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Ryder Cup Maladies Can Become Chronic

Aftermath: Lengthy rehabilitation is often needed for those afflicted during pressure-filled moments.

September 25, 1997|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SOTOGRANDE, Spain — How devastating can a bad experience in the Ryder Cup be?

In 1991, Bernhard Langer missed a six-foot par putt on the last hole on the last day . . . a putt that would have kept the Ryder Cup safely in Europe for at least another two years. Since then, Langer has won once on the PGA Tour. Of course, it was sort of big--the 1993 Masters--but aside from that rather large victory, Langer has become known more as the misser-of-short-putts than anything else.

Another strike for the Ryder Cup curse.

Costantino Rocca missed a two-footer in the 1993 Ryder Cup and didn't really make another huge international splash until he lost the 1995 British Open to John Daly in a playoff. Of course, most of the questions Rocca had to face that week at St. Andrews dealt with how he could blow a two-foot putt.

Actually, there was one more question for Rocca: Was he a celebrity in his native Italy?

Said Rocca: "It's hard to be famous when no one recognizes you."

He has a point there. Rocca and Langer have been completely rehabilitated from their Ryder Cup disasters, likewise Mark Calcavecchia. He thought he had won his 1991 singles match against Colin Montgomerie, but halved it instead and was so distraught, he couldn't think of anything else to do except shave his head.

Brad Faxon closed his eyes and held his club next to his forehead after he missed a downhill, sliding six-foot par putt on the 18th hole last year at Oak Hill. That missed putt allowed David Gilford to win, 1-up. The U.S. lost, 14 1/2-13 1/2, so you can see what would have happened if you take a half-point away from Europe and give the U.S. a half-point.

Faxon said the bad part wasn't merely missing that putt. It was having to go to the Ryder Cup dinner that night at Oak Hill.

"It was like a victory dinner for them . . . and we were there," he said. "It was really, really uncomfortable."

No thanks for the memories, he said. Not the bad ones, anyway.

"Any great player remembers his victories more than their defeats or he's in big trouble," Faxon said. "The same's true for Ryder Cup. I don't think you want to dial those memories in and remember them forever. Bad shots, bad putts. Geez, forget them."

If only it were that simple.

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