Why Johnny Can't Win The Presidents Cup is the U.S.'s last chance to take a team event in '03

September 21, 2003

What's wrong with American golf? In the immediate aftermath of a
Solheim Cup loss in which the Yanks literally quit and walked in,
Juli Inkster tried to head off the inevitable criticism, saying,
"It's not that they're better than us or they play with more
emotion or they have more pride than us or we don't play hard
because we don't have any money in front of us. It's just that on
these three days, they played better." O.K., but why do these
three-day swoons keep happening to Us and not to Them?

The Solheim whupping came a week after Great Britain and Ireland
beat the U.S. at the Walker Cup for the third consecutive time.
To put it in perspective, that victory raised GB&I's alltime
record to 7-31-1. (It appears they'll reach .500 by 2051.) Having
already lost the Ryder Cup last year, the Americans have an
excellent chance to give back the Presidents Cup, too, which will
be played in South Africa in two months' time. The last time U.S.
stars had to interrupt their vacations to fly across the globe to
play for their country for free, they suffered a historic
embarrassment, losing 20 1/2 to 11 1/2 in Australia.

The Internationals got a boost last week when their anchor, Vijay
Singh, stormed to victory at the John Deere Classic, his third
win in what has become a career year. (With more than $5.7
million, he nows tops the PGA Tour money list.) Singh, who
grooved his swing under a mango tree in Borneo, is indicative of
the kind of player who has eroded American supremacy as golf has
gone global. His puritanical work ethic is a stark contrast to
the me-first attitude of the spoiled, complacent, money-grubbing
modern American athlete. And that's just the amateurs at the
Walker Cup. In the months before this year's match, prospective
team members were brought together for a first-ever training camp
because, as one team veteran groused, the college kids who
dominate the roster expend most of their energy worrying about
which agents are in the gallery. (Women's amateur golf has none
of these worries, which may explain why the U.S. has won the last
three Curtis Cups.) Blame Tiger Woods for the shift in
priorities.

Woods sets the agenda for all things golf. In winning a USGA
title in six consecutive years, he made the amateur game a big
deal, just as his long-standing apathy for team events has made
them far less cool than they used to be. He famously skipped out
on the raucous party that followed the U.S.'s comeback at the
1999 Ryder Cup so he could go to sleep in his hotel room. This
lack of enthusiasm has shaped his team's identity every bit as
much as rah-rah Corey Pavin and Payne Stewart and Paul Azinger
set the tone during the golden years from the mid-'80s through
the early '90s.

It was during those epic matches that the balance of power
shifted from the U.S. Yet in every international match the
Americans are always a knee-jerk favorite, regardless of the
evidence at hand. Foreigners have dominated the LPGA tour in
recent years, emboldening the Americans' Solheim competition.
"We've always thought they were so much better," Annika Sorenstam
said. "This year I didn't think the gap was that big."

Fortunately, it makes it a better story when the mighty U.S.
struggles. (Nobody paid much attention to the Ryder Cup while the
Americans were winning 22 of the first 25 biennial competitions.)
And luckily, the trend figures to continue.

COLOR PHOTO: BRIAN KERSEY/AP (SINGH) WORLD BEATER Singh, an International team stalwart, won by four at the Deere to take the Tour money lead. COLOR PHOTO: JAMES NAZZ/CORBIS (CIGARETTE) COLOR PHOTO: JOHN COGILL/AP (GUINNESS) COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY OF WAFFLE HOUSE COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. (DROOPY) COLOR PHOTO: ADAM BUTLER/AP (TORRANCE)

TRUST ME

Despite the grumbling, it's no big deal that four singles matches
were conceded once the Solheim Cup had been clinched. But
captains need to have a plan on how to handle these goodwill
gestures.

THE NEW MATH
Euro tour stalwart Sam Torrance makes his Champions debut

(TRAINING + DIETING + THE ALLURE OF AMERICA) x DROOPY = [SAM
TORRANCE]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)