Rough Ryding

Wow I hate Spain. And England, Ireland, I even hate Sweden. My jingoistic frustrations coming from embarassment at our American Ryder Cup team. Okay, hate is way too strong, but watching the Europeans so easily dispatch our boys, our more talented boys, just plain hurts.

I’m not sure which is greener, the Irish countryside or my envy. The Euros play with passion and joy like I hoped we would. Instead we watch Sergio Garcia morph into Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods transform into (insert no-name, non-birdie making millionaire here. I’m going with Rich Beem). Seriously, it took Tiger Woods about seven hours of golf today to make one birdie. How can the best golfer in the world, riding a wave of spectacular play (5 straight PGA Tour wins) get so swallowed by the moment. It’s not choking. You can’t win 12 majors by the age of 30 and succemb to a choke job. Amazingly though, Woods 2-2 record is better than his recent past in the Ryder Cup (although Jim Furky thoroughly carried him Friday morning).

Meanwhile, Garcia, his countrymate Jose Maria-Olazabel, Darren Clarke, Paul Casey, Padraig Harrington, and even Colin Montgomery just revel in the enormity of the event. It’s not that the Americans are bad teammates, rather the Europeans are great teammates. They cheer each other on like brothers, and aren’t afraid to offer a swift kick in the keister when necessary (think anyone’s gonna jump Tiger for not making any birdies?).

Ultimately, the Ryder Cup shows what motivates better fear or joy. Team USA is afraid of letting down the country (at least I hope so) while the Euros simply want the joy of winning. They’re not playing for a specific country, they’re playing to beat the Americans. And around the world in this political climate, what could bring more joy than that.

I write this Saturday night with the Europeans leading 10-6, just four points shy of retaining the cup for the 5th time in six events, hoping I’ll have to eat crow. But even if the Americans rally to win (they came back from this same score in 1999) it will be as individuals, not as a team. And for me that takes away from a win. Americans should be great teammates, don’t we all learn that in kindergarten?

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