The Collegian
Friday, February 23, 2024

Interpreting Europe's Ryder Cup victory

I'm no psychic, but I knew the U.S. Ryder Cup team would lose on Monday.

I didn't even have to watch the matches, because it had nothing to do with the players on the course. Europe won because, as a team, the players cared more about winning, and no one embodied that more than Sergio Garcia.

Yes, Sergio, the stalwart of Europe's past five Ryder Cup squads that posted a 14-6-4 record. Sergio, the player that Europeans have no problem grouping with the greatest European Ryder Cup players of all time.

But Sergio didn't hit a single shot in this year's Ryder Cup. Why? He didn't make the team.

Sergio has played so poorly this year that European team captain Colin Montgomerie didn't even consider making the 30-year-old a pick. So what did Sergio do? He went to Montgomerie and said: "I'd like to help out, please. ... I'd like to be part of the team. I'd like to be part of this somehow."

So Montgomerie made his best decision as team captain and gave Sergio the job as assistant captain.

Flash forward to the final match on Monday morning at The Celtic Manor Resort. The U.S., down three points after its awful performance on Sunday, staged a comeback in the singles matches to even the match at 13.5 points each. But U.S. teams always do well at singles matches because they are, like the name implies, single-person matches. In the Ryder Cup, it's the team matches that make the difference.

On the final hole of the Cup, Sergio was going absolutely nuts cheering on teammate Graham McDowell. McDowell proceeded to hit a beautiful chip to the 17th green to add a huge amount of pressure to U.S. anchor Hunter Mahan.

Mahan had to be watching Sergio before he hit his shot: jumping up and down, screaming like he was cheering on his native Spain as it won the World Cup.

He probably also saw Miguel Angel Jimenez, who was standing next to Sergio and rooting for his team while wrapped in a European flag.

He must have seen them, because he choked like a 20-handicapper with five bucks on the line.

After Mahan's meltdown, the camera quickly turned to the American team for a reaction, but there was none. Some might say its look was of disappointment, but the American faces looked more like men who were unhappy that this year's waterlogged Ryder Cup forced their flight plans back a day.

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The one positive that the U.S. team can take out of the weekend was Rickie Fowler. The Ryder Cup rookie made four consecutive birdies on the last four holes of his singles match, including two long putts on the last two holes, just to make the Mahan-McDowell match relevant. While Fowler's record was winless, 0-1-2, he displayed the team pride of a young European phenom who made his Ryder Cup debut 11 years ago.

Yes, Fowler looked to me like an American-version of Sergio. At the age of 21, Fowler has already become the emotional leader of the U.S. team. Let's just hope the rest of the guys don't rub off on him.

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