Volume 96, Issue 16
Wednesday, September 25, 2002

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Enjoy the ride, Tiger

Shooting from the hick
Ryan Hickman
Sports Editor

Ah, Tiger Woods – he needs a little bit more money. That super-swingin' golfer only makes $60 million a year in endorsements and already pulled in over $6 million in tournament winnings this year.

This weekend at the legendary Belfry golf course in Sutton Coldfield, England, the Ryder Cup, a tournament played for no money and no endorsements – just pride, patriotism and bragging rights – is being contested between the best American and the best European golfers.

Tiger Woods said he knew a million reasons why the American Express Championship he played in on the weekend was more meaningful than the team themed Ryder Cup.

Those million reasons were the number of dollars on the oversized cheque that Woods got for winning the tournament. Now I know that golf is an individual sport and accolades are more substantial because you walk those 72 holes alone over four days, but you can't beat the drama of the Ryder Cup.

The three-day tournament that is the Ryder Cup pits the best of the United States against the top dogs of European golf. Who could forget the scene at the last Ryder Cup in 1999 on the 17th green when Justin Leonard drained his 45 foot putt to half the hole with Jose Maria Olazabal.

Grown men who have tunnel vision focus on the golf course and make millions of dollars were running around and hugging each other like they had won World War III. You just don't see that kind of stuff at the American Express Championship.

The Ryder Cup is not a gentlemanly round of beers and laughs in the golf cart – there is real animosity between the two regions of the world that hit the links against each other.

Sam Torrance, this year's European captain, was down right pissed about the antics the Americans pulled in 1999 on the 17th green and wasn't shy about letting the media know about it. This is the same man who stood on the 18th green on Sunday of the 1985 Ryder Cup with his hands raised to the sky and tears streaming down his face.

Torrance and the Europeans aren't there to fool around.

Tiger played into the European claim that Americans don't have the passion, heart or desire that they do. Woods is the best golfer on the planet, but even he is humbled at the Ryder Cup where his dominance is not as evident. Even if he does play his best golf, he still needs the rest of his American teammates to step it up.

The Yankee/Euro duel is an exclamation in a stone-faced game and a chance for golf to rally around the patriotism and intensity of national pride. You would think Tiger would want to prove that his home country produces the best golfers in the world.

Some of the Americans who Tiger is going to play with this weekend agreed that individual achievements are supreme in golf, but even Mark Calcavecchia was a little perturbed about the money thing.

"That was bad for him to say, because $1 million to him is like $10 to everyone else," Calcavecchia said of Tiger's recent comments.

Calcavecchia knows the intense emotions of the Ryder Cup well. He sat on a South Carolina beach crying during the 1991 Ryder Cup after he thought he blew the championship for his country.

Even if you don't like the foursomes in the mornings or the fourball format in the afternoon, you have to respect the tension of the head to head matches on Sunday of this weekend's Ryder Cup.

Maybe if he can work up a few tears of his own on Sunday, Nike will give Tiger a little something extra on top of his already mammoth contract for showing his emotional side.

That should make the tournament worthwhile to him.

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