At home, hope for best

FACEOFF

Can the Americans win the Ryder Cup without Tiger Woods?

September 16, 2008|By BILL ORDINE

If this Ryder Cup were decided merely on obvious talent and recent accomplishment, we wouldn't have to play the tournament. We would just hand the gold cup topped with the little golfer over to the Europeans and let it go at that.

And you know, that would still be true even if the recuperating Tiger Woods were teeing it up for the United States, because his presence has not made up for what has basically deviled the Americans in the past three Ryder Cups (all European wins): a lack of depth.

Now, would anyone ever argue that an American roster without Tiger is better than one with him? Never. But the Americans still can make his absence work to their advantage.

The U.S. now assumes the role of overwhelming, little-regarded underdog - and with it, potentially a junkyard-dog mentality. And the Americans can assume that feisty role in the most favorable of circumstances, on the home turf at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.

Adding to its home-field advantage, the U.S. has two Kentuckians on the 12-man roster, Kenny Perry, third in Ryder Cup points, and young J.B. Holmes, one of captain Paul Azinger's hand-selected picks. Perry has three tournament wins this year, and Holmes, 23, comes in as a long-ball hitter who is intimate with Valhalla's nearly 7,500 yards.

Without Tiger, Phil Mickelson is the American team's biggest star, while the Europeans have the likes of Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington, winner of two majors this year, the British Open and the PGA Championship.

But this competition is about "team" concepts and match play. The Americans don't need superior efforts in all 28 events, just superlative ones in more than half, and that's where the lift as a home-field 'dog and, yes, even a surge of patriotism, can make the difference.

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