OK, here’s the most shocking thing you’ll read about the dear old USA team in the wake of a fun and triumphant Ryder Cup: It was nice to win, but we cheated. Yep, just as sure as Boo Weekley left Valhalla covered in his spittle, we cheated. The U.S. won, I’m happy we won, and yes, I say “we” because I’m as patriotic a guy as you’ll ever meet. Hell, I’ve even written a book about the American flag. Really. But all that being said, we cheated.
Some people are saying Paul Azinger was brilliant to suggest he receive four wild-card picks, and I can’t disagree with that, nor with the boys at the PGA of America who changed the rules for him. But that change meant the playing field was no longer level. Sure, Nick Faldo could have asked his PGA (and if you know your golf, you know it’s not the British PGA. They didn’t need to qualify it when they started it, inventing the game and all.) to grant him the same for the European side, but what a Pandora’s box that would’ve opened. Nick says I want four, too. Paul says, then I want six. Or gimme eight. When Azinger got permission to make four wild-card picks, it didn’t make things even, it simply gave the Americans an unfair edge.
Now, sure, the players and the rest of us American golf fans were tired of getting our collective ass soundly booted, but it just feels a little too slick and, frankly, against the spirit of the game. When Jack Nicklaus suggested that continental Europe should be brought into the fold in 1979, it was to reinvigorate the event and make it more fair. The U.S. didn’t necessarily need to win at Valhalla to revitalize the Ryder Cup; we just needed to avoid getting stomped. But by unfairly jiggering things in our favor to give us the best chance to win, we got a little carried away and lost sight of the big picture. Winning is nice — it’s why we compete at anything — but to win on the up and up is what it’s all about. Nick Faldo would have fielded a better team with four picks, a team the U.S. may or may not have been able to handle.
So, whoever ends up driving the ship for Europe in Wales in 2010 should ask for four wild-card picks. Or however many he wants. Why not? After all, that’s what Azinger did. What would really be fun is if the captains picked all 12 players. Whatever happens, the criteria should be essentially the same for both sides. It’s the only fair way to do it, kids. Now, fight nicely. And go U.S.!