Lots of people deserve credit for Europe's glory in this 35th Ryder Cup, starting with Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke, who have been helped toward their combined 12-2-2 match record by the savvy captaincy of Bernhard Langer.
As for the Americans here at Oakland Hills who have been caught swinging golf clubs under false pretenses, the guiltiest of impersonating world-class golfers have been Tiger Woods, Davis Love III and Jim Furyk, who'll have to bear the weight of their 2-9 match record on these first two days.
However, this event could never have become what it is -- a gruesome, comic catastrobacle whose final round might as well be canceled on account of embarrassment -- without the inspired work of American's team captain.
In the annals of stupid, Hal Sutton has broken new ground. You could say "stupidity," but that would be grammatical.
Sutton is one of the most entertaining, likable, competitive men in U.S. golf as well as a gritty Ryder Cup player himself. And he's not actually dumb. But he can't coach. Not a lick. He can take his'n and lose to your'n or take your'n and lose to his'n. In fact, Hal can take his'n, even if they're way better'n your'n, and still take a bodacious two-day 11-5 whoppin'.
Hindsight is wonderful. But maybe we should have known that a man whose nickname is Halimony, because of his three ex-wives, might not be the world's best matchmaker. Where he sees "karma," everybody else sees "ka-boom!" For example, Sutton paired Woods and Phil Mickelson together Friday. Twice. This is like hooking up with Dick Cheney and Colin Powell on the first tee at Burning Tree and saying, "You guys are on the same team. Why don't you just play together?"
After Woods played spectacularly with his childhood buddy Chris Riley for a 4-and-3 win on Saturday morning, Sutton figured he would match Love with Tiger. They lost, 4 and 3.
The list of Halaciously bad decisions seems endless, but sending out 50-year-old Jay Haas to play his third match -- 54 holes -- within a 24-hour span probably took the cake. Haas and Chris DiMarco got the Americans' lone win on Friday and staggered to a halve Saturday morning. But Haas was already running on rims and fumes. Sutton couldn't see it. He never let Kenny Perry play at all Saturday and kept Stewart Cink on the pine, too, so he could gamble on Haas. He and DiMarco sank so fast they didn't leave a slick and lost, 5 and 4.
When Sutton slaps you on the back, grabs you around the neck and says, "Have I got the partner for you," at least you know you won't have to play those nasty last three holes at Oakland Hills. Your match will be over by then.
As for the obvious pairings, why use them? In the '02 Ryder Cup, Mickelson and David Toms were America's best team. Finally, on Saturday afternoon -- three matches too late -- Sutton sent them out together. They beat the European so bad, 4 and 3, they could've spent time between shots spelling "Take That Hal" in a fairway bunker for the blimp camera to pick up.
On Saturday, we got our final Sutton Moment. The captain wanted to rush to the 17th tee to give one of his teams some valuable advice. But, instead, he couldn't get there. Because he had no golf cart. He had decided to spend the whole day walking the course, something no Ryder Cup captain has done since the invention of the internal combustion engine and/or electricity.
"I couldn't get there fast enough on foot," Sutton said. But, Hal, what were you doing walking everywhere in the first place? "I wanted to show 'em how much I cared," he said. By showing them your bunions?
Could a competent U.S. captain who merely did the obvious and didn't insist on being in the center of everything, calling team meetings, wearing a cowboy hat, bragging about his players before they had hit a shot, have changed the outcome of this match?
Probably not. But if Sutton had just stayed back at the hotel this week and let his dozen players choose up their own sides, we'd probably still be on the edge of our seats imagining a possible U.S. comeback. But, from 11-5, you don't come back. You just try to save face. And keep NBC, going head-to-head with the NFL, from becoming the first network to have a "0" share.
Sunday's 12 singles matches, one of the most anticipated days in all of sports, are now a Must Not See event. Make yourself a tee time. Clean the garage. File and collate your last seven years of income tax documents just in case of an audit. Just don't carve out any time to watch the amazing talent on the U.S. team, including 10 players ranked in the top 25 in the world.
Oh, yes, the United States has the world's Nos. 2, 4, 6, 10, 11, 14, 16, 17, 22 and 23-ranked players. Of the top 25, Europe has only Nos. 8, 12, 15 and 20. Is that as huge a difference in ability and experience as it seems? Especially on home soil?
Absolutely. Don't think too hard on this one. Save energy. This Ryder Cup was about bad karma (Woods and Mickelson), bad decisions, European momentum and underdog camaraderie and plenty of good old American gagging on pressure. When Woods missed back-to-back four-foot putts to lose the eighth and ninth holes in his alternate-shot match, to go from 1-up to 1-down as he and Love collapsed completely, the last hopes of a close Cup disappeared.
Now, the scruffy peroxide-prone Europeans, who don't have a player who has ever won a major championship (Sutton coaches five of 'em), could probably play Tin Cup-style on Sunday -- you know, break all their clubs except the seven-iron -- and still get the three points they need to defend the Cup. "The lesson of Brookline has been learned," said Harrington, referring to the American comeback from a 10-6 deficit in 1999 for the biggest comeback in the history of team golf.
Langer has, to say the least, been a contrast. Harrington explained that on every par-3 hole that he has played in four matches here, Langer has been on every tee explaining the proper shot, shot shape and nuance. Not insisting, Harrington said. Just firmly suggesting his precise strategy. On par 3s, Sutton is often seen yelling, "Good shot" or "Too bad. Go get 'em."
In a way, Sutton has reaped what he has sown. The day before these matches, he got many a European underdog motor started with a nonstop braggadocio news conference. He said he matched Woods and Mickelson because their "eyes were boiling with sincerity" when he told them they would be tethered. Hal, those were probably tears. He claimed his pairing of Love and Chad Campbell was "as strong as new rope." Nobody warned them about the noose in it.
As for Toms and Furyk, they were together because they were both "kingpins." They went out and played more like Woody Harrelson bowled in "Kingpin." Except for the prosthetic arm, of course.
Listening to Sutton, who is always "fixin' " to do something, is a painful contrast to the laconic Europeans and Langer, who paired Ryder Cup rookies Paul Casey and David Howell, then watched them beat Kingpin Furyk and New Rope Campbell.
"At the sixth hole, my caddie very nicely mentioned that we were losing all the other matches, which I thanked him for," Howell said. "As it happened we won that hole, the sixth, did we not, with a birdie."
My caddie very nicely mentioned? Which I thanked him for? As it happened? Did we not?
Dang, that's probably just what Hal was fixin' to say.