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American passion shines through

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Iain Carter | 13:03 UK time, Tuesday, 5 October 2010

It takes two fully committed teams to make a full-blooded contest - and that is exactly what we had over the unprecedented four-day Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor.

Let no one be in any doubt over America's passion for this biennial contest. Of all the extraordinary images generated by this compelling match, none resonated more than that of Corey Pavin's vanquished team facing questions at the closing news conference.

The ferocity with which Jim Furyk slammed down the microphone after being asked about his country's commitment to the Ryder Cup being called into question shook the desk and made it abundantly clear how he felt.

Then there were the tears of poor Hunter Mahan following his defeat to Graeme McDowell in the deciding singles match. When asked to recall his thoughts on the tumultuous climax, Mahan was so choked he found it hard to speak.

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It was Phil Mickelson who came to his rescue, deflecting attention away from his stricken team-mate by asking for the next question.

That should have been Pavin's responsibility but, in keeping with his performances all week in the media centre, he came up as short as he did with his choice of waterproofs.

Pavin may have been a different animal in the team room but he took an ultra-cautious approach when it came to his media duties.

This is why I turned to Tom Lehman, the 2006 captain and one of Pavin's assistants at Celtic Manor, to glean an assessment of what this single-point defeat meant to the US.

"I don't know how many guys cry when they lose a tournament but there a lot of guys who cry when they lose a Ryder Cup," Lehman observed. "Myself included, even as an assistant captain. It's difficult to take.

"People have been on the case of the American team for a long time about not caring or not showing emotion and I really appreciate that those guys [in the press conference] were vulnerable and genuine in showing how much they do care."

Lehman had huge sympathy for the distraught Mahan. "He needs to hold his head high. He played the US Open Champion. He played a guy who was one of the favourites of the fans here in Europe and it was him against tens of thousands.

"Hunter can be disappointed but he should not be embarrassed or ashamed. He should walk around knowing that he is one of the elite golfers in the world."

Lehman is quite right but, as he departed Celtic Manor, it was all Mahan could do to put one foot in front of the other. This is what the Ryder Cup does to you. It is a truly unique sporting event that ultimately is all about the contest. And what a contest it proved.

Hunter Mahan, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk at the Team USA photocall before the Ryder Cup

The USA arrived as champions but left perhaps as a stronger team. Photo: Getty

The 2010 Ryder Cup built on the renewed impetus the match was given by America's win at Valhalla two years ago. It ended a period of overwhelming European domination that was threatening to make the jewel in golf's crown look a little dusty.

The defeat of Sir Nick Faldo's team renewed Europe's appetite for the event and helped stoke up the passion that was so evident at Celtic Manor.

Some felt that European captain Colin Montgomerie did not make the most of home advantage with his course set-up. But by encouraging his players to engage their "13th man" - the Welsh crowd - the Scot made sure that the benefit of playing on this side of the Atlantic was not squandered.

It was a wholly uncomfortable week for Montgomerie simply because he fears defeat - and we must not forget that America won three of the four sessions. He is right when he says the cup was won on that Super Sunday, when Europe swept to 5.5 points out of six.

On several occasions, Montgomerie said to me: "Never again." And, of course, in the modern era the captaincy is a one-off gig anyway.

Montgomerie says the job should go to Jose Maria Olazabal next time around - and he is probably right, even though the Spaniard's poor health prevents him from spending much time on tour. Olly made a significant difference when he was brought in mid-match to become Monty's fifth vice-captain.

Tactically astute, possessing his own stellar Ryder Cup record and boundless passion for the event, he ticks every box to play the lead role in two years. He is also a continental European, which is another important consideration for the Tournament Committee when they assess who should take over for the Medinah match in 2012.

The one certainty is that whoever lands the role will have to steel his team for the onslaught that will head their way from an American team desperate to regain the trophy.

This was a young US line-up. The likes of Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and, of course, Mahan will have matured further and will form a nucleus that will have all the motivation they need.

