It is no mean feat to beat America at sport

16:00, Oct 02 2012
Ryder Cup
JUBILANT: The European Ryder Cup team after beating the US.

Jazz on a summer's day, William Faulkner, gridiron, Pacific sunsets, Dashiel Hammett, fall in New England, SJ Perelman, Chicago, Bob Dylan, Hollywood movies, Boston Legal, San Francisco, there is so much to love about America and Americans.

And maybe the greatest love of all, as dear, departed, drug-addled Whitney once almost sang, is beating America at sports. This is no mean feat for two rather large reasons.

Firstly, America tends to be pretty good at the sports it plays, though we won't mention rugby at this point. Secondly, most American sports are, well, just that - American. From gridiron to baseball's World Series, the USA has its own bat and ball and keeps them to itself.

It was even like that with golf for a while.

America staged three of the four majors and its top players did not often bother with that other tourney they called the British Open. No room service, no hot showers, no grass, clubhouses the size of a cloak room, I mean, why would you?

Golf had become an American sport.


While the rest of the planet struggled through post war austerity, the American pro opened the trunk of his gleaming Packard and hauled out a golf bag big enough to house a family of immigrant workers.

The only worthwhile professional circuit was in America and it was protected. American tournaments were for American pros. Gary Player was called all manner of names when he dared to venture over.

Seve Ballesteros was viewed as a greasy spic with his hand in America's till and a few of the local pros told him so.

And so for Seve, like many others before and after, America became a love-hate thing. Seve loved all the greenbacks floating around on the breeze in the land of opportunity. He hated commissioner Deane Beman and protectionism and mushy US strawberries.

Seve took that feeling into the Ryder Cup and made it what it is today. The good old US of A may have invaded more than 20 countries since World War II but the Americans weren't getting one over Seve.

The Ryder Cup became a sporting duel in which Seve needled los Yanquis and the Americans put on desert storm caps and turned their opening ceremonies into a military parade hosted by reality TV stars.

Seve died last year but the love, hate feeling remains. The name of the Spaniard, 1957-2011, was embroidered on the shirts of this year's European Ryder Cup team. The Euros were wearing their hearts on their sleeve. Up in the blue Chicago sky a plane dragged a banner - Do it for Europe, Go Seve.

Unfortunately, it was an impossible task. No team had ever made up a final day deficit of four points on foreign soil.

ESPN's correspondent predicted that if Keegan Bradley was abducted, Lee Westwood was granted US citizenship and Marty McFly took the event back in time to Friday, then Europe might stand a chance.

"It's over," he wrote. "It's as close to insurmountable as trying to climb Mt Everest wearing a T-shirt, cargo shorts and flip-flops."

The correspondent seemed to forget that Seve spent his life climbing Everest in unsuitable clothing.

No doubt he is up there now looking down on Europe's victory and buying a celebratory copa with his ethereal American Express card - "don't leave Home witHout Heet", Seve used to advise.

Sergio Garcia had "no doubt" that Seve was present throughout his singles match. Garcia had a point. How on earth did Jim Furyk's putt not roll into the middle of the hole on the 16th green.

Furyk was up and celebrating. An inch from the hole and the putt was still a certainty. And then it wasn't.

He's a decent bloke Furyk and so is Steve Stricker who lost the decisive point to Germany's Martin Kaymer. The New York Post called it "one of the biggest choke jobs in America sports history".

If half of America can't locate Europe, you can't expect them to find perspective. They probably think it's a small town in Idaho. Losing a big lead doesn't have to be a choke. Losing can also be a credit to your country. Even in America.

Phil Mickelson's conduct in defeat as Justin Rose holed a sequence of outrageous putts was quite exemplary. Mickelson didn't lose that match. Rose won it.

And Phil applauded Rose, he gave him a thumbs-up, he took off his cap and he shook the Englishman's hand. Captain Davis Love III was just as dignified. Americans can be the most gracious people on the planet.

They can also be the most loud-mouthed. Along the way Rose was mocked about the death of his dad, the European wives were abused, two youths were ejected for foul-mouthed abuse of Nicolas Colsaerts and one fan shouted out "f*** Seve". That's when you love beating "USA, USA, USA".

Back in 1998 I watched enthralled as the Rest of the World thrashed America in the Presidents Cup. There was no question about taking sides.

You were against America. And you were for little Shigeki Maruyama and Craig Parry taking down Tiger Woods and Fred Couples. And so it is today.

We love Bubba Watson when he whips out his pink driver, bursts into tears, bends the ball round corners and gets the American crowd chanting as he hits the ball.

We hate Bubba when he plays the French Open, behaves like a spoiled brat and describes the culture of Paris as an arch, a big tower and a place beginning with ‘l'.

It's a love-hate thing and that's why in the immortal words of Ben Crenshaw, "I've got a real good feeling" this morning. It's called beating America.

Fairfax Media