It’s all over, but the proverbial shouting, of course. Barring the most monumental collapse in Ryder Cup history, the United States will walk away with the hardware for only the fourth time since 1995 (with one of those victories coming on the strength of a final-day comeback from four points down). It headed into the latest staging of the sport’s premier team event as an overwhelming favorite, and not simply because it set up the Whistling Straits Golf Course in Wisconsin to play to its strengths. That said, there’s a reason it won’t be counting on its triumph as a sure thing until it nets the 14 and a half points it requires to win.
Certainly, the US has demons to exorcise. Despite its supposedly ascendant status in just about every meet, it has mostly failed to live up to expectations. And for all the analysis spent on the cause for its continual underachievement, even casual observers need only take a cursory look at results through the years to see why. Its strength has invariably been in fourballs and singles play, as clear an indication as any of its superior talent, but relatively weaker esprit de corps. And, if nothing else, the Ryder Cup has been all about camaraderie; the key is to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
To be fair, the US has been making strides in recent memory. The “pod” system devised by captain Paul Azinger in 2008 has proven to be a boon. Ditto for the captain-and-assistants arrangement that fosters continuity through the Ryder and Presidents Cups. The intent is evident: to ensure that it meets its potential. Also adding to its confidence this year, and not without irony: six rookies in name only, boasting of match play experience in other events and tournament wins that underscore their capacity to perform under pressure.
When the US tees off for singles today, it will be in possession of a whopping six-point lead. It needs three and a half of the 12 points on tap to clinch the deal. On paper, the outcome seems inevitable. Then again, golf has a fickle nature, and nothing can be etched in stone for the red, white, and blue — not even on a friendly course in front of cheering fans. Today is the day it meets its date with fate. How it does so remains to be seen.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.