I did not give Team USA much of a hope at winning this year’s Ryder Cup. Team USA did prove me wrong. What really surprised me were the players that were clutch under pressure. And it was not the players you would have expected. It was also a change seeing Team USA play as a team rather than 8 individuals paired together in the foursomes and fourball matches.
Team USA had three undefeated players in the Ryder Cup this year. Their names were not Phil Michelson (1-2-2), Stewart Cink (1-2-0), Kenny Perry (2-1-1), or Jim Furyk (2-1-1) they were Ryder Cup rookies Hunter Mahan (2-0-3), Boo Weekly (2-0-1), and J.B. Holmes (2-0-1). And Hunter Mahan and J.B. Holmes were captains picks. Only one Team USA Ryder Cup rookie had a losing record, Steve Stricker. Only three players on Team USA had losing records.
For Team Europe only three players had winning records and they were Ian Poulter (4-1-0), Justin Rose (3-1-0), and Graeme McDowell (2-1-1). Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell were both Ryder Cup rookies and Ian Poulter was a captains pick. Europe’s big guns of Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood, and Sergio Garcia did not generate one win for the European side. So maybe Lee Westwood did miss having Darren Clark as a partner in foursomes and fourball. It was nice to see Ian Poulter play well considering many thought he was chosen over Darren Clark and Colin Montgomerie.
How did each team’s captians pick fare? Faldo’s captains picks won 43% of the teams total points, 5 out of 11.5 (Poulter and Casey did not play together in any of the team events). Azinger’s picks won 8.5 points out of the teams 16.5 (like the European side none of the captains pick were paired together in the team events). Now Team USA did have 2 more captain’s picks than Europe but it would be difficult to decide whose picks were better Faldo’s or Azinger’s. Sure Faldo’s picks averaged 2.5 points per player versus 2.125 points per player for Azinger’s picks but Mahan brought enthusiasm and confidence and Holmes helped get the Kentucky fans on the cheering loudly for the Americans.
For the fans it was a great Ryder Cup. Many of the matches came down to the last two holes. Only one match in the singles was a real blow out with Anthony Kim beating Sergio Garcia 5&4. 75% of the fourball and foursome matches were decided on the 17th or 18 holes. It was frustrating watching the two top players from each team win a total of 2 matches. However the performances of the rookies and the captain’s picks from both teams made up for the disappointment of Mickelson’s and Harrington’s play.
What were the differences for Team USA this year? The enthusiasm that the younger rookies brought to the team and the crowd. Anthony Kim and Hunter Mahan displayed the same enthusiasm that Sergio Garcia showed at the 1999 Ryder Cup when he was a rookie. Speaking of Garcia he showed as much enthusiasm as my daughter when she has the flu. Being a veteran of the Ryder Cup I would expect Garcia to lead by example. But in my opinion the biggest difference between the two teams was Team USA ability to sink putts when needed.
Congratulations to Team USA on winning the 2008 Ryder Cup. Thanks for proving me wrong and 84% of the reader that voted and though Team Europe would win this year. Look forward to 2010 when the Ryder Cup plays at Celtic Manor in Wales.