Friday, September 17, 2004
No fun Friday for U.S. team
By Jason Sobel ESPN.com
Early in the afternoon on the 5th green at Oakland Hills, there was a rare sighting that spectators hadn't seen all day.
It was an arm, covered in red, white and blue stripes. And it seemed to be -- Wait! Could it be? Yes! -- pumping, back and forth, in a celebratory manner!
The appendage belonged to Chris DiMarco. The gesture? That was all American.
Funk was one of very few Americans who showed any positive emotion on Friday.
"We had 40,000 people that are out there rooting for us, we might as well try to get them as excited as we can," DiMarco said, after teaming with Jay Haas to gain the United States' only full point in his first Ryder Cup match. "I was trying to get them pumped up. I was trying to get them standing up. I was trying to get them to do anything."
And you could have forgiven the Detroit fans had they tossed on octopus on the green at that moment. They'd been holding in cheers since the Pistons put away the Lakers three months ago.
Smile and the world smiles with you? Well, maybe not, but at least your American teammates will. DiMarco's outburst was followed by a big fist-pump from Fred Funk. Then Haas got into the act. Even Tiger Woods flashed his pearly whites for the first time all day.
And just like that it was gone.
After DiMarco and Haas, the rest of the U.S. pairings in the afternoon Foursomes fell like dominoes, first Davis Love III and Funk, then Phil Mickelson and Woods and lastly Kenny Perry and Stewart Cink. And there certainly weren't much to speak of in the morning Four-ball, where U.S. players never led one match. Cink and newly-crowned crowd favorite Chris Riley notched the team's only half-point.
"[DiMarco and Riley] showed life," said assistant captain Jackie Burke. "We need to show energy and they can strike a match."
Speaking of striking a match, you can keep the Tiger glare or the Mickelson leap. There's nothing more intimidating than staring at your opponents and seeing them puffing on a few stogies like this Ryder Cup was a Sunday morning member-guest down at the club. And you can bet that, though the U.S. trails by five points, they'll be down many more pints to the Europeans by the end of the weekend.
That's because the Euros are all about staying loose -- smiling, laughing, talking to one another -- while the Americans grinned through clenched teeth, their smiles as forced as their tee shots.
"You know what I see out there is I see too much tightness," said U.S. captain Hal Sutton. "I see Americans wanting it too much."
But before the U.S. Ryder Cup players were out on the PGA Tour, competing for billions and trillions of dollars every week, they simply played for pride, played for the competitive spirit and, hmmm, here's a novel concept, played for fun.
Granted, it's tough to have fun when your point total is less than Shawn Bradley's.
But on Friday, most of the U.S. players all walked around looking like they'd just lost their best friend. Well, actually, some had. Mickelson had lost his former Ryder and Presidents Cup playing partner David Toms. Woods lost out on a chance to play with California buddy Riley, whom he had openly lobbied to be paired with. And Love lost his swing somewhere around his first hole of the day.
Perhaps they felt the pressure, knowing a loss this weekend would ensure the Cup would remain on the other side of the ocean for another two years.
Or perhaps this generation of American-born golfers just isn't as fun as those of the past.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.