- Bob Verdi
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For those who wonder why America's recent Ryder Cup fortunes so often wind up in the toilet, Jim Furyk's choice of language was interesting.
"Constipated," he said. "That's how our guys look, and I'm sure when they look at me, they see the same thing. Every two years, when the time comes, whether we're at home or in Europe, it's like we're all constipated. We just get too tight. Any other week, including the Presidents Cup, we have more fun. Guys are on the range, talking, joking, loose. But when it's the Ryder Cup, everybody's mood seems to change. It's like we're going to work instead of going to the golf course. I don't know if that's why we haven't done better. It's got to be part of the reason."
Furyk has been a Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup fixture since 1997, so he probably didn't need that whirlwind visit to Ireland organized by U.S. captain Tom Lehman a couple weeks ago. Furyk knows the ropes and even played inside them at the K Club. Still, he thought the idea was brilliant.
"The least important thing we did was practice, see the course and all that stuff," he said. "The best part was hanging out with each other, getting to know the four rookies. It was a good guys' trip. I thought we'd get six or eight to go. We got all 12, which is terrific. That might take the edge off when we go for real, because the real thing will be nuts."
Indeed, there is every indication that all of Ireland is abuzz about the matches. Paul McGinley, a member of Europe's squad, says the Ryder Cup rates as the most significant athletic event in his country's history.
"The second-biggest would probably be the Special Olympics we had three years ago," he said. "It was massive. We had 85,000 at the opening ceremony. It was based in Dublin, but every town got involved, sponsoring different teams from different nations. This will be off the charts, though, the golf. And it comes at a time when our economy is booming. There isn't a stronger economy anywhere. The price of housing accommodations in Ireland is the highest in the world."
He can say that again. But hundreds of Americans are booked, and Furyk only hopes they get more for their money than did witnesses to Europe's 18½ to 9½ frolic outside Detroit in 2004.
"A bad week, all around," Furyk said. "The Europeans completely took the crowd out of it right away. I was hearing people talk about how there didn't seem to be much support for us. Well, we didn't give them much to get excited about. Even before it started, though, I thought we did a poor job of public relations. I don't know what it was. As soon as the Euros got there, they were signing autographs, being loose and mingling with the fans. We were, well, too tight again. When Tom said he thinks our teams lately have been playing not to lose, that's hard to argue. Anyway, by Friday morning in Detroit, the papers were scorching us for not doing this and not doing that. It was almost like we were the bad guys. Like I said, we did a poor job of marketing our team. That's no excuse. But the media's take was just another thing to deal with."
A local perspective on this year's taffy pull is in Ryder Cup 2006 by Dermot Gilleece, an Irish sportswriter who chronicles how his native land acquired the event. There are several nuggets within. To wit: When Padraig Harrington and McGinley were slotted 11th and last for Sunday singles in 2004, the brainstorm was not that of European captain Bernhard Langer, but Harrington's wife, Caroline. Also, critics of the come-lately K Club dub it the 750K Club, a reference to the "venue fee" paid to the European Tour for the place even to be considered. There are rare pictures: David Feherty playing serious golf at the 1991 Ryder Cup; Lee Westwood drinking a bottle of water. The course, designed by Arnold Palmer, is detailed in such a way as to suggest it was botoxed by Thomas Björn's good friend, Ian Woosnam. Europe's captain had three trees planted on No. 1, and the 12th green is so perilous, the Europeans shall "control the ball a lot better than the Americans."
Perhaps. But fresh faces on the U.S. team shouldn't scare you, and you have to like the fact that a trouper such as Furyk, who doubtless will be Tiger Woods' partner, is bullish without the b.s.
"Sooner or later, you have to forget the excuses," he said. "Yes, we seem to have more fun at the Presidents Cup than we do at the Ryder Cup. Yes, there are a lot of demands on our time during a Ryder Cup and a lot of pressures that come with being the so-called favorites as we have been in the past, although probably not this time. And, yes, the Europeans always seem to make more important putts than we do, maybe because they're more relaxed, maybe not. But after what happened two years ago, maybe we should just step up and admit we got our asses handed to us and move on. The theory that we don't want it as much as they do is flat wrong, because we do care. Probably too much. But that's just talk. We need results, not words."
Bob Verdi is a senior writer for Golf World magazine
Jim Furyk provides some words of wisdom for his Ryder Cup teammates when it comes to succeeding at next week's Ryder Cup.