It isn’t about numbers: lessons from the past (and present)

Tariq Engineer

It isn’t the size of the dog in the fight that matters; it’s the size of the fight in the dog. Let me say that again. It isn’t the size of the dog in the fight that matters; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

I say this because I’m mad. All week the pre-tournament talk was about how the 2002 Ryder Cup was going to be a huge mismatch because on paper the Americans were streets ahead of the Europeans.

What amazes me (and makes me mad) is that the Americans say the same thing every year in spite of the fact that the Europeans have split the last eight Ryder Cups and have won two of the last three.

Doesn’t anybody learn from history?

Doesn’t anybody understand that on any given day the world rankings are just a number? If they weren’t, shouldn’t Tiger Woods triumph in every tournament he enters?

If paper were the key to the outcome of a sporting event, how come Kevin Sutherland won the World Match Play Championship when he was the 62nd seed?

Not only were the Americans outplayed Sunday in the singles, but they were whooped by the Europeans 71/2 to 41/2. Mickelson, the number two-ranked player in the world, was beaten 3 and 2 by Phillip Price, ranked 119th. In fact, Lefty never led in the match and never looked like winning once he got down.

Paul McGinley made an eight-foot putt to win the Cup on the final green, a putt commentator Johnny Miller said no one could make under such pressure. McGinley’s world ranking is 70.

How did this happen, I hear you ask?

It happened because the Europeans played with more heart and more desire. The Cup means more to them than it does to the current crop of Americans, and it showed on Sunday.

It didn’t matter who they were playing; each European went out there with the intention of winning his match and taking the Cup back across the Atlantic.

Ironically, once they won, the questions about the quality of the European team, about Sam Torrance as the captain, and about where they’d find any points, were nowhere to be heard.

“Out of the shadows come heroes, and that’s where Phillip Price and Paul McGinley came,” Torrance said.

“When we got here, there was all this talk,” said Bernhard Langer. “‘Well, you’ve got some weak players on the team, and they’re not in form, and off form,’ and all this kind of stuff. It was all rubbish. Everybody was playing great. There wasn’t just two or three or five or seven good players, all 12 were great. And they all did their part.”

Darren Clarke said, “We came here as a team, we dined as a team, we talked as a team and we won as a team. That’s all I can say.”

That’s all anybody needs to say, and the Europeans have the Ryder Cup to prove it.