Advertisement

It's All in the Winnings

Victory could help U.S. erase recent past failures at Ryder Cup; it would be seen as a setback to Europe if it is unable to hold on to the trophy.

September 22, 2006|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

STRAFFAN, Ireland — Once Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk have hit their first tee shots in the opening Ryder Cup match against Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie of Europe, it's supposed to be the start of a new attitude for the U.S. team.

The big question is whether it will turn out to be a winning attitude.

It has been an all-too-common scene lately. The U.S. shows up for the Ryder Cup, the U.S. loses the Ryder Cup, the U.S. spends the next two years trying to figure out what went wrong.

But losing isn't on the mind of Tom Lehman, the U.S. captain who is trying to reverse the trend. Being defeated is old news, he said, and it's not going to wound anyone's psyche.

"I have to say that if something like that affected us . . . well, I'll just give you the short answer. No," he said Thursday.

The Woods-Furyk pairing was scheduled to begin the 36th Ryder Cup matches at what is a very long and very wet K Club, which is listed at 7,335 yards but will play even longer because it has been drenched by rain.

(The first matches in the best-ball format were scheduled to start at midnight today Pacific time. For results of those matches, go to www.latimes.com.)

The other best-ball matches are Stewart Cink and J.J. Henry against Paul Casey and Robert Karlsson; David Toms and Brett Wetterich against Sergio Garcia and Jose Maria Olazabal, and Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco against Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood.

Neither Lehman nor Ian Woosnam, captain of the European team, will reveal his pairings for the four alternate-shot matches in the afternoon until the morning matches are concluded.

Both captains said all 12 of their players would compete before Sunday's singles matches, which will end the fireworks that are just now starting to show sparks.

If there actually are turning points in the Ryder Cup, this weekend would be a good place to find one. The stakes, which are always high enough, are immense this time.

For Europe, holding the event for the first time in Ireland, failing to hold on to the trophy would be seen as a setback after the years it has taken to establish a degree of superiority.

"Having all the responsibility of Europe on your shoulders, this will be probably the most emotional I'll ever be in my life," Woosnam said.

But the burden on the U.S. team may be much heavier. It's all about the winning, or lack of it, that weighs on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Four defeats in the last five Ryder Cup matches, including a historic 18 1/2 -9 1/2 rout in 2004, have all but eliminated what once was a U.S.-dominated event.

After winning 22 of the first 25 Ryder Cup matches, the U.S. has lost seven of the last 10.

And the U.S. hasn't won the Ryder Cup in Europe since 1993.

Lehman said he is not concerned about the failures of the recent past, but losing Ryder Cup captains have not enjoyed deeply warm analysis afterward. Lanny Wadkins, Tom Kite and Curtis Strange were stung by criticism. Hal Sutton, who was the captain in 2004 at Oakland Hills, has all but disappeared from the PGA Tour this year at 48, playing only the Nissan Open at Riviera.

The line of succession for the U.S. captain's job might shape up this way: Paul Azinger in 2008, Corey Pavin in 2010, then possibly Fred Couples in 2012 and Davis Love III in 2014.

In 2008, the Ryder Cup is set for Valhalla Golf Club at Louisville, Ky., where the theme will be, well, no one has a clue.

If the U.S. wins here in Ireland, it's back on track, the past failures are history, the players are better than the other guys and the captain is a genius.

And if Europe wins again, forget all that. It will prove that nothing has changed in the Ryder Cup hierarchy after all, and the cue for second-guessing is given once again.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|