In the weeks and months leading up to the 37th Ryder Cup, one question was pondered by anyone with even a passing interest in the game. That was, how would the American team fair without Tiger Woods? This evening there is some tangible evidence that his absence might not be such a bad thing for team USA after all.
They went down early on this morning and immediately there were murmurings of another European Ryder Cup rout. But their status as underdogs has created a need to fight as a unit, to pull together for the greater good. It became clear that the sum of their parts was far more powerful than the dominance of one man.
As for the two captains, well even Nick Faldo would have to concede that his counterpart has made some shrewd decisions. Pairing Mickelson with the exciting young talent of Anthony Kim was, as the locals say, a no-brainer but playing Leonard and Mahan together was inspired. What’s more, unlike Faldo, Azinger has seen every member of his team in action. He knows who is playing well and who is struggling. They have all felt the nerves, the excitement and the adrenaline, they have all been inducted into the 37th Ryder Cup. Faldo, by contrast chose to leave the hapless Oliver Wilson on the bench. There is little doubt that tonight, Wilson will feel like an outsider in the European Team room.
Watching the European team romp to victory in the last two Ryder Cups was fun but there is a sense, on the European side of the media centre that we need a competitive match to ensure the old spark doesn’t die out. Under the expert stewardship of Paul Azinger, this American side has duly arrived ready to scrap for every point they can muster. This has made for some compelling, if uncomfortable viewing so far. Winning a Ryder Cup was never supposed to be easy but today Nick Faldo’s men discovered just how hard it can be.