Cheers and Jeers
Toasting the winners and roasting the losers from an
intoxicating Ryder Cup
This is an article from the Oct. 7, 2002 issue
COLIN MONTGOMERIE went 4-0-1 and Scott Hoch was 0-3-1, but there
were plenty of other winners and losers from a rousing Ryder Cup.
The classy Scot expertly tweaked the Belfry to his team's
benefit, he came up aces with his pairings three days running,
and he was the press conference MVP to boot. His Saturday night
call--"They've got one Tiger, I've got 12 lions"--was
Monty has long been golf's whiniest hypochondriac, but after a
summer of reputed back problems he was Europe's backbone for the
third straight Cup.
The star of the U.S. squad, this fearless rookie solidified his
standing as one of the top half-dozen players in the game.
Yes, they've always been more knowledgeable, but this time
around they embraced the Americans while simultaneously
inspiring the home team. Bloody brilliant.
The 45-year-old warhorse quietly went 3-0-1 in his 10th Cup,
moving to within two of Nick Faldo's alltime points record.
Curtis Strange's captain's picks
Scott Verplank went 2-1, including one of only two U.S.
victories in singles, while Paul Azinger's electric hole-out at
18 on Sunday secured what could have been a crucial half
point--not that it matters to Strange's myriad critics.
After three long years marred by controversy and tragedy, it's
nice to be reminded how much fun this hoary exhibition can be.
Irish eyes are smiling at the Belfry, again, as the underrated
McGinley's Cup-clinching putt joins Christie O'Connor's two-iron
in '85 in the pantheon of Ryder Cup final-hole heroics.
McGinley's vertical leap
He looked sadly Laimbeeresque hopping around after said putt.
Famously majorless, Mickelson could always point to his Ryder
Cup success for credibility. Not anymore, after a stunning Phil
flop in singles to Phillip Price, a loss that was the death
knell for the Yanks' hopes.
A neutered 10th hole and painfully slow greens made this
plain-Jane track seem even less worthy of such an august event.
Was it really less than three months ago that we were tingling
about a Grand Slam? Woods has never been more embattled, due to
an untimely 81, a final-round smackdown by Rich Beem at the PGA,
a huge p.r. gaffe over the lack of women members at Augusta
National and now an uninspired turn at the Ryder Cup, which for
some folks remains more important than the Disney Classic.
You know the Fleet Street gang is hurting when the biggest
scandal they can manufacture is Woods's early morning practice
He was looking invincible until a sudden spasm of the yips on
Saturday afternoon foreshadowed his brutal singles loss to Toms.
The most shocking shot of this Ryder Cup belongs to Garcia, not
Azinger: the young Spaniard's pull-hook into the water off the
18th tee on Sunday.
Davis Love III
Following Garcia's exuberant celebration in the middle of the
18th fairway after the Cup had been clinched, a piqued Love
tattled to Strange as if he were the school principal. C'mon,
Davis, lighten up.
It lost for the third time in the last four matches. To call the
Americans favorites in the foreseeable future is folly.
Tiger Woods will never be the go-to guy for the U.S. Ryder Cup
team. Woods doesn't care about the Cup, and his lone-wolf
intensity precludes him from bonding with his teammates, who
sense his apathy. Future captains should learn from Curtis
Strange's mistake and not bank on Woods.
On Sept. 23, a day after his seven-stroke victory at the Tampa
Bay Classic, K.J. Choi had an inflamed appendix removed in
Houston, where he lives. Choi began suffering stomach pain on the
eve of the final round at Tampa Bay--"like I had eaten too much,"
he told SI. He was sweating profusely and developed blisters on
his lips even as he shot a closing 68. Upon returning to Houston,
Choi took his five-year-old son, Kevin, to the family physician
for a checkup, and after mentioning his symptoms to doctors, K.J.
was immediately admitted for surgery. Choi was released from the
hospital on Sept. 24, and under doctors' orders he will rest for
three weeks, returning to action Oct. 17-20 at the Disney
After missing the cut at the Texas Open, Justin Leonard, the
hero of the '99 Ryder Cup, spent the weekend monitoring the
competition from his home in Dallas, where SI caught up with
him. "I know all those guys pretty well and know how they think
and play, so I guess I watched as an informed insider," Leonard
said. "We have a lot of good individual players who may not feel
comfortable as a team. How else can you explain the [5-8-2]
Ryder Cup record of Tiger Woods? You can't."
