There's No "I" in Golf


Joel Hammond thinks today's golfers are too self-centered in their goals, as evidenced by the Tiger Woods / Phil Mickelson pairing for this year's Ryder Cup.

Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie has never won one of the Professional Golf Association’s four major championships: The Masters, British Open, U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

Neither has Spaniard Sergio Garcia.

Americans Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, conversely, have nine major titles between them.

But what Montgomerie and Garcia that both Woods and Mickelson lack is the uncanny ability to brush aside previous major championship failures to perform and succeed on just as big a stage: The Ryder Cup.

Montgomerie was again solid at Oakland Hills in Michigan over the weekend, going 3-1 in three days.

Garcia, though, cemented his already blossoming reputation as a clutch golfer by going 4-0-1, including a come-from-behind, stick-a-fork-in-them-they’re-done 3 and 2 victory over Phil Mickelson Sunday afternoon.

The Scot and Spaniard are a combined 29-11-7 in Ryder Cup play.

Woods and Mickelson? 16-18-6, including a pathetic 7-11-2 from Mr. Woods.

Many have pointed to captain Hal Sutton to blame for the debacle.

Last time I checked, the captains don’t play in this format anymore.

The real blame? How about world No. 2 Woods, who prides himself on major championships and is still shooting for Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles.

But the very much struggling Woods almost made a point to display his displeasure playing with Mickelson Friday morning, not smiling once, arms tightly folded while watching Mickelson line up his own putts. That was contrasted dramatically by their opponents in that match – the aforementioned Montgomerie and up-and-coming Padraig Harrington – who helped each other every step of the way.

Moreover, Mickelson, who finally shed the best-player-never-to-win-a-major mantra in April after calmly sinking an 18-footer at No. 18 to win at Augusta, quickly managed to attain another unwanted label over the weekend: the first-player-to-change-clubs-the-week-of-The-Ryder-Cup-and-practice-by-himself-because-he-wants-attention tag.

How long will it be until individual accomplishments and attitudes stop reigning supreme in American golf?

For men making it very clear that they are chasing down America’s illustrious golf history, an astronomically high standard set by consummate professionals like Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and before them Ben Hogan and others, failure in the ultimate test in golf – a competition that tests not only your individual prowess around greens, bunkers and rough but also a willingness to succeed as a team – doesn’t bode well for their place in the record books of golf followers.

Simply, the best players in golf history performed not only on the major championship stage, but also at the Ryder Cup.

Just look at the numbers: Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were a combined 39-16-5 in their Ryder Cup experience, including an absolutely astonishing record of 17-4-0 in foursomes, a format in which a team of two Americans would play just one ball on each hole, alternating shots.

Nicklaus and Palmer, then, either made those around them better or were so good themselves that they overshadowed their partner’s struggles, two subjects completely foreign to the top American players today.

For Woods and the rest of the Americans to seemingly have the attitude that this competition doesn’t matter in the bigger picture is completely ludicrous.

Woods may catch Nicklaus’ record for major wins. He’d have to win 11 more majors, but he has proven in his young career that, when hot, he can win them in bunches.

Mickelson will likely win another major or two before his time is done.

But what good are major championships when the lasting image in the minds of golf experts, fans and history books is continued failure and mediocrity in the biggest team challenge in the sport?

In my opinion: Not much.

Originally posted to 210 West. Read this and other sports columns at 210west.com.

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