It’s back to the drawing borad for the U.S. Ryder Cup contingent after another miserable effort in Europe. Maybe they should throw out the drawing board, too.

The United States was no match for Europe in the 42nd Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, losing 17½-10½, the second largest setback for the Americans in the history of the matches. The loss was even bigger than the supposed train wreck Tom Watson oversaw in 2014 at Gleneagles, in Scotland. That squad, without Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson, lost 16½-11½, a defeat so dyspeptic that the PGA of America convened a special Task Force to address U.S. shortcomings in the biennial competition that Europe now has won nine of the last 12 times.

Of course, there no longer is a Task Force; decisions run through a Ryder Cup Committee. It’s difficult to figure out what decisions they could have made differently that would have changed this outcome. Europe’s dozen players outplayed their American counterparts, hitting more fairways, making more putts, converting more birdies.

“At the end of the day I tip my cap to the European side,” said U.S. captain Jim Furyk. “My team fought hard. I’m proud of them. I would take these 12 guys back into this tournament at any time. It’s just that their team played great. Every time we tried to put a little pressure on them, they responded.”

Conversely, the U.S. did not respond. It never seemed in sync, even when winning three out of four matches in the opening four-ball session. It just appeared to be hard work for three days, and in the end, the Americans had no answers to a spirited European defense of its home soil, extending America’s frustrations abroad for at least another four years.

What went wrong? Why did America, which has lost six straight times in Europe dating back to 1997, fall so far short? A few clues:

The Fatigue Factor: Eleven Americans competed in the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Europe had five. While this is not anything new for the United States—it sure didn’t affect the squad in 2016—it made a difference this week when they had to travel abroad. It appeared to be especially hard on 40-somethings Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, the latter who won the season finale, always a draining enterprise. The two captain’s picks, 48 and 42 years old, respectively, went a combined 0-6 this week, leading to a seventh team loss in eight Ryder Cups as teammates. Both looked sluggish and out of sorts. They just didn’t have it after playing seven of the last nine weeks.

“I think the fatigue would be making an excuse, and we’re not making excuses,” Furyk said.

“It’s disappointing, because I went 0-4, and that’s four points to the European Team,” said Woods, who was competing in the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2012. “And I’m one of the contributing factors to why we lost the Cup, and it’s not a lot of fun.”

He’s a big reason, though more because of things out of his control. See the next two items.

The Tiger Effect on Team USA: It continues to be a net negative when he plays. Woods can’t seem to bring his A-game to these matches, and after an 0-4 record at Le Golf National, he slipped to 13-21-3 overall. His two partners this week, Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau, were of little help in the team games. He now has had 14 different partners in Ryder Cup four-ball and foursomes competition and is 9-19-1. He is the sun burning up those closest to his orbit.

The Tiger Effect on Team Europe: Woods isn’t currently No. 1 in the world like he had been many times in earlier Ryder Cup appearances, but he remains the man everyone wants to beat. And when Europe beats him, the satisfaction is unmistakable. Look at the emotion Jon Rahm exhibited after closing out Woods, 2 and 1, in singles. It appeared over the top. It was just an honest, visceral reaction that meant plenty to a player who has been influenced by the 14-time major winner. A Tiger scalp is a memory to savor. In the case of this Ryder Cup, it also was the catalyst to Europe’s comeback after losing the first three four-ball matches on Friday. When Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood rallied to beat Woods and Reed, it sparked a run of eight straight European wins, which is a record. The U.S. never recovered.

Putting: It always seems to come down to putting. The Europeans enjoyed a massive advantage in familiarization with the greens. USA came into the week with seven of their 12 players ranked among the top 44 this season in strokes gained/putting: Webb Simpson (sixth), Mickelson (10), Dustin Johnson (30), Woods (39), Rickie Fowler (40), Bryson DeChambeau (41) and Justin Thomas (44). Europe had one, Justin Rose at No. 17, and only four of the top 100 starting with Rory McIlroy at 85, Paul Casey (89) and Ian Poulter (97). Francesco Molinari was a staggering 181st in the statistic. And yet Europe dominated on the greens. Alex Noren, who won the 2018 French Open at Le Golf National, capped off this Ryder Cup, appropriately, by sinking a monster birdie putt at the last to beat DeChambeau, 1 up.