Tiger Woods will also be around. This was the second successive Ryder Cup in which no American has contributed more points than him.

Yes, he was helped along the way by Steve Stricker but the important thing is that Woods at last had a partner capable of doing exactly that.

Woods does get the team thing, it is just that he is reluctant to show much enthusiasm for it in public. Then again, he doesn't publicly show much enthusiasm for anything these days other than for remodeling his golf swing - and that is clearly progressing well.

Mickelson remains the enigma but this defeat hit him harder than any of the others in a Ryder Cup career that stretches back to 1995. I have questioned his commitment in the past - and there was scope to do the same at Celtic Manor given his poor results in the fourballs and foursomes - but I think it would be wrong to do so again.

We now know this is a man who is battling an arthritic condition and, since his diagnosis earlier this year, his results have not been what we have come to expect from a player vying for the world number one spot.

Playing in the damp and mud of Wales in October must have been an uncomfortable experience for anyone afflicted with the condition he is fighting.

Mickelson appeared as disappointed as any of the Americans bar Mahan, who was utterly inconsolable. You might have thought he had lost his entire personal fortune.

But not a cent or a dime was at stake. It was just a golf match between two teams desperate to win. And it proved to be one hell of a match.

Medinah can't come quick enough.


  • Comment number 1.

    It is hard to believe that the Americans have ever felt anything less than passionate and committed about the Ryder Cup. It is a myth exaggerated by the media, who asked both the American team and European team about it in the press conference yesterday. Both teams shot the question down immediately and rightly so. This has never been true and the suggestion is offensive to both sides.

    The same is true of the American public, the anticipation of the Ryder cup here (Houston) is akin to that back home. They are a little quiter about it this week mind you. This fantastic competition is of equal significance either side of the Atlantic. And this year certainly did it justice.

    I would agree with the impression of Corey Pavin though. Montgomerie certain came across as more involved in the event.

  • Comment number 2.

    Well put. I'm glad to see an article about the USA team for a change, because they put up a great fight. The match was played in good spirits by both teams, in fact. I felt really sorry for Mahan in that conference; he obviously cares a lot.

    The Ryder Cup is still far and away the most exciting golfing event for me, and this year reminded me why. There's nothing like it in the individual game. I'm looking forward to the next matchup already.

  • Comment number 3.

    Really enjoyable blog! It was great to see the players show so much emotion. I wrote a piece before the start of the cup about the relevance of the Ryder Cup and how it will maintain popularity in the future - may be of interest

  • Comment number 4.

    What makes the Ryder Cup so special to both teams is quite simply the opportunity to play the sport they are passionate about within a team. Team spirit and teamwork are things golfers never get to experience anywhere else, and the Ryder Cup makes it abundantly clear how much they appreciate the opportunity. It was a joy to watch the passion and desire both sides displayed

  • Comment number 5.

    The local paper mentioned nothing of Mahan's emotion other than to say he made a hash of 17 and he was "tearful."
    Mahan can now be liked by me as a player because he is humanly flawed. he did his best and came up short. His feelings of failure are actually a form of grace. It is so ironic in a game of failure (no player scores a perfect shot on every hole and therefore all shots are simply degrees of imperfection) that it is assumed one will not break in the ultimate moment of stress.
    So as Mahan goes forth and competes he will be the first American player, in a long time that I will really support. I will him to overcome this adversity and be better for it and come out 2 years from now and give a good performance for his country yet again. He has created so much good will for himself.

    I'm sure Poulter's sale of a couple pair of shoes will be affected here by his enthusiasm but I think his never say die helped lead this team to this win.

  • Comment number 6.

    "engage their 13th man" - that basically means whooping up the crowd. This all started at Brookline in 1999 & IMO it has no place in golf. So no-one should complain if the Yanks go OTT at Medinah in 2012.

  • Comment number 7.

