Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Shark Sandwich: A Presidents Cup Memory

It's Presidents Cup week a/k/a golf's answer to every international sporting competition that includes gymnastics, synchronized swimming and ping-pong but is not the Olympics. In other words, it's about as meaningful as a week 15 Thursday night game between the Browns and the Jets but it does feature seven of the best eleven players in the world so will I be watching? Of course I will. (At least a little bit but it's member-member weekend for this guy so I'll also be busy grinding over par putts and making new friends at the club with my cheery match play disposition). 

Instead of previewing this year's Presidents Cup, I'm rehashing this 2011 post which followed an American win over Greg Norman's squad on his home turf at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. In an event that has been totally dominated by the Americans who are 9-1-1, this one was memorable because the international team and Norman came-in with particularly high expectations and then handled the subsequent loss like a bunch of petulant ten year old soccer players led by a coach who spent an hour screaming at the ref and then used his post-game speech to tell the kids how much they let him down. And with that, I will now turn it over to the FGR circa 2011.    
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Who knew someone could exceed the European Ryder Cup team at making excuses? Apparently the U.S. team's win this weekend had less to do with the fact that they outplayed their international opponents and more to do with the match format and the team selection process. At least that's how Greg Norman, the most bitter man ever to get rich playing golf, saw it. The world's most annoying wine maker kicked-off the rationalizing with "it's very difficult for us to prepare for an alternate shot format, because we don't do it." 

Before I take questions, I would
like to state for the record that
this was obviously not my fault.
That statement is actually more ridiculous than it sounds (which is saying something) because, not only does it imply that the international players couldn't get together and play a few rounds of alternate shot before the event, it also presumes that the Americans have some distinct advantage because eight of their twelve players competed in one or two rounds of alternate shot over a year ago in Wales. Despite their similar lack of experience, the Americans somehow have the ability to stand over a tricky 5 foot par putt that their partner created for them and drain it. It's called "grinding it out" Greg and, if you need it explained in terms you can relate to, it's the opposite of hitting your tee shot into the middle of the pond on 16 at Augusta after blowing a six shot lead to hand Nick Faldo the green jacket.

Norman's quote standing alone would have been pathetic enough but then Ernie Els (who had just gone 1-4 in his five matches while completing the fifth year of his three year plan to be number one in the world) felt obliged to chime in with "why don't we start with something different, you know. Let's start with four-ball matches (alternate shot), maybe that's the answer." Hey Ernie, before you float that suggestion, make sure they didn't use that format when the international team lost in '94 and '96 because that would make you sound a bit foolish, especially considering you were on the '96 team.

Turns out Norman was just getting warmed-up. "I had three other guys that could easily have been on my team, but I couldn't put on my team." I suppose Norman has a point there considering that he is locked into ten players and only gets two captain's picks. Unfortunately, his argument is just slightly undercut by the fact that his two captain's picks were Aaron Baddeley and Robert Allenby who combined to go 1-7-1 and effectively cost them the cup. I guess he wanted two more captain's picks to compensate for the lousy play of the two players he chose with the picks he had? I wish he did have two more picks so he could have put himself on the team as a playing captain. That way he could have thrown his players under the bus as their captain, and then backed over them as their teammate.

The crazy part is that Norman has
always taken losing so gracefully.
Before we get away from Sharkfoldo's captain's picks, can we take a moment to dispel the notion that a player should be on the team because he has local knowledge of the course which is presumably why Norman picked Allenby (one of the worst putters in professional golf) over Vijay Singh  Local knowledge cuts both ways. It's great when you're hitting it well but it's not so great when you're struggling because you find yourself thinking, "I know if I hit it there, I'm dead because I've hit it there before." Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Give credit to Johnny Miller for finally shutting down this theory on the last day when he dismissed the umpteenth reference to Allenby's knowledge of the course by saying, "local knowledge only matters if you can execute the shots." That was right about the time David Toms was closing out Allenby 7&5 to slam home the point. (For you non-golfers, 7&5 is roughly equivalent to a 28-3 NFL game).  On the first hole of that match, Allenby left a three foot par putt short and Toms rolled his in from about the same distance and I thought, "it's over." Embellishing the immortal words of coach Bobby Finstock, "there are four rules that I live by: (1) never get less than twelve hours sleep, (2) never play cards with a guy who has the first name as a city, (3) never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body, and (4) never pick a bad putter for a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team."                         

It was fitting that the U.S. team was captained by Fred Couples a/k/a the Anti-Norman. His response to Norman's whining was vintage "aw shucks, I'm going to act like I don't care as I crush you with a grin." Couples' indirect response to Norman's woe fest went this way: "We won this week because we were better players and I think we had a little motivation and we teamed well and we won. I don't know what they would have said if they would have won. Everything would have been fair." BAM! Spoken like a man who never needed to wear a cheesy hat or have a nickname to be one of the most popular players of all time. Never have the traits of "cool" and "uncool" been on fuller display.    

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