As I heard more than one commentator say, the Europeans needed help to complete one of the greatest and most stirring comebacks the game has ever seen. They got plenty of it. While Rory McIlroy arrived an hour later than planned, nearly missing his tee time, one might wonder if the U.S team showed up at all.
If your name wasn’t Johnson or Jason, it was a horrible day to be one of America’s twelve. A few others also battled. Phil Mickelson didn’t lose so much as Justin Rose won, sinking three consecutive putts on holes 16 through 18, the last two for birdies. That was a turning point of multiple turning points. The other U.S. players … I don’t know what to say. It was hard to watch.
I’m not here to pile on. I’m certainly not angry. It was great theater. I like the European players, even though I was rooting for the United States. If you were sitting in my living room and we were talking afterward, I would say it: The U.S. choked. “Choke” is a dreaded five-letter word often avoided in the sports lexicon, especially by players, but also by the media. What you hear instead are wordy, tortured explanations about monumental failures.
Do you ever wonder what is said in private? I do.
I got emails from friends, who wrote: “Talk about Americans choking!” And “very sad to watch the U.S. team implode yesterday.”
European team member Sergio Garcia said this at the team media conference:
We needed to put the American team in a situation where we wanted to see how they felt with a bit more pressure on. Obviously everything was going their way throughout the whole week. You know, they were making the putts, they were getting the good breaks here and there …. Obviously a lot of the matches were won because some of my teammates played amazing and some others, you know, we took the possibility or the opening that they gave us …. So we wanted to see how they would react and see if they could hold it; and it was a combination of playing great and maybe then that little bit of pressure getting to them.Good answer, Sergio, something I would hope to say in your position. We know exactly what you said—in code, that is.
I badly wanted to see Jim Furyk make those putts that mattered so much. I wanted him to redeem a season of nightmare finishes. I was afraid to watch, honestly. I was relieved when Steve Stricker salvaged his par with an 8-footer on the final green. It set up Martin Kaymer’s gutsy Cup clincher. And I was glad to see Kaymer stroke home the winner, especially 21 years after fellow German Bernard Langer hit a pretty good putt on the final green at Kiawah that rimmed out.
An ESPN SN poll asks, “Which is more true of Sunday’s Ryder Cup outcome? Europe won it (or) the United States lost it.” With more than 53,000 votes cast, 77 percent say America lost it.
The blame begins for the United States. Bad captain’s picks. Bad lineup. They should have played Bradley and Mickelson on Saturday afternoon. Choose your reason, but it doesn’t really matter. The US of A should have won the Ryder Cup anyway. They more or less had it won as early as Saturday—with those guys, with that captain. But they gave it back.