Europe Continues Ryder Cup Dominance over U.S.

Europe romped to another Ryder Cup victory Sunday, an 18 1/2 to 9 1/2 blowout of the American team on The K Club course in Ireland. This year's event marked the first time either side had won all five sessions of the competition.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Europe did it again. For the third straight time, and the fifth time in six Ryder Cups, Europe dominated the United States, winning the three-day team match by an overwhelming 18.5 to 9.5 score at The K Club in County Kildare, Ireland.

Commentator John Feinstein joins us now. Good morning.

Mr. JOHN FEINSTEIN (Author, Vanishing Act: Mystery of the U.S. Open): Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Simple question: What happened?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: The Europeans are better than the United States at this form of golf. By that I mean team play, getting along with one another, rooting for one another, playing together the first two days when you play with a partner. You know what they're really good at, Renee? Hugging. They love to hug one another.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FEINSTEIN: The United States looks like, you know, rich socialites who don't really want to touch when they have to hug. The Europeans jump into each other's arms. They're having a good time. The United States looks like it's -players looked like they were at a funeral all weekend. And it turned out this weekend they were at their own golfing funeral.

MONTAGNE: Well, a lot was made about Tiger Woods' poor Ryder Cup record going into the weekend. Talk to us about how he played.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: He played pretty well. He played better than the rest of the United States team. He won three matches out of five. Again, he didn't dominate the way he does sometimes. He didn't win all five of his points. But he did win his singles match. He won - he split his four team matches, but he wasn't a dominant player. There were no dominant players.

Tiger was certainly better, though, than Phil Mickelson, who was 0-3-1, the number three player in the world. So he played okay. He just didn't play well enough for the United States to get into a position to ever have a chance to win.

MONTAGNE: So clearly this was a team victory, but I gather the man of the match would really have to be Darren Clarke.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Yeah, without question he was the focus. Whereas all the focus here going into the matches was on Tiger Woods, the focus overseas was on Darren Clarke. His wife Heather died six weeks ago of cancer at the age of 38, leaving behind two young children. And there was serious question as to whether Clarke would be picked for the team, whether he'd be in an emotional state where he could play in his home country, Ireland, the biggest sports event ever in Ireland.

Not only did he play, he won all three of his matches. And when he holed out yesterday to win his singles match against Zach Johnson, the players on both teams came out on the green to hug him.

Tom Lehman, the American captain, was one of the first ones out there. They had a long, long moment together. Lehman lost a child, a stillborn child, a few years, so he could certainly relate to that kind of horrible tragedy.

MONTAGNE: Right. Well, there was a lot of talk about everything that the U.S. captain did to prepare for these matches - getting back to the U.S. team. Do we now second-guess anything or everything he did?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: I don't think you can. His captain's picks, Stewart Cink and Scott Verplank, both played well, and the Europeans were just better. They were comfortable and they dominated. No, it wasn't Tom Lehman who was out there not making putts, it was the players.

MONTAGNE: So what do the Americans do between now and 2008? The matches will be in Louisville, Kentucky, next time around.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: They need to work on their hugging, Renee.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FEINSTEIN: I think that's a key. They've got to start to get along. They've got to enjoy playing Ryder Cup, not look at it like a visit to the dentist's office. The Europeans look forward to Ryder Cup. The Americans dread it.

MONTAGNE: Is there any such thing as home team advantage in this situation?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well, there's supposed to be, and certainly in Ireland there was with all that great singing that goes on around the golf course. But in the United States I think the Americans almost feel more pressure because they're supposed to win at home.

One thing you can say, they lost by nine points in the United States two years ago, they lost by nine points in Ireland this weekend. So it seems to be wherever you put Europe and the United States and Ryder Cup right now, Europe's going to win.

MONTAGNE: John, thanks.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: The comments of John Feinstein, whose latest book is Vanishing Act: Mystery of the U.S. Open.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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