    Isn't some of that a bit unfair on Pavin, Iain? I've a feeling there were things that he wouldn't get into that he would like to have aired. For instance, I'm pretty sure he was affected more than Montgomerie by the compression of the schedule.
    And, is it presumptuous to suggest that Hunter Mahan, who is getting most unjustly roasted by the maroons of the US press, might have stepped in to the anchor position after another player turned it down? Mahan has been a stalwart of the American Teams the past three years, done everything that's been asked of him. Have to think he was stood down from opening fourballs because Pavin wanted to give Bubba and BoomBaby an airing.
    If Woods (bailed out time and again by Stricker until he could carry the load no longer) and Mickelson had shown half the passion during the team element that Mahan has consistently shown, your blog would have been wondering where all Monty's best-laid plans went wrong.
    Thought both Captains were great; glad there was a loser but not for the reasons you prefer.

  • Comment number 8.

    I think your assessment of Pavin is correct; not perhaps in comparison to past captains- he simply couldn't match the raw desire that
    i: Monty had to win the Ryder Cup for his team.
    ii: Europe had to win the Ryder Cup for Monty

    The next one should be a totally different affair. The young bucks will improve and Mickelson & Tiger will show up before the singles round.

    This cup has dramatically altered (improved!) my opinion of Monty.

  • Comment number 9.

    flooch wrote: "engage their 13th man" - that basically means whooping up the crowd. This all started at Brookline in 1999 & IMO it has no place in golf. So no-one should complain if the Yanks go OTT at Medinah in 2012.

    Anyone with a basic knowledge of golf in the US would tell you this should be the rowdiest Ryder cup ever. If they still sell beer during the day, rowdy wont even get a look in.

  • Comment number 10.

    Corey Pavin's decision to let Mahan play last in the singles match is the reason the Americans lost. I realize this is hindsight but Pavin should have insisted Tiger play last. Tigers redemption amongst his peers was only half realized by his play. The Americans lost. Stricker was sent out first to open the door, by beating Westwood the energy would be on the American side and the idea of Tiger (still the worlds #1) waiting to close the door in the final match would have sustained the other Americans to the win. Cink's commentary that Mahan asked to go last because "he wanted it" just doesn't fly. It should have been McDowell and Tiger for all the marbles.

  • Comment number 11.

    Tiger playing last...Lovely 20/20 hindsight which simply does not play. The chap had shown no "brilliance" in his play for 6 months at least until monday! Talk about roasting the guy for a mistake Pavin would have been slaughtered. If there are any comments about U.S. play generally it can be distilled down to how these chaps played No. 15. A very drivable par 4 which at the beginning of the week I would have taken odds the U.S. would completely make hay on that hole; obviously they did not, until a couple of putts late on Monday. It is actually the reason all 12 can take their bit of failing to win.
    I think the course was actually set up quite fairly to both sides. I think the greens were much slower than the americans are used to playing and again it was surprising on monday how many U.S. putts were short when they were must make situations! In closing up to the end, Mahan and Poulter could be seen as quite similar players very confident in their abilities and willing to take things on.

    Mahan simply learned a bit more about himself and which Tiger has not yet finished learning. Tiger's performance must give him confidence going forward.

  • Comment number 12.

    Tiger may have beaten McDowell but Molinari would have been odds-on to have beaten Mahan given they way they both scored on Monday.

  • Comment number 13.

    Corey Pavin's decision to let Mahan play last in the singles match is the reason the Americans lost. I realize this is hindsight but Pavin should have insisted Tiger play last.


    Even as hindsight, I find this to be barely credible I'm afraid. Consider how poor Tiger's form had been leading up to this tournament. There was little reason for Pavin to have chosen him to bring home the bacon so to speak.

  • Comment number 14.

    It's some u-turn from Mahan since those comments he made early in 2008 about the players being treated like slaves and the Ryder Cup being no fun. It's always interesting to see the effect of the competition on players once they're actually privy to the event itself, the same goes for McIlroy's 'exhibition' comment a while ago.

