While most Americans could be forgiven for turning their attention to Yankee Stadium this weekend, there was a far greater success going on in the United States.
Cue Valhalla Golf Course, in Kentucky. The Ryder Cup was the Americans first attempt to win it since 1999 at Brookline.
Coming in, the European team was not in the harmonious state it could have been. Nick Faldo was far from a popular choice as captain. The team was also devoid of past heroes. Darren Clarke and Colin Montgomerie were unselected. Luke Donald was injured. Lee Westwood has tonsilitis a few weeks beforehand. Sergio Garcia was not his usual excitable self. For the first time, the Europeans had a World Class player in Padraig Harrington. Ian Poulter and Paul Casey were unpopular picks as wildcards, although, it turned out that they were both great selections.
Compare that to the American team. Paul Azinger was very rude at times in the build up about the Europeans. That said, it helped instill confidence in the Americans, to the extent that former captains have not. While the Europeans were missing Luke Donald, the Americans were missing Tiger Woods. The loss of Donald was bigger however. Woods, and Mickelson for that matter, are nowhere near as good a matchplayer as a strokeplayer. Infact, the USA wouldn't have to cope with the underachievement of Woods during the weekend.
The first day started okay for Europe. Historically, Westwood & Garcia were together, a partnership that had played with much success previously. Rose & Poulter turned out to be an pairing by Faldo. However, Harrington was paired with Robert Karlsson and Graeme McDowell. He was unable to win a game on the opening day. He also split up Westwood & Garcia in the afternoon, splitting up a great partnership. Saturday morning saw neither Westwood nor Garcia playing, both apparently injured. Harrington lost again. Westwood and Garcia also failed on Saturday when kept apart. Both were apparently struggling, so if you had to play them, putting them together might have been better. That way, it wouldn't have effected two games. The order for the Singles I think was fine. Garcia was subdued and lost again. Boo Weekley was -7 for his rouund, giving Owen Wilson no chance. The bottom games involving Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington were both bad for Europe, with Westwood failing again, and Harrington continuing to underperform.
USA however was brilliant. Holmes and Weekley were the local lads, and became cult heroes amongst the American fans. They won 1 and drew 1 together, and created a feel-good factor around the course. Mickelson was still not invincible, but his partnership with Kim wasn't bad. The Singles saw the Americans play inspired golf. At the top of the order, Kim got the better of Garcia, and the middle order of local players got the crowd into the game. The US could afford losses in the bottom two games, as the match was won by then.
Where did Europe lose the Ryder Cup? Padraig Harrington didn't win 1 of his 4 games, and only halved one. Some of Faldo's plans and actions could have been conjured up by Baldrick, I'm thinking of the infamous "sandwich list", but generally his partnerships were as good as could have been expected. Although Europe were 5 points short, it would only have taken a 2 1/2 swing for Europe to win the Cup. If Harrington and Westwood won their games, then it would have been much closer. It then just took a half for Europe to win the Cup. It was far closer than the scoreline suggested, but throughout the Singles, Europe were always one or two points behind where they needed to be.
But I'm glad that USA won. The last thing the Ryder Cup needs is Europe winning all the time. Historically, if you add up all the rankings, the USA have been the better team, but not worked together as a team. Azinger brought back the team ethic, and USA prevailed.
Happily USA-Europe is an even contest, and long may it continue in 2010. The Celtic Manor course is completely new, and being designed to help the Europeans, of course, which means a more links-style of course, which will mean slightly shorter and more emphasis on accuracy. It will basically be an attempt to build a course like The Belfry.
It was good for USA to win this one, but I hope Europe regains the superiority in 2010. :-)