“I think the Europeans definitely did a good job on the golf course. They know it pretty well,” Furyk said. “It was set up well, they thought, in their favor. It was a tight golf course. Their players played very well. We’ve just got to tip our caps.”

The Buy-In Factor: This wasn’t supposed to be an issue. But it still is. The U.S. commissioned a Ryder Cup Task Force to get the players more involved in the process of how the team is assembled and organized, and it seemed to work well at Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minn. But if the U.S. Ryder Cup Committee and the players were fully invested, then more than six of the 12 players on the team should have seen Le Golf National’s Albatros Course before Tuesday. The U.S. was outplayed because it was out-prepared. In an era when most players either use NetJets or have their own airplanes, there’s no excuse to not make a scouting trip sometime in the last two years. Is it any surprise that rookie Justin Thomas was the leading U.S. scorer with four points when he was the only player who competed this year here in the French Open?

Picks: Furyk’s choices for his captain’s picks—Woods, Mickelson, DeChambeau and Tony Finau—scored two points, both by Finau. It was hard to argue against any of the choices, even Mickelson who deserved to be here after nearly qualifying automatically. Still, that doesn’t mean that Furyk should have selected his good friend. Ryder Cup, with five pressure-packed sessions compacted into three days, is a young man’s game; there’s simply no other way around it, and it’s been proven time and again. Mickelson’s experience counts for plenty, but the young legs of Xander Schauffele or Kyle Stanley, the latter who ranked sixth in driving accuracy on the PGA Tour this season and would have been well suited for the narrow course setup, almost assuredly would have counted for more.

Furyk said he looks forward to meeting with the Ryder Cup Committee soon to discuss next steps and review the factors that contributed to the thorough U.S. defeat. “I hope it’s as soon as possible,” he said. “I’ll definitely kind of go through some things in my head and probably work with the PGA of America and our Ryder Cup Committee, and we’ll move forward.”

Forward would be ideal—after at least two steps back.

Source: www.golfidgest.com

ATLANTA – When the last chapter is penned in the groundbreaking and infinitely complicated life of Tiger Woods, Sept. 23, 2018, may get lost in the details.

His two-stroke victory at the Tour Championship on Sunday was impressive by any measure, but it wouldn’t qualify as his most dominant or his most clinical performance. If we’re being honest, his 80th PGA Tour bottle cap was like so many others, a battle of attrition that never allowed for a modicum of doubt.

There was a three-stroke lead to start the day, a birdie at the first to pad his advantage and a parade of nondescript pars that gave the season’s final round a marching band to nowhere feel. Given the gravity of what was a seminal moment in his career it felt so mundane, but then that’s always been the hallmark of his greatness.

After four back surgeries, four knee surgeries, an arrest for driving under the influence and more cringe moments than an episode of “America’s Got Talent,” this victory was so much more than the sum of its parts.

Social media was abuzz in the aftermath of Woods’ walk-off. From the depths of pain, pedestrian performances and poor choices Tiger put an exclamation point on what was already a successful return.

It had some calling this the greatest comeback in the history of sports, but then the car Woods was driving last Memorial Day only bounced off a few curbs, not a bus.

To be historically aware, Ben Hogan’s comeback after nearly dying in a car crash in 1949, a horrific event that was followed by a run that included eight major victories, should be considered the category leader on this front.

But as Tiger whipped a day’s worth of sweat from his face and considered his answer the more relevant question is where the 2018 Tour Championship ranks on his own lifetime resume.

“It’s certainly up there with obviously all the major championships I’ve won, Players, World Golf Championships. But this is under different circumstances,” said Woods, who closed with a 71 at East Lake for his first Tour victory since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. “I just didn’t know whether this would ever happen again.”

Woods is normally averse to this type of nostalgia, but even if he wanted to take a deeper dive it’s not a debate that lends itself to instant analysis. When your career has been a nonstop highlight reel of fist pumps and unforgettable moments there’s no easy way to rank greatness.

For some, the 1997 Masters, his first major championship, stands alone as a career high-water mark; while others may lean toward the 2000 U.S. Open where he lapped the field by 15 strokes.

