Monday, November 21, 2011

Shark Sandwich

"Why hast thou forsaken me?"
And I thought the European players were good at making excuses.  Apparently the U.S. team's win this weekend had less to do with the fact that they played better 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, made it sound:
Norman kicked-off the excuses with "it's very difficult for us to prepare for an alternate shot format, because we don't do it."  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 find some time in their schedules to 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 "sucking it up" or "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 on Sunday.      

"You're sure I was on
that 1996 team?  Huh."
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 make that suggestion, make sure they didn't use that format when the international team lost in '94 and '96 because I wouldn't want you to come across like both a sore loser and an idiot.

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 so he was stuck with Aaron Baddeley and Robert Allenby who combined to go 1-7-1 and effectively cost them the cup.  Unfortunately for Norman, his two captain's picks WERE Baddeley and Allenby.  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.
"Well it's obviously not MY fault." 

Before we get away from Norman's captain's picks (because this is fun), can we take a moment to dispel the notion that a player should be picked because he has local knowledge of the course which is presumably why Norman picked Allenby (who is one of the worst putters in professional golf) over Vijay Singh (one of the best players of our generation who was playing really well when the picks were made).  Local knowledge cuts both ways.  It's great when you're hitting it well because you know where to hit it.  It's not so great when you're struggling, especially on a course like Royal Melbourne, because you find yourself thinking, "I know if I hit it there, I'm dead because I've hit it there before."  Sometimes in golf, ignorance is bliss. 

"Trust me on this kid, I
know of what I speak."
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."  In 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 don't know (but I'm going to crush you)" Freddy.  "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."  Spoken like a man who never needed to wear a fancy 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.