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I finally played like a pro, but a Ryder Cup pro!

by J.W. Miller on 10/01/18

I went out and played 18 holes Monday morning, and I played just like the pros. Honest! If you watched any of the USA’s embarrassing loss to Europe in the Ryder Cup over the weekend you get an idea of how I played. I’d never put my fragile game close to their level, but if you watched any of the matches, you'd think their game had descended to my level. 

The best players in the world hit drives into the thick rough, and so did I. I splayed iron shots at weird angles, and so did they. Jordan Spieth, a recent No. 1 player in the world, could not buy a putt inside six feet, and neither could I. Brooks Koepka, winner of two majors this year, missed a two-footer, and so did I. After one foul shot, Justin Thomas rolled his eyes and looked at the heavens for cosmic relief, and so did I. Several times. 

I even hit one into the water today, just like Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson did Saturday when Europe held an 8-4 lead going into the Saturday foursomes.What’s even more remarkable is that on the same hole, European Sergio Garcia also hit his drive into the water, and mate Alex Noren was dry but muffed a chip shot. The pros all took triple bogey on the hole, while I “saved” about five double-bogeys but never went triple! 

In the post-mortem, most analysts said the American players were not well-suited to the tight, precise course at Golf Le National. American golf is so influenced by club and ball manufacturers who stress distance and power, and the courses are built to accommodate long hitters. European courses require less power and meticulous ball-striking, which the European team performed superbly at Golf Le National. Phil Mickelson is a Hall of Famer, but right now he ranks 192 in the world in driving accuracy, a stat that he confirmed several times. Phil even tried to achieve accuracy with a long iron off one tee, and he dunked it into a nearby lagoon. But Phil wasn’t the only American to hit wayward tee shots, and it did not take long for the European players to realize that par was their friend. 

USA Coach Jim Furyk was handed some of the blame for his pairings in the critical doubles matches. For example, in four-balls, where the player with the lowest score gets the point for his team, Furyk sent out the exact same lineup on Saturday morning that had blown a match Friday morning. He matched Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed, who on Friday took a 2-up lead on Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood then went without a birdie in their last eight holes. They lost 3 and 1. On Saturday, Furyk sent them out again and the pair combined for only three birdies on their way to a 4 and 3 loss. A Golf Digest columnist was more brutal, saying that European captain Thomas Bjorn was playing chess while Furyk was playing checkers. 

But enough about the American performance. Let’s look at the bright side that the Ryder Cup always seems to provide. If you are fortunate enough to attend a Ryder Cup, as I did in 2008 at Valhalla, you will discover that this is one of the truly great sporting events for fans in the world. You will not only see the best players in the world and (normally) great competition, you are constantly entertained by the costumed rooters from Ireland, Scotland, Spain, England, Italy and any other country that had a player represented. Other than their ubiquitous “Ole, ole-ole-ole” soccer cheer that rings across the fairways, they serenade their best players when their group passes by. 

In France, the best song I heard was sung by the Italian team cheering on their star, Francesco Molinari with a rewritten Dean Martin hit: “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, MOLINARI!” You can hate the golf, but you have to love the Ryder Cup. 

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