Every underdog has its day: Why the Americans can win the Ryder Cup

Monday September 8th, 2014
Tom Watson is the key to victory for Team USA.
Ian Walton/R&A/R&A via Getty Images

I was a part of every Ryder Cup broadcast from 1989 to 2004, so I've seen the emergence of Team Europe as a dominant force. I also remember when the Americans had the upper hand. On paper, Europe looks like the favorite in Scotland this month, but I've got three reasons to think our boys can turn the tide.

1. The Americans will be closers

When U.S. captain Tom Watson played the Greenbrier in June, he was asked what type of players he'd select with his three captain's picks. Instead of using standard measurements like world ranking or a general feeling of who's in good form, Watson said he was going to wait before making his decision to see how potential candidates closed out tournaments. It was a telling remark that gets to the heart of what the Ryder Cup is about. Every match is like trying to win a tournament on Sunday. Some matches are so pivotal that it feels like you're trying to put away a major. Bona fide closers are the guys who play without fear of failure. They're trying to win rather than succumbing to the fear of losing. Watson wants players who have seal-the-deal Sunday courage. That's huge.

2. The Americans will embrace adversity

I've been around golf a long time, and Tom Watson is the single best foul-weather player I've ever seen. He's won five British Opens. He has a timeless swing that's served him well for more than 40 years. He's a true legend. But his greatest asset? His attitude. Every time I've seen him warm up in pouring rain and lashing wind, he was smiling. "This is going to be fun," he'd say. Watson accepts the challenge posed by adverse conditions, while lesser men fold because of them. He'll make sure his team savors the trials and tribulations that the Ryder Cup presents, both the pressure and whatever squalls might arise.

3. The American are underdogs, so they'll be bold

For years, the Euros could say, "Nobody expects us to win." As a result, they began to play more aggressively, especially on the greens. Ultimately, putting is about attitude. You'll never make a putt that you're afraid to run a few feet past. The team with the best attitude will be the team rolling it the best. Back in the 1980s and '90s, when the Americans were expected to win, great expectations created a lot of pressure to not lose, and that's the worst way to approach the game. I think 2014 could be a different story. Playing a home game in Scotland, the Europeans will be the favorites, so the pressure may make them tighten up. Look for Team USA to play with a fearless underdog style -- especially on the greens -- that will win the Ryder Cup.

One final hope: The Ryder Cup is one of the world's greatest sporting events, and there's nothing wrong with playing with a high level of emotion. Still, I'd like to see the partisanship toned down on both sides. It's become extreme. Yes, when national pride is involved, players and fans become impassioned. But let's enjoy the spectacular golf without getting too negative. The Ryder Cup is more than an exhibition. It's a display of sportsmanship and camaraderie. It's about this great game at its very finest. And I can't wait.

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