2006 Ryder Cup Preview - When Enough is Enough

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Images Courtesy of The PGA of America


STRAFFAN, IRELAND – When is too much, too much?


The 2006 European Ryder Cup Team. Photo Courtesy of the PGA of America.

That could very well be the main theme going into the 2006 Ryder Cup Matches, being held this weekend at the K Club (Palmer Course) in Straffan, Ireland (7,335 yards, par 72).  The Irish golf fans have been waiting for years for these next few days, and they’ve finally arrived with the usual level of anticipation, hype and fanfare.


Already the emotional favor has shifted to the Europeans, with sentimental wishes going to Ireland’s Darren Clarke, whose wife died of cancer last month.  Clarke hasn’t played since the British Open, but was named as a Captain’s pick by Ian Woosnam.


Golf fans have followed Clarke’s path throughout his wife’s illness, and admired his courage in playing through the pain.  I think most Americans would agree, it’s going to be tough to root against him this week, kind of like it was hard to root against Australian Stuart Appleby when he returned following the tragic death of his wife several years ago.

European Team Captain Ian Woosnam. Photo Courtesy of the PGA of America.


But taking the sentiment away, you find a lot of angst amongst the American team, who’re all too willing and eager to show that enough is enough when it comes to winning the Ryder Cup.


Too much?  How about Europe’s domination of the event in the past decade, having convincingly won four of the last five tournaments, with only the United States’ stirring comeback victory in 1999 to break the pattern.  In case you’ve been absent from viewing major golf media in the past several years, the Europeans thoroughly wiped out the United States in the last Ryder Cup (2004), humbling the Americans 18 ½ to 9 ½ right here on Yankee soil (at Oakland Hills, MI).


The 2006 US Ryder Cup Team features several new faces. Photo Courtesy of the PGA of America.

The Americans are saying enough is enough – and they’re tired of all the speculation surrounding how and why they’ve let the Ryder Cup get away from them, especially when they’ve fared well against perhaps better overall (on paper) competition in the Presidents Cup.


Too much?  Tiger Woods’ reaction to a recent Irish tabloid publication that claimed to have dirty (as in nude) pictures of his wife – and also made tasteless references to just about the entire squad of US spouses.


Woods was obviously infuriated by what he deemed as the taste line being crossed, and it didn’t take an expert in human behavior to see the fire behind his eyes as he opened his Wednesday press meeting with a statement about the impact of what the Irish rag called a satirical swipe at the US Team – and wasn’t supposed to be taken seriously.

Tiger Woods looked the part during his Wednesday press conference -- and he let them know, don't mess with the wives. Photo Courtesy of the PGA of America.


Well, is it serious when you call someone’s wife a porn queen?


Many a commentator has speculated that Woods won’t leave his fury in the interview room, but instead he’ll take it out on the European squad.  It’ll be interesting to watch his and the others’ emotional reactions along the way.


David Toms and his teammates take some time to sign autographs. By all accounts, the US squad is much more relaxed this time around. Photo Courtesy of the PGA of America.

Drawing Woods’ ire is not a good way to cheer on the home team – what good could’ve come from this, even if it was supposed to be funny?


Too much?  The endless talk about why the Europeans fare so much better than the often ‘favored’ United States squad in this match-play event.


A European player hasn’t won a major championship since Paul Lawrie captured the British Open (in 1999), yet this talented collection of individual American players has been clearly overmatched in these team competitions.  The excuses have varied from the fact the Europeans travel together during their Tour season (and hence, are ‘closer’), to the opinion that the Ryder Cup means a lot more to the European players than to the Americans.

Tiger's clearly having more fun on the golf course than in the interview room. Photo Courtesy of the PGA of America.


The US players have said it themselves – the Europeans have just made the crucial putts at all the right times.


US Team Captain Tom Lehman has already fired a pre-emptive strike against those who say the Americans aren’t ‘close’ by dreaming up several ‘bonding’ activities, and the players have responded with quite a few more smiles during their preparations this year.  Hopefully that will translate to points on the golf course.


Tom Lehman's leadership philosophy differs somewhat from his predecessors -- we'll see if it makes a difference in the results. Photo Courtesy of the PGA of America.

Too much?  It doesn’t hurt that the Europeans have to drag around the weight of being favored in 2006.  The much less taxing psychological tag of ‘underdog’ goes to an American team that includes the first, second and third ranked players in the world.  On paper, they still look pretty good, even if there are four rookies on the squad.


JJ Henry, Zach Johnson, Vaughn Taylor and Brett Wetterich.  It would take a serious PGA Tour fan to name the events these players have won, where they’re from, and what their playing strengths (or weaknesses) are.


But in the end, it doesn’t matter, because they all earned their way onto the team, and Tom Lehman knows what they can do.  They may be new, but there’s plenty of veteran leadership to balance it out – why doesn’t anyone talk about that?

The 2006 United States Ryder Cup Team. Photo Courtesy of the PGA of America.


The fact is, if Woods, Furyk, Mickelson, DiMarco and Toms (not to mention Campbell, Cink and Verplank) all do what they’re capable of, it won’t come down to a matter of rookie vs. veteran.


An American team victory in Ireland would certainly quiet a lot of the critics, and we’ll know for sure when too much was too much.



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