“Those were special because of the way he did it,” said Butch Harmon, Tiger’s swing coach from August 1993 to August 2002. But for Harmon the Tour Championship was different. “He had a chance to win the last two majors. It’s impressive that just two years ago he couldn’t pitch the ball on the green. It’s not exactly Ben Hogan, but it’s along those lines.”

As far as clinical brilliance, most would say the 2006 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool is the benchmark. It was Tiger’s first victory after his father, Earl, died following a brutal bout with cancer and was nothing short of a ball-striking show.

“That was his best ball-striking tournament he’s ever had. That’s a different deal,” said Hank Haney, who served as Tiger’s second set of eyes from March 2004 to May 2010.

But it’s the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines that may stand as the competitive and physical pinnacle of Tiger’s career. On a broken leg with a torn ACL he endured 72 grueling holes to finish tied with Rocco Mediate and eventually prevailed on the first hole of a sudden death playoff after 18 holes on Monday.

“That’s No. 1, it’s not even close,” Haney said. “He didn’t win [at East Lake] with a broken leg. At the U.S. Open he won on one leg. It is unbelievable that he came back from four back operations, but once you’ve established that you’re back and you’re healthy you knew he’s going to win. A lot of things had to happen, he got off the prescription drugs and got his back healthy. But I felt like this was going to happen and he’s not done.”

But if the ’08 U.S. Open is the standard by which Tiger’s career will always be measured, his performance at East Lake deserves to be considered with a wider lens. This wasn’t about fairways hit or birdies made, this was about rounding a corner many never imagined he could.

At his darkest moments last year there was doubt he’d ever be able to swing a golf club again, never mind throw an 11-under total at the world’s best. The game had passed him by the critics claimed and even if he did find his way off the surgeon’s table the current cast and crew were a different breed who would be immune to his dominant ways and the aura he once held over the game.

This wasn’t Hoylake in ’06 or Pebble Beach in ’00, but in many ways it was better. There’s nothing better in sports than a comeback story and Tiger’s journey from a broken and burdened man to beaming on a final green is nothing short of a reinvention.

“The world is full of people who want to see a comeback story. We’re all coming back from something, so when you see someone do it inspires people to fight through it,” said Sean Foley, who stepped in for Haney in August 2010 and served as Woods’ swing coach until August 2014.

It was only last summer that the most common image of Tiger was a mug shot taken after his DUI arrest. The grainy image looking back at the world was a testament to how far he’d fallen, an unshaven and blurry-eyed shadow of the player who once seemed so untouchable. He couldn’t play golf, he couldn’t even ride in a golf cart his back hurt so bad, and his inability to do the one thing he was truly great at left Tiger to his own devices.

As he recovered from fusion surgery on his lower back he began to miss the game and the things that he’d done to transform it. As he returned, slowly at first before picking up the pace this summer, he allowed the world to see a different side, a player who was appreciative of what amounted to a final chance to be great.

There was emotion on Sunday and unbridled joy. His first victory in five years may defy assessment, but for Tiger there was so much more to his week in Atlanta than the history books could ever reveal.

“It’s totally different because of what he’s been through, but I’d have to put [his victory at East Lake] up there with one of his greatest victories ever because of what he’s been through, the mental and physical, the disgrace,” Harmon said.

Maybe the 2018 Tour Championship won’t go down as Tiger’s masterpiece when he hangs up his Nikes. Maybe what awaits will be the true measure of his genius.

“The greatest accomplishment in sports is going to be when he’s No. 1 again and that’s going to be pretty soon,” Haney said. “When he returns to No. 1 it won’t be a debate.”

With fans stacked five and six rows deep along every fairway, probably the biggest crowd East Lake has seen since Bobby Jones was stalking the rolling hills, Tiger played the script he invented, a bullish version of what Stewart Cink once called a prevent defense.

The only change to this all-too-familiar routine was the pregnant pause he allowed himself after putting out on the 18th hole, slamming his putter into the ground and raising his arms in triumph.

In a historic twist it was the same green where Jones, who pulled off an impressive comeback of his own once, ended his golf career. It was only apropos that Tiger would complete his comeback and restart his career on the same spot.

By: Rex Hoggard | Source: golfchannel.com

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