LONDON — Dear U.S. Ryder Cup team:
This will probably be intercepted by Colin Montgomerie before it reaches your hands, but I thought I should write before I board my 1 p.m. flight from the left side of the road to the right, sound-as-a-poundto Two-Buck Chuck, Luke Donald to McDonald's.
It's been a long trip. If I'm exhausted and I didn't hit a shot, you guys must need 12 IVs. First of all, thanks for putting up a fight, making the 2010 Ryder Cup the most arresting tournament of the year, majors included. You guys saved the Cup from being remembered only for loathsome rain, mad rescheduling and utterly destroyed footwear.
(I know I'm supposed to remain impartial and unmoved, but the hell with that.)
Here's my mea culpa:
I said you had no chance of winning this Ryder Cup because I thought session three, when you won a half point out of six, must have felt like getting hit in the face with a salmon. And maybe it did. But I was wrong, and I've never been so glad for it.
Hunter Mahan, shake it off. You weren't feeling it with the putter. It happens. The fact that you lost the anchor match to Graeme McDowell, giving Europe its 14Â½-13Â½ victory, had nothing to do with nerves on 17, or even G-Mac's birdie on 16.
Just as you guys lost the Cup in the third session, you lost your match by not making a single birdie on the first 14 holes. So be it. Good for you for refusing to give up and making that birdie on 15 to keep us in our seats, with our cardiologists on speed dial.
About that weak tee shot and stubbed chip on 17. Think about this: Everybody's been there. Jack. Tiger. Rory. It's human. McDowell said he was so nervous he could hardly take the club back. Hunter, if time and space had conspired differently, and your ball had somehow dropped a foot from the pin on 17, it might easily have been the Euro hero who cracked and felt like his heart got run over by a double-decker bus.
We all know every match counts the same, all 28 of them. Trying to ID that half point you guys didn't get is like trying to unscramble an omelet.
Was it Stewart Cink whiffing a tiny birdie putt on 17? Phil Mickelson starting 0-3? Jim Furyk not quite finishing his comeback? Dustin Johnson putting with oven mitts and a rag mop for three days? Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with a leaky golf bag?
It doesn't matter.
Do you guys have any idea how much you just upped the ante for Medinah 2012? The Ryder Cup is only as good as it is competitive, and you guys have come a long way from Oakland Hills 2004, a Euro rout and the saddest, most lifeless event I've ever covered.
The only thing I remember with any fondness whatsoever was some wise guy in the crowd telling Michael Jordan that smoking cigars would stunt his growth. (True story: Miguel Angel Jimenez used to be 6-foot-9 power forward for the Spanish national team.)
Rickie Fowler, wow. No one survives being 4 down with six holes remaining, and especially not a 21-year-old rookie who hasn't won on Tour and at first glance still looks more like the cover of Tiger Beat than a guy who may some day beat Tiger.
If McDowell deserves a statue at Celtic Manor, Rickie, you ought to get a building named after you, or perhaps something a little more region-specific, like the Severn Bridge or a cloud formation. At the least you ought to get a nice Christmas card from Sir Terry Matthews. Those birdies on 17 and 18 sent a tremor across the course and transformed Sir Terry's big Welsh idea from a swampy mess into an instant classic.
Stewart, your passionate defense of Hunter in the U.S. team presser was the most eloquent, poignant thing anyone said all week.
Phil, job well done to you as well. Okay, maybe not the first three days, but the last one, when you dusted Peter Hanson and gave Hunter a nice assist in the media tent; it left a good impression. It was nice to see you finally playing like Phil Mickelson again, and to see Amy feeling well enough to make the trip over.
And while we're on the subject, Tiger, welcome back. Looks like all those swing changes you've been working on with Sean Foley are working, no? I shudder to think what this means for 2011. So do the 23 other guys in uniforms at Celtic, most likely.
Jeff Overton — I get it now. I understand how you qualified for this team. What I don't understand is how you haven't won yet with that putting stroke. You were a real find for the U.S. team and if I'm Davis Love III, I'm already penciling you in for 2012.
Well, I've got to cut this short because my flight is about to board. Buck-up. Hang in there. And remember: Sulking stunts your growth.