There’s a reason “EXPERIENCE” is the first thing we list on our resumes: It matters. Experience is where we’ve been. It’s what we’ve done. It’s who we are. It’s a “massive asset,” England’s Lee Westwood said today at Valhalla.
Westwood was speaking of Ryder Cup experience, and he should know, having amassed 15 1/2 points in five Ryder Cups. But what if a player has only losing Ryder Cup experiences in his back pocket? Or, worse yet, only drubbings? (See the Team USA members of 2004 and ’06.)
What’s that kind of experience worth?
“Anybody who has played Ryder Cups in the last 12 years, I mean, we've lost five of the last six Ryder Cups, so most of their experiences are bad experiences,” U.S. captain Paul Azinger said last month. “So it’s not like experience is going to be a great help.”
Zinger wasn't just yapping. He went on to award three of his four captain’s picks to players without a lick of Ryder Cup experience: J.B. Holmes, Hunter Mahan and Steve Stricker. It’s better to have no Ryder Cup memories, Azinger seemed to be implying, than a scrapbook full of bad ones.
Westwood today took the discussion a step further, noting that to gain experience, you, well, need experience. “There might be a rookie on the American team that’s just made for the Ryder Cup, really raises his game for that situation. We’ve yet to find out,” he said. “I think it may be the same on our team. We've got four rookies and they might settle in quite easily. Who is to say Justin Rose isn’t going to be an unbelievable Ryder Cup player and never lose a match? So you never know all of these things.”
Which has helped make the Ryder Cup the game’s most consistently compelling drama. Even in blowouts, it’s great fun seeing which Ryder rooks can weather the pressure -- and which fold like Origami.
“These guys have all withstood a lot already to get here,” Stewart Cink, a four-time U.S. Ryder Cupper, said today of the American debutantes, who also include Ben Curtis, Anthony Kim and Boo Weekley.
“I think being a first time Ryder Cupper in 2008 is maybe quite a bit different than it was in the ’80s or the ’70s because there are so many big tournaments around the world. Golf is scrutinized more than ever before, and the Ryder Cup is just another event of which you have to really perform well. So they are tested. The six guys that are on our team that have never played the Ryder Cup before have a lot of experience in other ways.”
Just look at their resumes.