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Countdown to a Landslide

Okay, pay attention—here's a recap of the recent history of the Ryder Cup, an event that feels like the Olympics of golf, even with only two continents involved and no French figure-skating judges.

1995: We choked. Curtis Strange in particular looked as if he were playing the last three holes attached to an oxygen machine, his caddie handing him hockey sticks. No one even remembers who Strange was playing that day (Nick Faldo). Doesn't matter. He needed to make one par down the stretch at Oak Hill and didn't do it. Brad Faxon missed the kind of six-footer he can usually make putting with the handle of his Scotty Cameron.

1997: We didn't even play well enough to choke. You probably remember this one as the golf-cart Ryder Cup—the Rider Cup, somebody called it. Captain Kite got ripped for letting Michael Jordan ride along, then we lost the Valderrama Grand Prix to Captain Seve, who zipped around in his souped-up cart as if his last name were Andretti instead of Ballesteros.

1999: They choke. But the scene everyone remembers is not the European team's mass gagging (with the exception of Padraig Harrington, who played so slowly people thought he'd stopped breathing). No, the photo-op for all time came at the seventeenth green, where Justin Leonard made That Putt and you immediately saw more blondes running than you used to see on Baywatch.

"That's the true Ryder Cup for you," says Cup veteran David Feherty, who went 1-1-1 for the Euros in the '91 War at the Shore, beating Payne Stewart in singles. "The action for this year, of course, started with the soap opera at Brookline. I was at the seventeenth hole, and all I remember is blonde wives and lots of insane hugging. I was afraid new relationships were starting after Justin made the putt, with guys hugging the first blonde they saw and then pulling back, saying, 'Oh shit, you're not my wife!'" Feherty, now seen on CBS, thinks the press has fanned the fires of a U.S.-Europe feud: "You had the media running as hard as the wives, back and forth between the two camps: 'Monty said this, what do you say?' Now fans believe the Ryder Cup is fueled by an animosity that doesn't even exist. Which, frankly, is just another reason to love it."

At Brookline it looked like our side had lost by the end of Saturday's matches. Europe held a 10Ð6 lead and only Captain Crenshaw seemed to think his guys had a chance, even in their ugly shirts. But we ran the table on Sunday. Now the Ryder Cup returns to The Belfry in England a year later than originally scheduled, due to the tragedies of last September 11. What had become an increasingly odd and passionate sports event played in odd-numbered years will now be played in even-numbered years.


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