    Also going a bit off topic here, but does anyone know what's happening with the American captaincy for Medinah in two years' time? I haven't seen any speculation yet on who will be taking over the job from Pavin, and I can't immediately think of anyone to fill the role (I'd be surprised if Davis Love took the role, methinks he might still fancy himself to play his way onto the team). Paul Goydos perhaps?

  • Comment number 15.

    a couple of points i would like to raise:

    1 - did Monty dodge a bullet this week? Europe crawled over the line by half a point and had we lost, would everyone be looking at his wldcards? In particular the omission of Casey? As it was he won, so he got it right. But Harrington hardly justified his place.

    2 - does the USA playing one of these each year have a detremental effect? The Presidents cup does not come close to the size of the ryder cup, but I can see how it can become a nuisance to the players rather than an enjoyment and something to look forward to when you have one each year. They are more special to Europe. (lets not talk about the flat "seve trophy" that really should be quietly dropped)

  • Comment number 16.

    I know the media is important but this clip with the unfortunate Mr Mahan is almost like torture. Why didn´t someone interrupt it ?

  • Comment number 17.

    Living here in the USA and trying to follow the golf whilst I was traveling yesterday it was absolutely clear that the Ryder Cup is important to golf fans. They were desperate to follow the 'great comeback' or the repeat of 1999. It is true though that it does not match the passion that American golf fans hold for the US Open or the Open when it is played at St Andrew's.

  • Comment number 18.

    #14: LeoBertos: Davis Love III is almost certain to be the US Captain in 2012. If he was going to realistically play his way on to another Ryder Cup Team, why wouldn't he have done it for 2010? Or 2008??
    He's served his VC apprenticeship, it's his for the taking.

  • Comment number 19.

    The Presidents' Cup is a joke - the Yanks against a polyglot Rest of the World team, whom they usually beat comfortably. Another example of the PGA Tour goons wanting to control everything - unlike the Ryder Cup, which is the property of the USPGA. Having one of these games each year did hack off the pros, especially when they started playing the Presidnets' Cup away from home in their off season.

  • Comment number 20.

    The margin of victory is so narrow, I find it hard to analyse the two sets of performances, as if one was magnificent and one was lack lustre. The American team lost it one only one session, though they did it comprehensively. The US team had a mountain to climb on Monday and very nearly did it.
    As for the two captains, I feel that Pavin made the best use of his picks, Monty's picking of Harrington and the second Molinari, proved fruitless, and I think that the omission of Rose and Casey, both in form and experienced had more to do with getting a wider non-English representation than for pure golfing reasons. Neither distinguished themselves, with Harrington being utterly ineffective.
    Pavin redeemed himself with the strength of the comeback on Monday, but ultimately the choice of McDowell in the last pairing was the crucial one. Mahan can make birdies for fun and he has won twice on tour recently, so it wasn't an awful choice by Pavin, but GMAC is a major winner, and never gives up.

    On the issue of the US players passion for the Ryder Cup. Please note that the US play the Presidents Cup against The Rest of the World every two years, so they do have to split the love a little!

  • Comment number 21.

    writing this as a european fan. the entire us team and their captain were a credit to themselves, their country and to golf. their golf rarely fell below an outstanding level (tiger and stricker were poor against donald and westwood), their post round interviews throughout were gracious, honest and sporting and often struck a more appropriate note than those given by european players.

    the margins were so small it really came down to a (lucky) break here and there far more than any overwhelming gap in commitment, captaincy or golfing skill. had one match turned out differently we would be saluting cink, hailing a resurgent tiger and asking far more searching questions about monty's picks etc

    spectators on tv and at the course were treated to a week of brilliant golf by two totally matched and committed teams. lets hope for better weather but an equally close contest next time, and another victory for europe.

  • Comment number 22.

