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It was a great Ryder Cup for Europe. It was not, however, a great Ryder Cup.
Sure, there was plenty of emotion and bravado, but the quality of play and element of drama at Oakland Hills never quite rose to levels achieved in previous editions of the Cup. While several players performed heroically, notably Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia, there was a strangely lacklustre feel to the proceedings.
It would be unfair to expect this biennial competition to yield fireworks every time, but as the weekend wore on it became harder and harder to ignore the fact that three of the four best golfers in the world this year Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen were not participating. Hard, too, not to wonder how much better the event might have been had it not been a strictly transatlantic affair. Golf is as globalised as any game nowadays, and if nothing else, Oakland Hills demonstrated that it is long past time for the Cup to change with the times.
Europe's victory certainly does not require an asterisk. Bernhard Langer's side brought Europe its fourth win in the last five Cups and humiliated the US in the process. With a final score of 18½-9½, this was the most lopsided European triumph in the competition's 77-year history. The visitors played with unity, purpose and passion; the hosts did not.
Tiger Woods has never been fond of the Cup and was his usual ambivalent self. Phil Mickelson spent two days before the event practising alone rather than with his team, and this followed by a week his decision to suddenly switch clubs in order to reap a $10m (£5.5m) windfall a change that appeared to result in some shockingly poor play and some barbed commentary from within the American camp. In team events, the better team usually wins, and that was very much the case at Oakland Hills.
Recriminations are surely warranted, but it must also be acknowledged that the US fielded a fairly weak side. Although the Europeans were considered the underdogs, they are always considered the underdogs, and in reality this was no upset. Yes, the American team included Woods, Mickelson, and Davis Love III, but all three had struggled in previous Cup appearances. As for the rest of the US roster, it was far from intimidating. There may not have been a shabby player in the bunch, but nor was there one who would have given Langer any reason to stare at the ceiling at night.
The relative mediocrity of the US team made the exclusion of so many world-class non-American and non-European players all the more glaring. The Ryder Cup is considered golf's premier international team competition; it was a bit odd, therefore, to see future non-legends such as Fred Funk and Stewart Cink participating while future legends like Singh, Els and Goosen were forced to watch on television. Think of how much more interesting the weekend might have been had the American team actually been the Americas team and included, say, Canada's Mike Weir and Argentina's Eduardo Romero and Angel Cabrera? Imagine if the Cup had also featured an African team including Els, Goosen and Nick Price? Or an Asian team anchored by the Fijian Singh, South Korea's KJ Choi and Japan's Shigeki Maruyama?
The case for including the rest of the world will only get stronger in the years ahead. As golf's appeal continues to spread, new strongholds will inevitably emerge. Two or three decades from now, China will undoubtedly be a golf powerhouse. Russia could well be producing champions, too. In the late 1970s, Cup organisers recognised that the sport had outgrown its Anglo-Saxon origins and wisely opened the competition to players from continental Europe. A quarter of a century later, golf has become a global game, and the Cup should henceforth reflect this evolution.
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