Ben Crenshaw, Leonard's captain in '99, skipped the trip to the
Belfry in favor of the member-guest at Austin Golf Club, a
course he developed and opened near his home about a year ago.
Crenshaw is still stuck on one Top 10 finish for 2002, having
finished 15th in Austin.
Garrett Willis shot a course-record 61 at LaCantera Golf Club
during the second round of the Texas Open, tying the low round
on Tour this year. Afterward he was defiant about his bad-boy
behavior, which has included four mid-round withdrawals this
year. "I'm loud, I rub some people the wrong way, but I look at
it as free publicity for me," Willis said.
Rich Beem and Bob Burns were the first group out on Sunday in
Texas, and they played so fast that upon reaching the 5th tee, a
startled pastor was forced to interrupt an early-morning service
he was conducting on the adjacent 9th green. Beem (who shot 70)
and Burns (69) completed their round in 2 1/2 hours.
News flash: The New York Times quotes anonymous Augusta National
members agitating for a female member. Prediction: Rosie
O'Donnell will don a green jacket before any member breaks ranks
and publicly criticizes club chairman Hootie Johnson.
VOTE AT GOLFONLINE.COM
THIS WEEK: Did captain Curtis Strange's singles lineup cost the
U.S. the Ryder Cup?
LAST WEEK: Should Suzy Whaley play in the 2003 Greater Hartford
Open, becoming the first woman to compete in a PGA Tour event?
--Based on 3,842 responses to our informal survey.
NBC'S BATTLE AT THE BELFRY
Nick Faldo made his U.S. TV debut at the Ryder Cup, and Johnny
Miller was hardly a gracious host. "It's like inviting somebody
to dinner and they bring food you don't need," Miller said last
week. Here's a recap of some key exchanges, along with our
commentary. --John O'Keefe
THE SCENE: NBC's play-by-play man, Dan Hicks, does a promo for
the comedy In-Laws.
MILLER: You've had enough of those, huh, Nick?
Faldo: (who has been married three times): Thank you very much.
(He goes quiet.)
SI: Ouch, Johnny! A fellow announcer's personal life should
always be O.B.
The Scene: Faldo clumsily describes the line of a tricky putt
facing Jesper Parnevik.
MILLER: Boy, you've got me confused. I'm glad you're not
caddying for me.
FALDO: (after the putt rolls exactly as he had predicted): I was
right...thanks very much.
SI: Johnny, this ain't Oakmont. We'll take Nick's advice at
the Belfry, thank you.
THE SCENE: Faldo, wearing his 1997 Ryder Cup blazer, speculates
that Paul Azinger's chip at the 5th hole during singles hung on
the lip too long before dropping.
Faldo: The rules official has left the building.
Miller: What, is your underwear blue too?
SI: Nick, next time leave the blazer at home. It makes valid
criticism sound like partisan cheering.
The Scene: Faldo and Miller discuss how a headwind is affecting
the 18th hole on Sunday.
Miller: The hole is playing harder today.
Faldo: I think it's playing easier. You aim at the trap and you
know you're not going to reach it.
Miller: But it leaves you with a longer shot than Christy
Faldo: Except with modern equipment it's more like a six.
Miller: Not into the wind. (David Toms pulls a five-wood for his
Miller: Nick, that's a funny-looking six-iron.
Faldo: It must be a new Parnevik design.
SI: You were dead wrong, Nick, but nice recovery.
The Scene: Faldo and Miller are discussing Ryder Cup pressure.
Miller: I know the players really appreciate me talking about
how they handle pressure.
Faldo: We need an NBC pressure monitor. Johnny, we could just
dangle you out the window. The players would appreciate that,
SI: Good jab. Let's just hope Nick was joking.