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U.S. Bottoms Out; for Europeans, It's Bottoms Up

Lehman insisted that his players were "prepared" and played "their best" with "heart and courage." Because it's presumably true, that only makes these back-to-back 18 1/2 -9 1/2 scores more damaging to the PGA Tour's reputation. Asked if more such wipeouts might send this mega-money-making event "back in the other direction" toward lessened popularity, Lehman said: "That sounds a little insulting. . . . Things have cycles. There will be a time when we'll be sitting here saying to the Europeans, 'Is this [event] in danger of becoming a little bit in trouble because the American team is on top?'

"That will happen."

Whatever the glorious situation may be for the American team on some future day, the lasting image of their slapstick performance here came on the seventh hole of Woods's match. Tiger's caddie, Steve Williams, slipped on a rock and dropped Woods's 9-iron into the depths of the River Liffey. With the U.S. team already hopelessly behind, Tiger could only laugh (for the only time all week). He played on with 13 clubs until a wet-suited diver returned his club at the 15th hole. Ultimately, Woods won, 3 and 2, over Robert Karlsson and ended with a winning record (3-2).

Almost inconceivably, seven Americans combined for zero wins and a combined record of 0-14-9: Phil Mickelson (0-4-1), Chris DiMarco and David Toms (both 0-3-1) as well as winless Chad Campbell, Brett Wetterich, Vaughn Taylor and Henry.

By contrast, the same core of stars has led the last three European winners: Garcia (11-3-1), Lee Westwood (10-2-3), Colin Montgomerie (8-2-3) and Darren Clarke (7-3-3). All are extreme extroverts, huggers and partiers, long on bravado, following in the tradition of Seve Ballesteros. Their charisma allows less flamboyant personalities, such as Paul Casey, Luke Donald and Jose Maria Olazabal (a combined 8-0-2 in this Cup), to contribute as needed.

The clubhouse scene after this win showed how much European momentum America now faces. Ireland's Darren Clarke, whose wife, Heather, died of cancer last month, received enormous support here. However, after plenty of tears, he eventually found the heart to celebrate. On the K Club's upper veranda, he chugged a pint of Guinness straight down. Not to be outdone, captain Ian Woosnam duplicated the feat. This was only remarkable because Woosnam had previously chugged champagne until he bubbled over, spewing Moet out his nose. An hour later, Woosnam, dressed in a splendiferous pink suit, had to make a speech to assembled dignitaries, including past U.S. presidents. The Welshman was sober and barely misspoke a word. Now that's clutch.

The final Ryder Club news conference dissolved into the European team's normal pub-style vaudeville show.

"Ian took 10 seconds to down that pint. Too long," Clarke said.

"That's a 10th quicker than you did, and I'll prove it now if you want to get them out on the table," Woosnam said.

"Just mind your age here," Clarke retorted.

"There's nothing like experience," the distinguished captain said.

"If you keep up with me, you'll be doing okay, don't worry about that," Clarke said.

"We'll see about that," Woosnam said.

"There's a challenge here," Garcia crowed.

"Guinness, that's why he picked me for the team, no other reason whatsoever," Clarke grinned.

"We're going to have a party, boys," Woosnam beamed.

"What was the question?" Clarke said.

Unfortunately, the question has become plain: How can a bunch of tight Americans ever beat this European dirty dozen?

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