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Original Issue

Let the Blame Begin

Who's responsible for the most embarrassing, lopsided U.S loss ever? Take your pick

There is no point whatsoever in searching for a single scapegoat for America's pie-in-the-face, historically lopsided Ryder Cup loss. ¶ Why not blame them all? ¶ There were enough goats on the American side to hold a Feta Cheese Festival. Every single player left Oakland Hills Country Club looking as if he'd been dipped in tuna oil and dropped in a shark tank. But if there were an award for Worst Performance in a Golfing Role, you'd have to narrow it down to these worthy contenders....

Hal Sutton

Absolutely the funniest captain in Ryder Cup history, and absolutely the worst. Sutton did things that made you want to bite a hole in his 10gallon Stetson.

For one, he paired Phil Mickelson with Tiger Woods, declaring grandly, "History demands this." Meanwhile, history was screaming, "It'll never work!"

Would you have paired Hatfield with McCoy? Britney with Christina? O'Reilly with Franken? Tiger with Phil doesn't work for 1,000 reasons, but a few are 1) Ford versus Buick, 2) "He has inferior equipment" and 3) when a rule change in 2002 forced Tiger to start playing with Mickelson in the World Cup, Tiger stopped playing the World Cup.

The Dynamic Duo went 0--2 last week. Double duh.

Even dumber about Mickelson-Woods was that Mickelson had a perfect partner in David Toms. They were a killer pair at the 2002 Ryder Cup. Does Sutton get cable? When he finally went back to Mickelson-Toms on Saturday afternoon, they delivered an easy win. Duh cubed.

On Friday night Sutton turned in a pairings sheet that included a scratched-out, but easily readable, toms and a scribbled-in furyk instead. That visible rubout was distributed to the world's press, and it rubbed Toms and his wife, Sonya, the wrong way. "If there's one thing I most regret in this whole thing," said Sutton, "it's that." Sutton's sub, Furyk, along with partner Chad Campbell, gagged in that Saturday match, losing the last two holes to two Eurookies, Paul Casey and David Howell, killing any hopes of an American comeback. Fore duh!

Sutton's ways were baffling. Ryder Cup captains zip around in golf carts doling out advice and attaboys, but on Saturday, Hal Suttonly gave his up. "I was on foot today because I wanted to show them how much I cared," he explained. Say what? Then he admitted that there were some places he wanted to show them where to hit shots--like at 17--but "I didn't get there on time. I was on foot." Duh end.

Phil Mickelson

Why Lefty chose to switch from Titleist clubs and balls to Callaway on the eve of the Cup will go down as one of the great mysteries of the universe, along with black holes and Donald Trump's hair.

True, Mickelson is sometimes known as Driver-a-Day Phil, but it's one thing to do it on Friday of the Quad Cities, it's another to do it at the open-flame broiler of golf. No wonder he sprayed it all over Michigan in his matches with Woods. Every time he stepped up to a gut-check drive, he was looking down at a new clubhead and a new ball. You wonder if he even recognized his shoes.

Sutton benched him for it, then ripped him. "We'll all be left scratching our heads on that," Sutton said, adding, "I wouldn't have done it." Did Sutton's dis hurt Mickelson's feelings? "After all the hell you [reporters] have given me," Lefty said, "do you realize how thick my skin is now?"

It better be: He went 1--3 with the new sticks.

Tiger Woods

The Ryder Cup is a biennial Walk to the Gum Surgeon for Woods, who seems to enjoy the event the way Joan of Arc enjoyed bonfires. The man is simply too much of an assassin to suddenly start cozying up to his hits. Remember when your mustachioed aunt Zelda would come barreling up for a kiss? That's how Woods looked every time Sutton or Mickelson tried to hug him. Hey, here's an idea that might make everybody happy: Let Tiger stay home.

Chris Riley

There was one partner Sutton found for Woods whom Tiger didn't spit out in pieces--the lippy, skippy Riley, who had saved the Americans from a pants-down 4--0 whitewash with a gutsy putt at 18 on Friday morning. Woods and Riley, childhood buddies, paired on Saturday morning for a laugher of a win, and Sutton was ready to put them out again ... until Riley told him he'd rather sit. "I'm pretty drained," Riley explained.

Hey, well, no problem! You just go back to the hotel and put your feet up, maybe get a pedi. Can you imagine?

PGA of America

The system has to be changed. Why players are picked based on two years' worth of play instead of only the last year is a question to be pondered long after we're all dead. Kenny Perry earned almost all his points last year. Campbell practically had to be unpacked and thawed out when he got to Oakland Hills.

And the U.S. side better start asking for help to make this thing competitive again. Remember in 1977 when Jack Nicklaus lobbied the rest of Europe to join the Great Britain and Ireland team to make things more fair? Well, now Europe needs to give America some help to restore the balance.

We'll take Fiji.




Photograph by John Biever


Despite a successful pairing with Riley, Woods was promptly teamed with Love (right).