    That sport can be cruel was plain for all to see in the post Ryder Cup interview of Hunter Mahan. It was sickening to watch him struggle to speak and full marks to him for trying. True, Pavin should have stepped in to help as Phil eventually did. We should not forget it was only a half point win and up till the second last hole any bodies to take. Europe had the right man for the job in McDowell and the confidence his wonderful win at the US Open gave him was apparent.I feel that he will be a future leader of Europe as Seve and Monty have been. It was a spectacular event played in great spirits by both teams and again the crowds at Celtic Manor were as inspiring and fun as the K Club in Ireland 4 years ago. It is amazing how far Europe has come as a community from the WWII to the wonderful togetherness that exists now between all in the European union.

  • Comment number 23.

    I think this is another example of letting the result dictate hindsight rather than the performance. For example, if the fantastic Cink had finished off Rory in the second match which he really should have, then we would be looking at 14-14 and the americans keeping the ryder cup.

    What would have been the reaction then? I can just imagine

    "Monty fails again"

    "Why didn't he pick Casey?"

    "Corey genius"

    etc etc

    It was incredibly close, the americans won 3 of the 4 sessions and did not have much luck if i'm being completely honest. And i was cheering on Europe all the way.

    There was no disgrace in losing this time, no side got hammered and it was very very close.

    It is time to stop looking at results and focus on performances.

    Westwood only got 2 and a half points yet was sensational.

    Padraig got points on the board but was AWFUL.

    Dustin Johnson was unlucky to be paired with Mickelson or he would have got many more points.

    Stricker and Cink were utterly superb. Rickie Fowler was a revelation too despite not winning.

    Lets forget the result and look at the performances

    Also can i just say that there was a bit too much fist waving and crowd pumping going on? GMAC and RMAC were a fantastic combo but less of the bromance please?

    And the molinaris should stop the fist pumping and concentrate more on their putting.

    And well done Tiger on following up 3 awful days (he was carried all the way round by stricker) yet his singles round was utterly sensational. I very much enjoyed seeing that.

  • Comment number 24.

    Pavin has got a lot of stick, yet his four picks were all high scorers, and did far better points wise than Monty's picks, with Harington songled out by many as the poor pick.
    However, it may not all be about results. The team clearly wanted Harrington there, and that gave them confidence. Think back to players like Jean van der Velde who didn't play for two days, or David Gilford who played 18 holes with Nick Faldo without talking to each other, both in matches lost by europe, and you realise that there is a bit more to it than results.
    The team clearly believed that the captain's picks were the right ones, and that in itself might have given them the edge on a day like saturday, when everyone was out, that all the pairs there could win their matches. That extra bit of confiedence was probably the difference, in a tight and closely fought match between winning and losing.

  • Comment number 25.

    Pavin put out the team he thought could do the job and they did to a certain extent by winning the singles (yet again). He hid Tiger in the middle and rightly so given his form coming into the last day. Putting him out first or last would have seen him comprehensively beaten. Playing against Molinari (the weaker of the two brothers at this event) gave him an opportunity and he was able to relax a little and find some form. Stricker played fantastic golf all week but the pairing with Tiger in the foursomes was found out when they played against the class pair of Westwood and Donald, in foursomes both players need to be on their game. In my humble opinion the only reason the USA didn't win this time was because it took Dustin Johnson four days to sink a putt, if he had found the bottom of the hole sooner it would have been a different result.

  • Comment number 26.

    Harrington was hopeless, every match was a struggle and the singles was embarrassing.He has probably the worst Ryder Cup record of the veterans and I hope the next Captain leaves him out if he does not make it himself.
    Francesco Molinari wasnt great but he had earned his place and will be remembered for that wonderful chip on the 18th on Sunday that got the crucial 1/2 point.

    Totally different characters but both unflappable, the best was Luke Donald and second was Jimenez.

