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COMMENTARY BY JOE BIDDLE: Ryder Cup rally should have Americans thinking

The Chicago Collapse. The Medinah Meltdown.

Those are just two alliterative descriptions of one of the biggest upsets the international world of golf has known.

It happened to the European Ryder Cup team in 1999. Same scenario. Trailing by the identical six points going into the final round of singles competition, Team USA overcame all odds to defeat the golfers from across the pond.

Maybe you have forgotten how the Americans won that day at Brookline in Massachusetts. The deciding match came down to Jose Maria Olazabel and Justin Leonard. Olazabel was 4-up with five holes to play. The 2012 Ryder Cup captain lost four of the next five holes. On the 17th hole, Leonard buried a 40-foot bomb that sent the American golfers tap-dancing on the green in wild celebration. They ignored the fact that Olazabel faced a 20-foot birdie putt that, if made, would have halved the hole.

Last Sunday, Olazabel and Europe turned the trick on the Americans and payback was hell. Ole’ Ole’ Ole’ Ole’ was in. USA USA USA was out.

Call it a choke, nerves, bad bounces, rotten luck, bitten by the ghost of the late European Ryder Cup legend Seve Ballesteros.

A little of all of those things are valid. But when all is said and done, it came down to one thing – golf. It brings to mind the old joke about why someone named the sport, golf. Simple. It was because all the other four-letter (cuss) words were already taken.

Many are making a big deal of Olazabel front-loading his team Sunday. Really? What choice did he have? He needed the wave of momentum they gained by winning the final two four-ball matches Saturday to carry over. The Euros won their first five matches Sunday and the trap was set. Americans won only three of the 12 singles on the darkest day in America’s Ryder Cup history.

On a clutch putt that Steve Stricker faced, he misread it as badly as some kid in the First Tee program. Veteran Jim Furyk’s putter betrayed him down the stretch. Ryder Cup rookie Brandt Snedeker’s putter, which had been on fire in recent months, was colder all week than an ex-wife’s heart.

And it was Snedeker, who after Ian Poulter said before the first round that he wanted to “kill’’ his American friends in Ryder Cup combat, countered with how he was going to try to “beat their brains in as bad as I can.’’

All of it was pre-competition bravado, for sure. But in the end, it was Poulter who delivered the goods for Europe, while Snedeker was slam-dunked 5 and 3 by Paul Lawrie, the oldest player on the European team.

“It’s a passion I have. It’s a passion I’ve seen at the Ryder Cup for years and years as a kid growing up, and it’s something that comes from within,’’ Poulter explained after keeping the Cup for another two years

The Ryder Cup itself has become high drama. This will only heighten the interest moving forward. It is such a departure from the regular PGA and European tours.

It forces golfers who only focus on themselves to come together as a team. No one is guaranteed to dominate in this format of alternate shot and four-ball competition. Perhaps this explains why Tiger Woods’ Ryder Cup record doesn’t begin to match his career record of dominating the PGA Tour and its major championships.

Win or lose, it is fascinating theater on grass.


Sports Columnist Joe Biddle is a four-time sports writer of the year in Tennessee. He can be reached at





Posted on: 10/3/2012


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