers never did manage that. They didn't always practice together, they dressed differently, they walked down opposite sides of the fairway, they rarely helped each other read putts, they hardly talked. They did tap fists expertly on the rare occasion somebody won a hole.

Did we mention Tiger?

He went a so-so 2-2-1, one fourball win being gift-wrapped when Garcia's and Lee Westwood's putters went brain dead late in the match, and he managed but two birdies and couldn't beat Jesper Parnevik in singles.

And Parnevik has the yips, you see. And he couldn't drive the ball in a fairway if he was playing the back nine at the Bonneville Salt Flats. We're not saying he won't snap back, but right now he's doing an Ian Baker-Finch with bad hair.

And Jesper halved his match with Tiger, the No. 1 player in the world who, we are being told after the fact, may have been a bit under the weather. Which we have learned after the fact on other occasions that he hasn't played particularly well and doesn't win.

I thought he looked disinterested at times one week after making it clear that winning an individual title at the American Express Championship was more important to him.

Torrance, arguably the man most responsible for the Ryder Cup being the intensely heated event it is today, also may take considerable credit for the most recent triumph.

In 1985, exactly 28 years removed from the last British/European win in the Cup matches, Scotland's Torrance rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole at The Belfry to topple the Americans and signal a shift in power.

Last weekend, with his team tied heading into singles competition, Torrance led with his power - rock-solid Colin Montgomerie, Garcia, Padraig Harrington, the venerable Bernhard Langer, Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn, in that order. They won 41/2 of a possible six points. Europe's less distinguished players and the Belfry crowd fed off those early successes and the rout was on.

And Strange seemed genuinely surprised.

Merely pompous on his good days and arrogant on the others, Cap'n Curtis placed Woods, Mickelson and Love - ranked Nos. 1-2-7 in the world - at the point in the lineup normally reserved for your catcher, good field-no hit second baseman and pitcher. Had they been at the top of the lineup and lost, so be it. At least they would have gotten their at-bats.

Maybe the next U.S. captain - Hal Sutton is our guess - will understand that putting your biggest and best feet forward is the surest way to incite a stampede.

He'll get his chance just up the road at Oakland Hills in '04, and it should be a blast. The fairways will be wide enough to land cargo jets on, and the greens will be slicker than silk sheets.

Truthfully, though, neither the venue nor the captain will matter if the Americans don't make an emotional investment equal to the Euros' and play as if the Ryder Cup is at least as important as, say, the John Deere Classic.



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