Garcia has reason to smile

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 6:48 AM ET

Sergio Garcia was a little giddy and who could fault him? It was Saturday night and his European team had sprinted away to what would prove to be an insurmountable lead in the 35th Ryder Cup. "You know," he said, "to have a chance to come here and play with your friends against these huge crowds and against the best players in America, it's something I just can't wait for.

"I love it. I live for it."

That, in a nutshell, is why Europe has won its fourth Ryder Cup in the past five and seventh in the past 10. It wins because its players embrace the concept with open arms. Not just Garcia; all 12 of them. The American stars simply endure it.

"I hate to say this," U.S. captain Hal Sutton said, "but if the Americans keep this up, it won't be long before they're the underdog instead of the favourite."

Uhhh, Hal, we hate to break the news but your boys have been underdogs for a while now. Their egos just don't realize it.

The U.S. has players of great repute who have won majors and have amassed great wealth and creature comforts. But give me a side with the perpetual hunger and fearlessness of the Europeans over a dozen isolated corporate entities any day.

The rich Americans assemble once a year for the Ryder or Presidents Cup, fumble awkwardly with the team concept, then wonder why they lose. And it's not as if there is a bottomless well of talent waiting to replace the spiritless core of the team.

Not only is this a problem today, but it's also going to be a problem into the foreseeable future. Tiger Woods, at 29, is the youngest player on the American team.

The Europeans, on the other hand, have four players younger than Woods already contributing and another, David Howell, who is only two weeks older than Woods.

The Europeans have always had fire and determination and team unity, but now they have depth of talent to go with all the intangibles. With the exception of Colin Montgomerie, their leaders are going to be around for the next 10 years.

More than that, points out Bernhard Langer, they have plenty of quality players clamouring for a spot on the team.

"We might not have all the superstars who won all those majors in the '80s and '90s (Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros and Langer himself) but we have great players. We have far more depth.

"You know, I could have brought 18 or 20 players over here and we would have looked pretty good and that just shows how strong the European Tour has become over the past 15, 20 years."

Garcia and Lee Westwood were the stars of this thumping administered by the Europeans. Both played five matches and went undefeated. The only blemish on their record was a halved match against Jay Haas and Chris DiMarco on Saturday morning.

But at the moment of truth, it was the magnificent 41-year-old warhorse, Montgomerie, the man America loves to hate, who delivered the killing blow on the 18th green by defeating David Toms 1 up to push Europe's point total past 14.

Montgomerie, playing his seventh Ryder Cup, and Garcia are at opposite ends of the spectrum as far as their careers are concerned. Garcia's is still in its infancy; Monty's is well past its prime.

But Montgomerie shares the same mystical connection to the Ryder Cup as his young teammate and this weekend summoned a performance that expressed perfectly his depth of feeling by winning three of his four matches

"We're a closer knit team," Montgomerie said. "We're one of the closest teams in international sport. It's amazing how well we play for each other, from the word go. It's stunning how our record here belies our ranking in the world."

At 24, Garcia has played 14 Ryder Cup matches, winning 10 and halving one. With the potential to play in eight more of these tournaments by the age of 40, he could end up as one of the greatest Ryder Cup players in history.

"Those are team points," Garcia said. "They're not my points. They belong to us all."

Monty couldn't have said it better. 


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