One of the major differences between this year’s Ryder Cup and those contested in 2004 and 2006 is that Europe will be the prohibitive favorite. Not only will Tiger Woods not be playing for the U.S., but the European team is also stacked with both experienced stars and golfers who seem to be peaking at just the right time. Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey and Henrik Stenson are going to make the visiting team tough to beat.
In some ways they remind me of last season’s New England Patriots. The Pats seemed invincible, and after going undefeated in the regular season they rolled into the Super Bowl with talk of destiny ringing in their ears.
So maybe it’s a good omen that Ben Curtis, one of the eight players who has already qualified for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, wore a New York Giants logo on his chest Sunday at the Barclays. Curtis turned in yet another stellar performance and tied for fourth. Only a loose approach shot on the 16th hole, which eventually led to his only bogey of the day, kept Curtis out of the playoff with Garcia, Kevin Sutherland and the eventual winner, Vijay Singh.
Aside from Justin Leonard’s tie for seventh, Curtis provided Paul Azinger with the lone bright light at the Barclays. After taking the lead on Friday, Steve Stricker’s 77 on Saturday did not bode well for how he might handle Ryder Cup pressure. And after shooting 62 in the opening round, Hunter Mahan’s 73-74-73 finish was not encouraging either. Phil Mickelson was never a factor, and Stewart Cink missed the cut.
Curtis has quietly been very impressive on some of golf’s biggest stages this season. He was the runner-up to Anthony Kim at Wachovia, tied for seventh at the British Open and tied for second at the PGA Championship.
John Huggins, while lamenting the fact that Colin Montgomerie will clearly not be on the European Ryder Cup team, recently wrote in the Scotsman:
We [Scotland] are devoid of golfers good enough to take on an American side that looks mediocre at best.
No one thought that Eli Manning was going to avoid the sack and complete that pass to David Tyree. The Giants shocked us all and beat the mighty Patriots, so who’s to say that, with Curtis’s help, the Americans can’t get it done, too? (Photo by
Hunter Martin/Getty Images)