The fact that Gary Player’s Internationals hit back on the final day to win the singles 7-5 took a little gloss off the USA’s 19½ – 14½ Presidents Cup triumph in Canada this week.
But there was no getting away from the fact that the crack outfit Jack Nicklaus brought to the old and stately Royal Montreal Golf Club in Quebec last week was always a cut above their opposition and I’m sure if the singles were really going to mean the difference between winning and losing, they would have made damn sure they won them too.
As it was they went into the final day knowing they only needed to win three of the 12 singles matches to claim their first President’s Cup victory on ‘foreign’ soil, so if they were overly relaxed, you can hardly blame them.
The Americans have won all four of home Presidents Cup contests to date, but previously they had never won an ‘away’ match, losing the first in Australia and tying a second one in South Africa.
Part of the problem last week for Player’s ‘best of the rest’ excluding Europe, the USA’s Ryder Cup nemesis, Montreal probably felt like more of a home from home for the country’s American neighbours than it did for the bulk of the overseas invaders from South Africa, Australia, Korea and Fiji.
Mike Weir, Canada’s only major winner, thrived in his own backyard and with strong support from the local galleries, came off a pretty grim PGA Tour, picked up one of Player’s wildcards and proceeded to edge Tiger Woods in the singles.
But there was lot more to it than that.
Unlike their depressing body language when they play – and keep losing – their Ryder Cup battles with Europe, the Americans in Montreal always seemed to have spring in their step, smiles on their faces and clearly had themselves a real fun time last week – something I believe was heavily underlined by two things.
One was the sight of Woody Austin walking up the 14th fairway on Sunday wearing a a diving mask.
Austin had fallen into a pond on that hole on Saturday and was poking fun at himself in a way I can’t imagine anyone doing in a Ryder Cup match.
The other difference between the atmosphere at this week’s Presidents Cup and the last Ryder Cup was the laid back tone that existed in the American camp.
Tiger summed it up best when he told reporters that he always looked forward to playing in the President’s Cup when Nicklaus was captain because the 18-time major winner was always so relaxed and while he was always on hand with support and wise words for his players, he never cramped them and always gave his team plenty of freedom in which to best exploit their god given-talents.
“Jack tells us to go and prepare ourselves as we would for any important tournament. You don’t find him breathing down your neck and I have to say it makes it very enjoyable to play under him.
Now doesn’t this strike a chord somewhere?
Is fun in the sun the thing that for too long has been missing from the US Ryder Cup teams. Is fun and camaraderie the secret of Europe’s 21st Century success, maybe?
Is it the fun factor that for too long has been missing from the US Ryder Cup approach?
What are your thoughts? Why not drop us a line and let us know.
Neville Leck