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Last Updated: Monday, 20 September, 2004, 12:48 GMT 13:48 UK
Ryder Cup lessons
By Charlie Henderson

Europe celebrate with the Ryder Cup

Europe's record win in the 35th Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills has the victors celebrating a famous golfing success and the vanquished hosts smarting.

Bernhard Langer's European team arrived in Detroit as underdogs, but leave on top of the golfing world having won four of the match's five sessions.

In stark contrast the USA are in a state of shock, left scratching their heads after a record nine-point loss, going down 18-9.

But where does it leave the famous competition and what lessons can be gleaned, particularly from an American perspective?

1. HAS THE TIDE TURNED FOR GOOD?

Europe's previous record win came at The Belfry in 1985 when they won 16-11.

Since Sam Torrance raised his arms aloft after rolling in the winning putt against US Open champion Andy North, the USA have won only three times out of 10.

Europe are perennial underdogs, and while their team is always stronger than the sum of its parts it is only a matter of time before the Americans get their hands back on the trophy.

Sport is cyclical, and while Europe are in the ascendency as golf gets bigger on the continent, America's all-stars have to buckle down and meet the challenge.

2. WILL TIGER TURN HIS BACK ON THE EVENT?

Tiger Woods and his matchplay return from 20 outings is a Ryder Cup riddle.

How can a man who has won eight major titles have only eight points to his name? World number 41 Lee Westwood got more than half that in Detroit alone.

Woods prowls the fairways of the world week-in week-out only to get to the Ryder Cup where he frowns for three days and after each defeat the question is asked: Can he really be bothered?

Beating Paul Casey may not compare to slipping into another green jacket at Augusta, but his pride means he will want to improve his record, starting at the K Club in 2006.

3. WHERE ARE AMERICA GOING WRONG?

They just do not seem to get it.

Let them play as individuals in a strokeplay format and they would win nine times out of 10, but at the Ryder Cup, men who dominate the world rankings are ridiculed by the golfing Gods.

For one week only they have to forget about the bank balance and beating their buddies into the ground and play in pairs and as a team.

A good starting point may be to spend the week practising together - take note Phil Mickelson - and be willing to play anytime, anywhere with anyone - likewise Chris Riley.

4. SHOULD THE USA BE ALLOWED TO ENLARGE THEIR TEAM?

Great Britain and Ireland won in 1957. They never did again.

After 20 years of one-sided contests and with the concept dying on its knees despite tinkering with the format, a radical decsion was made and Team Europe came in to being.

Could Team North America with Canada's Mike Weir on board, or Team Americas with Angel Cabrera of Argentina involved, be the answer.

It would add an extra dimension, but more than likely it would prove a disaster - and may even further dilute the seemingly lacking team spirit. And if the insular Woods cannot handle playing with Phil Mickelson what hope has Cabrera?

5. SHOULD EUROPE GO BACK TO BASICS AS GB&I?

Nine of the European side at Oakland Hills hailed from either Great Britain or Ireland.

The Americans helped us out in 1979 by agreeing to Seve and co coming in, so perhaps we could help them by binning Sergio for Brian Davis.

The simple cheek of the suggestion is enough to bring a smile as broad as Monty's on the 18th when he holed the winning putt.

The golfing fraternity on this side of the Atlantic had to wait 28 years before getting their hands on the trophy in 1985. The USA can wait a bit longer before we start helping them.

6. WHY CAN'T EUROPE WIN A MAJOR?

If Ryder Cups are so easy to come by, why is the European cupboard bare when it comes to majors?

No European has won a major since 1999, when Jose Maria Olazabal's second Masters victory was followed by Paul Lawrie's surprise play-off triumph in the Open. That's a total of 21 misses in the last five years.

Time is running out for Colin Montgomerie, although arguably this is his major, particularly as he sunk the winning putt.

Take Tiger out of the equation and the USA have four majors, and this victory will prove a shot in the arm for the European team and Tour in their search to end the drought. Remember, sport's cyclical.

7. HOW IMPORTANT IS THE CAPTAINCY?

It's a cliche but if the match was played on paper the Americans would win and it seems successive USA captains believe that to be the case so long as they turn up.

As long ago as 1989, skipper Raymond Floyd flew into The Belfry and declared his team consisted of the "12 greatest players in the world". Cue a Jose Maria Canizares putt to retain the Cup.

Hal Sutton's plan in picking pairings had about as much science as a child playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey. What is needed is a thoughtful, erudite captain, not a patriotic brow beater.

The candidates: Step forward Mark O'Meara. If anyone can make Woods play to his potential his neighbour will.

8. DO THE QUALIFYING SYSTEMS STAND UP TO SCRUTINY?

In his defence Sutton was short-changed by his side's qualifying system.

Europe were invigorated by a new format split between the world rankings and the European Order of Merit which also helped in Langer's wilcard choices.

And as it was based over a 12-month period it also meant he had players fresh from the fight to win a place in a run of form. Paul McGinley fought for his spot to the death and then finished with 2 points from three matches.

The two-year qualifying period in America meant Sutton had the likes of Fred Funk and Kenny Perry - a combined return of no points.

9. SHOULDN'T GOLF AND THE RYDER CUP BE ENJOYED?

Maybe the Americans just need to learn to play with a smile on their face, loosen up and forget losing runs and inter-team rivalries.

They need to remember why they took up the game, have fun at the Ryder Cup and enjoy the friendships success would foster.

Admittedly, the pressure to hit a good shot from the first tee must be excruciating, but is it any more so than lining up a putt to win the Open when you are truly on your own?

While Tiger scowled, Sergio sparkled - and so did Europe.





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