How to explain U.S. defeat: Ryder Cup flop really a dive

September 27, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

In the aftermath of Europe's one-sided victory in the Ryder Cup, there is only one logical explanation for the collapse of American golf hegemony:

We let them win.

Sure, you could chalk the whole thing up to the seemingly obvious factors, like the fantastic teamwork of the European players or that tabloid spoof about American golf wives that totally psyched out Tiger Woods, but it can't be that simple. There's just no way that an American team could lose that badly unless there was some greater geopolitical strategy at work.

I'm pretty sure this had something to do with raising European self-esteem at a sensitive time in our relations with the rest of the world. The next thing you know, we'll be throwing that major league exhibition series in Japan in November, just so nobody suspects the real reason we lost the World Baseball Classic.

Hey, when I come up with a conspiracy theory, I don't go half-stepping. There is no other explanation for the way America's athletes have been stumbling around the globe for the past few years. Do you really think that the U.S. basketball team with Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony could lose to Greece unless it was on purpose? I mean, have you ever been to Greece? They can't even keep their historic buildings from falling apart, and you think they could build a basketball team capable of beating a group of NBA All-Stars?

Don't even get me started on the World Cup. It's got to be pretty apparent by now that the reason we aren't one of the top soccer countries in the world is because there was a meeting after World War II where American diplomats decided to discourage the sport in the United States so that Europe would be able to dominate something other than cross-country skiing.

(Really, it's not that complicated. You kick the ball and sometimes you hit it with your head and during really big games you unnerve your opponent by insulting the virtue of his sister. I'm guessing we would have mastered that by now if we really thought that would further our international interests.)

Of course, a lot of people will look back and say that the European team won the Ryder Cup because it was, in every sense of the word, a team, while the Americans were just a group of individuals who showed up for another in a series of major golf events. The Europeans played together because they share the common goal of beating the United States. The Americans spend the rest of the year sharing the common goal of beating Tiger, so it's hard for everybody to get all touchy-feely for one weekend.

That would be a perfectly logical explanation if golf were a team sport, but it isn't. It's an individual sport that - in this case - is played in a team format. Tiger is the best golfer in the world when he plays for himself, so why would he be anything less (10-13-2 in Ryder Cup competition) playing for his country? Sergio Garcia is 41st on the PGA money list this year, but he has a career 14-4-2 record in the Ryder Cup, which defies explanation if you don't subscribe to my new theory of strategic American defeatism.

Before you dismiss the concept, ask yourself one question: If we really wanted to win this event every two years, would we really have a qualification system that allows a third of the U.S. team to be relatively unknown Ryder Cup rookies? How many casual golf fans know anything about Brett Wetterich, Zach Johnson, Vaughn Taylor or J.J. Henry? They're all fine young golfers, but they were 0-3-1 Sunday and helped win just one of seven matches during the pairs competitions Friday and Saturday.

Perhaps name recognition shouldn't be that important, but it seems odd to me that the European team was - top to bottom - more familiar to American golf fans than the American team. I suppose that's a function of the globalization of big-time sports, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Personally, I think the whole thing has gotten out of hand. We've lost five of the past six Ryder Cups, and the Europeans, particularly those from the United Kingdom, are starting to act like they invented golf.

The Peter Schmuck Show airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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