Tuesday, April 15, 2008


AS MARK TWAIN once said: “There are three kind of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

The abject failure of Europe’s top golfers to sustain a serious challenge in this year’s Masters Tournament does not augur well for their Ryder Cup chances later this year.

But history – and statistics – suggest their performance will have little bearing on the biennial contest between Europe and the United States, which takes place at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, in September.

Time was when Europe dominated the Masters. Thanks to the efforts of Sandy Lyle (1988), Nick Faldo (89, 90 and 96), Ian Woosnam (91), Bernhard Langer (93) and Jose Maria Olazabal (94), they won it seven times in nine years.

However, Olazabal’s second victory – in 1999 – was the last time a European golfer donned the Green Jacket.

The emergence of Tiger Woods coincided with a decline in the fortunes of the Europeans. Colin Montgomerie, eight times a winner of the Order of Merit on the European Tour, has never managed to win a Major.

The young pretenders have come and gone. And, once again, the Europeans flattered to deceive at August National this year.

"Just me and Tiger" soon boasts Poulter

First-round leader Justin Rose bloomed briefly, before wilting faster than the azaleas. Ian Poulter talks a good game’ a good deal better than he plays. His boast that soon “it will be just me and Tiger” at the top of the leaderboard came back to bite him where it hurts as he slipped from five under to six over in the final two rounds. 

That left Paul Casey to fly the European flag on Sunday. But he couldn’t handle the pressure either, five successive bogeys contributing to a seven-over-par final round of 79.

The fact that Padraig Harrington, never in contention throughout the four days, ended up Europe’s top finisher, tied for fifth on -2, says it all.

Nick Faldo, the European Ryder Cup captain, had a bird’s-eye view of the carnage from his position in the commentary box for CBS. Should he be worried?

With Woods and Phil Mickelson leading the way, there’s no doubt that the United States will start favorites in September. They usually do.

However, current form and the world golf rankings seem to have little bearing when, for three days, golf becomes a team game.

1999 wasn’t just the last year a European won the Masters. It also happens to be the last time the USA won the Ryder Cup.

Europe, thanks largely to their camaraderie and bulldog spirit, have triumphed three times since then. So perhaps Mark Twain was right when he suggested that you can’t always believe the statistics.

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