by | Sep 21, 2004 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Let me get this straight. We lost the Ryder Cup because we didn’t hug enough? We lost because we didn’t laugh enough? We lost because there wasn’t enough charisma among the American players, because our guys didn’t hoist brewskis or sit around the camp fire singing “Kumbaya”?

Excuse me while I burst out laughing. How about this for an explanation, guys? We lost because we played badly. We lost because we didn’t make our shots. We lost because we couldn’t sink six-foot putts, we put approaches in the rough or in the sand, and we occasionally sprayed tee shots halfway to Pittsburgh.

I’ll take any of those explanations. They actually have something to do with golf.

All the rest is psycho-babble. The Europeans won because they played better. Close the book. Check it on the plane. Send it off to England, France or Spain with our congratulations.

But let’s stop rooting around the inner brains of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Hal Sutton and the rest. There are few sports that have less to do with teamwork than golf, no matter how much the bloated, self-important, whispering experts want to tell you.

The Ryder Cup competitors might be playing alongside one another, but the only time they actually intertwine is the alternate-shot thing, and even then, one player swings and the next player swings from where the ball landed. Heck, the Hatfields and the McCoys could play like that.

There is no baton passing here. There is no jumping for an alley-oop. There is nothing even resembling teamwork in its normal, sporting sense.

It’s a solo sport, golf. Always has been. It’s you against the course. You don’t win that battle by having a chuckle with the guy next to you.

If that were true, I would be a scratch golfer. People laugh at me every time I play.

They don’t have to like each other

“We just never got the charisma going,” Sutton lamented after the Americans’ worst loss in modern Ryder Cup history.

Charisma? What is this, “Blind Date”? Next thing you know, we’ll be hearing who got crazier in the hot tub, Fred Funk or Stewart Cink.

Please. Who gives a hoot whether Phil and Tiger like each other? Or Chad and Jay? Or Kenny and David? They don’t need to like one another. Hey, Kobe and Shaq couldn’t stand one another, and they won three titles together before their team finally collapsed — and those guys had to pass each other the ball!

There is no such requirement in golf. Break down the whole Ryder Cup thing. The first and second mornings, they play essentially a better-score-counts format. If the better score counts, you don’t need to know the guy next to you, let alone like him.

And please don’t tell me teammates give each other tips — like how the green is playing. For one thing, that’s why God invented caddies. Second, most pro golfers know enough not to suggest things to other pro golfers — even if their wives are wearing the same dress.

Then there’s Sunday. If companionship were the secret to the Ryder Cup, why is the last day — when the most points are determined — nothing more than one-on-one golf, where you don’t even see a teammate until you’re nearly done?

“I’ve been on the losing side of this twice now,” moaned David Toms. “We’ve got to find the right formula.”

Here’s the formula. Hit the first shot straight, the second shot at the flag and the third or fourth shot in the hole.

Trust me. You can win that way.

In golf, winning makes you happy

Now, I’ve heard all the talk about the pressure, and sure, pressure is always a factor in sports.

“We feel like we have everything to lose and nothing to gain,” Mickelson said. “If we win, it’s like we only did what was expected.”

Not anymore, Phil. So that problem is dealt with. As to the chumminess and passion we’re so envious of with the Europeans?

Well, consider this: Thursday night, Sutton told his team to “throw their hearts out there.” By Friday night they were behind by five.

On Saturday night, during a team meeting, they went around the table and spoke about how much the Ryder Cup meant to them. Some players reportedly cried. And what happened after this emotional, male-bonding, Euro-style night of camaraderie?

They performed even worse and lost by a record margin.

So much for “Kumbaya.”

Face it. Winning makes you happy. Winning makes you smile. The Europeans smiled and hugged because they were winning this thing before the breakfast plates were cleaned up Friday morning. So we can lose the TV analysts who, when Tiger Woods smiles, burst forth with statements like: “Now that’s the Tiger we’re looking for!” Please. For all we know, someone just told him a dirty joke.

The Europeans won because they played better. They smiled because they played better. They have a hangover today because they played better. It’s not charisma. It’s not attitude. It’s not desire.

It’s golf. Make your shots or go home.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or”


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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