Friday, September 28, 2012

Will it take a Miracle at Medinah?

Where have all the great shots gone? That’s what American golf fans must be asking when the talk turns to the biennial team event know of course as The Ryder Cup, played this year on American soil at Medinah. During the event’s first 56 years, the stars and stripes dominated the competition but the United States and Europe have been playing since 1927, so we can all do the math. Since 1985 with the Europeans led by the late Seve Ballesteros, team red, white and blue has been just that, blue! Just four cup victories over the last 26 years. Narrow victories coming in ’91 and ’93, an amazing comeback under Ben Crenshaw in ’99 at Brookline and a whopping five point victory at Valhalla with Paul Azinger guiding the squad back in 2008. Well, in this political year isn’t in about time for team USA to show some pride and confidence? After all, that’s what the competition really comes down to, who gets hot with the putter and the confidence to step up in the heat of the moment. Case in point; The Battle of Brookline win 14 years ago. Crenshaw’s crew was getting housed heading into the final day of play, trailing 6-10 with the Europeans only needing 4 points to retain the cup. But United States pride came shining through, as the U.S. captured the first six matches of the day, taking the lead. Jim Furyk upset Sergio Garcia giving the Americans their 8th point of the day and then the United States celebrated wildly as Justin Leonard halved his match with Jose Maria Olazabal, leading a pre-mature celebration of epic proportions on the 17 green, before the Spaniard even had a chance to keep his team’s chances alive with a putt to win the hole. It’s still the greatest United States memory in recent Ryder Cup history and that’s the type of enthusiasm and confidence that has been lacking. Maybe a reason for doubt entering Friday’s 39th Ryder Cup is the year’s dominance of the European players. Team Europe sports four of the top five players in the World Ranking (Rory McIlroy and company), and that doesn’t even include their best cup players according to record in Ian Poulter (8-3-0) and Garcia (14-6-4). Team USA counters with five of the top 10 in the world, including a revived Tiger Woods (2nd), who won the 1999 and 2006 PGA Championships at Medinah. Despite Tiger’s reemergence as one of the top players in the world, his Ryder Cup record both team-wise and individually leaves a lot to be desired. In Woods presence, the United States is just 1-5 overall, while Tiger has been anything but an animal in the competition going 13-14-2 during his own matches. Woods hasn’t coward under the criticism of his play in the game’s overall biggest event. “I needed to go get my points for my team,” and I didn’t do that. Hopefully I can do that this week, and hopefully the other guys can do the same and we can get this thing rolling “, Woods told Sports Illustrated.Com. Woods opening play during the first day of competition on Friday didn’t improve however as during the alternate ball foursome, he and teammate Steve Stricker started things off with a 2&1 defeat to Poulter and Justin Rose. As of this writing, after the morning round the overall competition was even at 2-2. Another reason for renewed U.S. hope is the play of American rookie Bradnt Snedeker. One of four rookies for team red, white and blue, Snedeker is the hottest player on either team after winning the Tour Championship and the Fed Ex Cup last week. But what’s done on the PGA Tour and in major championships for that manner has little or no meaning when it comes to The Ryder Cup. Phil Mickelson’s four majors and Tiger’s 14 don’t intimidate anyone with the world team title is on the line. “Lefty” playing in his ninth Ryder Cup sports a record of just 11-17 and 6. Those aren’t personal stats that exactly excite the home crowd, who can really play a role in the play of either team depending on what continent the competition is being held that year. Without a doubt, team USA will be relying on the Chicago-area crowd to be rowdy, supportive and acting like it’s a Bears game out there after every American made putt. The United States roster which carries four rookies in Snedeker, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner and U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson who looked solid at last year’s President’s Cup, going 3-2-0 overall, could use the enthusiasm and kind of young innocence to provide an extra boost. Whatever the case, the run of European dominance in this event is a mystery. The bottom line is team USA captained by Davis Love III, a six-time veteran of the competition (2-4) needs to show some sac and simply outplay the visitors. There is no logical reason for Europe’s domination of the event over the last three decades. In this year of great national pride in the United States, it shouldn’t take a miracle for team USA to show some guts, make some shots and grab a little “Old Glory”, at Medinah.

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