Saturday, September 20, 2008

Check Those Nerves, It's Ryder Cup Time

From the viewpoint of the spectator, the Ryder Cup is something that you survive as much as you savor. The American team has gotten its behind kicked on a regular basis since the miracle of Brookline in 1999, and on paper this one didn't look to be much different. Sports Illustrated issued a special Golf Plus Ryder Cup edition a week ago, and in it they included reports on all 24 individual players, ranking them from #1 to #24. Just based on the names alone, you would have had to make the Europeans a favorite, and factoring in recent performance, you'd be crazy not to have made them a huge favorite. And then there's that small matter of the world's greatest player being unavailable to the team. You can't discount that.

So I wish I'd written this yesterday morning, because after giving it some thought I figured that the Americans were going to win this year. The team was not burdened with expectations, was playing on home soil (on "hallowed Valhalla," according to one ESPN advertisement, which is one of the more amusing overstatements I've ever read about a golf course), and bouyed by its amazing performance in last year's President's Cup matches, although there hasn't been much carryover between those two competitions in the past. Plus, Tiger's absence really shouldn't have been viewed as a weakness - he has been a poor Ryder Cup player, and positively awful in comparison to the rest of his accomplishments.

So here we stand on Saturday morning, near the end of the morning foursomes, and the Americans have lost a chunk of their 3-point lead, but are in good shape to take a 7-5 lead into the afternoon matches. No matter what happens this afternoon, the U.S. team will be right in the thick of things in the singles matches, something which has not happened for over a decade.

Watching these matches can be excruciating. It almost makes sense to wait until the players are deep into the back nine, because things seem to turn up until the very last moment. The best example of that today has been the Mickelson-Kim team, surrendering a 4-up lead on the front nine to lose the match. Watching failure unfold like the layers of an onion being peeled back is not what I would call "fun."

Stay tuned. Depending on how the day goes tomorrow, some live-blogging could be in order.

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