From somewhere in that sky deliriously clogged with corks and
hats and shirts and roar and glee came the best thing of all: a
pair of dark, wraparound, screw-you sunglasses. That's how you
knew that everything about American golf had changed.
What's weird was that up until Sunday it looked as if nothing
had. The U.S. Ryder Cup team arrived in Boston with all the
emotion of wilted arugula. No team spirit. No camaraderie. Just
the same old story: 12 players, 12 Lears.
David Duval had called the Ryder Cup "another exhibition." Four
players had wanted pay for play. At the opening ceremony Tiger
Woods chomped gum through The Star-Spangled Banner behind black
sunglasses. The Americans got hate mail. They were heckled.
Duval played part of a Thursday practice round by himself,
prompting one fan to holler, "Hey, David, playing with all your
Well, just about. Coming in, Duval had about as many Tour pals
as five-putts. Being shy, bookish and having dinner every night
with the Marriott room-service guy doesn't help.
The European players, meanwhile, were breaking all of Bela
Karolyi's hug records. They read each other's putts, kissed each
other's wives, walked down fairways linked at the elbow.
But then an impossible, preposterous, wonderful thing began to
happen. The 12 American CEOs in spikes started melting a little.
They started acting like people. Better, they started becoming
teammates. Maybe it was the team haircuts that registered 13 on
the Stimpmeter. Maybe it was what Duval said when everybody was
just about to leave a meeting on Thursday night. "You might have
read I don't want to be here," he said through teary eyes. "I
do. I am passionate about winning this." Maybe it was the way
their captain, Ben Crenshaw, kept looking at them with those
aching blue eyes and saying how much he admired them, even after
they'd gone out and laid the worst opening-day egg for the U.S.
in Ryder Cup history. Whatever it was, Crenshaw found a Super
Even though the U.S. was down 10-6 after two days, even though
no team had ever come back from three points to win on the final
day, forget four, the unheard-of notion of American togetherness
started to spread like a sappy chain letter. In a Saturday night
meeting, every player spoke and every player cried. "Every night
I go to bed with a smile on my face," Woods said. "And every
morning I wake up with a smile on my face, because I can't wait
to come to the team room and be with my friends." His speech
stunned and then touched his teammates.
Crazier still, the Americans went out the next morning and
played as if they cared for each other. A guy would thump some
outmatched Swede or a lost Frenchman and sprint off to find a
teammate in trouble. Duval punched out Jesper Parnevik 5 and 4,
then raced rabidly around the 14th green, pumping the crowd to
ecstacy with his fists, exhorting the thousands lining the par-5
fairway to chant, "U! S! A!" Yes, David Duval.
Behind him, Justin Leonard trudged along the 10th fairway--three
holes down to Jose Maria Olazabal, needing at least a tie for
the U.S. to win the Cup--crying. Just then, teammate Davis Love
III sidled up to him and said, "You can tell me to leave if you
want, but I want you to know something: You can do this."
Leonard promptly lost 10 and after halving 11 was four down with
seven holes to play. Still Love stayed with him. Suddenly, all
heaven broke loose. Leonard started making a beanpot full of
putts, winning four of the next five holes and then burying a
45-foot bomb at 17 that won the Cup and sent the Yanks into a
fit of boorish, shameful and ridiculously emotional behavior.
Wasn't it great?
"I've been around these guys for a long time," said Crenshaw's
wife, Julie. "This week, they changed."
Apparently, when it suddenly hits you that one of the greatest
thrills in golf doesn't necessarily come with an appearance fee,
you lose yourself. When the national anthem was played at the
closing ceremony, Woods chewed no gum, wore no sunglasses and
put his hand over his heart. At one point in the postputt
pandemonium, family man Tom Lehman ripped off his shirt and
flung it to the crowd. Fluff and Tiger, divorcees, embraced as
if filming a Kodak ad.
High above them, from a champagne-soaked balcony overlooking
thousands of joy-drunks, Duval, newly baptized, ripped off those
hideous face-hiding sunglasses, reared back and heaved them into
all those yesterdays.
Better, they started becoming teammates.