It began with the Europeans wearing daft cheesy hats but it ended with them standing around with egg on their faces, Rory McIlroy adding genuine tears of remorse. Somewhere, a scratchy violin was playing a lament. This wasn’t a defeat, it was a thrashing. At 19pts to 9, it was, of course, a record win for the USA, the widest margin of victory since continental European golfers joined the old one-sided rumble in 1979. It also wasn’t a great surprise.
Even a cursory glance at the relative merits of the opposing players going into this 21st edition of the modern matches suggested that, if the Americans hit both form and the ground running, the power advantage of this new-look side would prove too much. What few of us anticipated was the nervenibbling extent of their collective superiority over those three days in Wisconsin.
I have seen big wins before, but not quite like this. What I have never seen is a European team so nervously shellshocked that it took until Saturday afternoon’s fourball matches for some glimmer of steely resistance to emerge. Until then they appeared a group suffering trauma. Timid doesn’t quite capture the apparent mood as their opponents outdrove them and then outputted them on greens that swayed this way and that, adding extra speed to the bumps as the weekend wore on.
This is observation, not criticism. No European player went out at Whistling Straits wanting to play poorly, wishing to pull on a cloak of timidity. It’s just that this is the way it looked. Supine is not a word I ever thought I would attach to a European Ryder Cup side, but this was the word that floated into my mind as I watched this one-sided battle over much of the first couple of days.
The blame game
I felt sorry for Padraig Harrington, a decent bloke who was doing his best, but his faith in some players, whose experience was countered by the withering effects of age, turned out to be largely misplaced. Ian Poulter asked us not to blame the skipper and I don’t. Only one captain has genuinely won a Ryder Cup in the many years I’ve been paying close attention and that was Tony Jacklin back in the 1980s.
Fact is no captain can keep hold of the old golden chalice if the players do not perform towards the sharpest edges of their talent. Who, for example, ever expected to see Wee Rory play so raggedly until freed from expectation in the closing singles, his win there one of only three the Europeans pocketed on that final day by Lake Michigan.
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