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  Monday, 17 June, 2002, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK
Bethpage's Ryder boost for Europe
A smiling Sam Torrance
Sam Torrance enjoyed the weekend's performances

Tiger Woods' victory aside, the 2002 US Open was great news for European golf.

Why? Because it confirmed that there has been a complete reversal in form for the continent's golfers compared to their American Ryder Cup counterparts.

This time last year few would have given the out-of-sorts Europeans a hope against an impressive US team.

Not only did the US team dominate the world rankings - with Tiger Woods, David Duval and Phil Mickelson filling the first three places - they had also just enjoyed a highly encouraging collective performance at the 2001 US Open.

(world ranking in bold)
5: Sergio Garcia
13: Padraig Harrington
14: Darren Clarke
16: Colin Montgomerie
23: Bernhard Langer
35: Thomas Bjorn
37: Niclas Fasth
40: Jesper Parnevik
48: Paul McGinley
78: Phillip Price
83: Lee Westwood
91: Pierre Fulke
While South Africa's Retief Goosen took the top prize, players who would eventually make Curtis Strange's US Ryder Cup team filled seven of the top 20 spots at Southern Hills.

European captain Sam Torrance, on the other hand, had only Sergio Garcia in the top 20 - and he had carded a dismal final-round 77 to slip from third to 12th.

For Torrance it was a miserable weekend, as Ryder Cup hopefuls Lee Westwood, Jose Maria Olazabal, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Phillip Price and Pierre Fulke missed the cut, and Colin Montgomerie, Nick Faldo and Jesper Parnevik failed to mount serious challenges.

Now, after the second major of 2002, the picture is very different.

Padraig Harrington
Harrington enjoyed a fine US Open
Strange's team as a whole had a dreadful weekend at Bethpage.

At the top of the US Open leaderboard, Tiger did the Tiger thing, Phil Mickleson did his nearly-man routine and Scott Hoch came home a creditable fifth.

But beyond that it starts to get nasty. The full US 12-man line-up was there, and more than half failed to make the cut.

Europe, by contrast, had nine of their team in action, and just two missed the cut.

Garcia and Padraig Harrington performed admirably for the majority of the tournament, while Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn and Niclas Fasth all acquitted themselves well.

The same could not be said of such American luminaries as David Duval, Mark Calcavecchia, Paul Azinger and Hal Sutton.

It was the same story at the first major of 2002, the US Masters, where 10 of the European team and 11 of the US side were present.

Six of the European team made the top 20, with only Fasth missing the cut.

A smiling Sam Torrance
Torrance's team's fortunes have been transformed
The Americans, once again, had a shocker. Only three made the top 20 and five - Duval, Calcavecchia, Hoch, Jim Furyk and Azinger - missed the cut.

When the Ryder Cup was originally scheduled for last September, the Americans were red-hot favourites with even the most optimistic European golf fan.

The debate was all about the apparent weakness of Torrance's team, the lack of experience, the lack of big wins.

But many of the players whose participation was causing the most moans have hit the sort of form that silences critics.

For Fasth and Bjorn to finish top 50 at Bethpage and maintain their position in the top 50 of the world rankings suggests that they are solid enough players to handle the pressures of The Belfry come September.

With that showdown now only three months away, Europe's Ryder Cup hopes are looking better than at any stage since the teams were announced.

BBC Sport Online's US Open 2002 news section

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20 Sep 01 | Golf
16 Sep 01 | Golf
16 Sep 01 | Golf
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