Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Ryder Cup 2002

There seemed to be a collective yawn coming from our side of the Atlantic after Europe wrested the Ryder Cup from the Americans on Sunday. Yes, it was exciting, and some people tuned in live in the morning to catch all of the action, but there sure wasn’t the fervor that’s existed around the cup since the mid-’80’s. Maybe it’s the fact that it was postponed a year, perhaps it’s because we were just trying to be good sportsmen, but that feeling that it was important wasn’t there.

We’re rooting for our guys, we want them to play well, but we just don’t want it as bad as the Europeans. And that’s reflected in our players as well. All are well off, multi-millionaires playing for their country once a year, arriving in their private jets, toting along family members, caddies, assorted outfits and all of the latest technology people can give them. Even the desire to win is there, and there in bunches, but it’s just not as important as it is to the Europeans.

Winning or losing the Ryder Cup can define a player’s or a coach’s career in European golf. Sam Torrance will now always be known as the genius captain who sent out his big guns first and swayed the momentum in favor of his team. (Conversely, I suppose, Curtis Strange will always be known as the foolhardy captain who left his best players, Mickelson and Woods, essentially on the bench.)

Just about all of the guys on the European side make their living playing golf in America. And none, save for Colin Montgomerie, have much bad to say about being over here. There’s not that snotty Faldo attitude to dislike, or the swagger of a Ballesteros to fume at. What’s not to like about Darren Clarke? Who is Nicholas Fasth? So it seems the popularity of the Ryder Cup has reached it’s zenith and come back to earth. If the popularity of the competition was actually based on one side’s dislike for the other, then the whole premise that Samuel Ryder put his name on the cup for was lost.

The players put together these matches originally, with Ryder adding the cup after two competitions. It was a gentlemanly way to square off, head-to-head using home course advantage on either side of the Atlantic. The Brits vs. the Americans, with all of Europe only being invited in the late ’70’s. The matches were scheduled every two years because of the travel originally involved. (Now both teams make the transatlantic trip via the Concorde. Three hours, three and a half, tops.)

America’s best player, Tiger Woods, half-jokingly said last week that he’d rather win the World Golf championship event than the Ryder Cup. “I can think of a million reasons (the amount of the winners check) I’d rather win here,” Tiger said. And in this era of golf’s Tiger mania, if Tiger says it’s not important, than it most not be that important. Now, if all of the sudden Tiger jumps up and says “The Ryder Cup is the most important thing in the world to me,” then it’ll jump back up in stature. And we know that’s not going to happen.