    The remarkable thing was the way the board looked early Monday - almost all blue, and late Monday - almost all red. Inexplicably, the top European boards folded after good solid early leads - led by Westwood who missed 2x4-5 footers at 6 and 7 to go 3 up and after that it was all downhill;Fisher flickered and fell; Kaymer was hopeless from start to end. McIlroy to his credit, despite quite erratic play, eventually got the valuable 1/2 point (those 3x1/2 were crucial). Fortunately the middle order held up with wins by Donald, Poulter and Jimenez. But where to get the other 1.5 points?
    Playing McDowell last was beginning to look like an inspired decision. He was solid and winning the 16th (?) was the most remarkable. So it was the US Open champion who enabled the European flag to be hoisted after the best player in Europe, the Volvo Mathplay Champion and the PGA champion had all been convincingly beaten.

  • Comment number 27.

    Completely agree with post 23. I know people have jobs to do, they must analyse every part of each sporting event etc etc but it is crazy to pick the bones out of such a close match. Any number of ifs and buts could be raised by both teams at this years Ryder Cup. Just enjoy the fact that we saw a truly fantastic match and a wonderful event. A carnival of golf if you like.

    One point I really must raise is in relation to the critiscm of putting Mahan out last...lets be clear, it is very very rare for the Ryder Cup to be decided by the last match. Those saying that Tiger should have been put last are missing this point. 9 times out of 10 the result of the 12th match is irrelevant. So putting your best player out last is lunacy based on the facts. You surely want your best player involved in the outcome? The fact that Monty could afford to put Mcdowell down there highlights Europes strength in depth but he would never have put Westwood, Poulter or Donald down there for the reasons i explained above. Same for Pavin - no way he could risk putting Tiger, Mickleson or Stricker in the last match.

  • Comment number 28.

    American Passion, from both players and fans, is easy to understand. They are representing and supporting the USA. It's more surprising to see generally euro-sceptic Brits standing to attention for the European anthem, waving the European flag and chanting for 'Europe'. Golf and the Ryder Cup has produced a new passion for being European. This article on a French based website sums it up nicely.

  • Comment number 29.

    While Olazabel is a continental European and will be a good captain does anyone think that maybe it is time Ireland had a captain of the team considering we've had numerous Eng/Welsh/Scottish captains as well as Continental Captains but never an Irish one?

  • Comment number 30.

    The great thing about this Ryder Cup is that every player in both teams contributed to the final score: none of them had a maximum of points, but none of them had zero points either.

    What's cruel in this case, is that each of the european players may be pride of any 1/2 point won, while each of the american players may sorely miss any 1/2 point lost... but that's the game, and a small difference is a small difference, just as a Major lost in a playoff...

    But i find it very sad for Mahan, as Ryder Cup is a collective effort. And in the end, it was all about Furyk, Mickelson and Dustin Johnson not playing at their best...

    But both teams and both captains deserve our respect, and one hell of a match it was, for sure... 2012 can't come soon enough...

  • Comment number 31.

    #29 jb1974

    I couldn't agree more and have already said I think Darren Clark would be an excellent choice.

    This is a man who has been through the mill and survived and I think he could bring great commitment and passion to the team. A caring man who would put the team first and his own personal gain at the bottom of the list.

  • Comment number 32.

    That was a scarily close run thing for Europe. I think three things got them through it. 1. The weather and conditions, which the Americans must really have hated.. 2. Guts and determination. 3. The backing of the crowd. The USA definitely putted better most of the time but Europe just about had enough inspirational moments to edge it. Great contest and great sport.

  • Comment number 33.

    Why don't we simply take the top 12 European players from the world rankings to make up our side? It seems so simple really? If you check out the current rankings, our team would be: Westwood, Kaymer, Casey, Donald, McIlroy, McDowell, Molinari E, Poulter, Harrington, Rose, Jimenez, and Fisher R. Those just losing out, in order, would be Molinari F, Karlsson, Hanson P and Stenson. What could be fairer than that? Wherever you play in the world, the points system allows you to fight fairly and sqaurely for a place. I f you prefer, drop the last two or three and allow the captain to pick some, but personally I don't see the point.


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