(Editor's note: This is another in our series of Ryder Cup pieces. Check out the first, second, third and fourth installments, too.)
There's an old expression in Scotland that says: "Medal play is the truest test of golf, but match play is the truest test of character."
Match play is how they played the
at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., this past weekend, and the character of the American squad won out. Faced with the all-but-impossible task of having to win two-thirds of the singles matches and halve one other, the Americans did just that, winning 14 1/2 to 13 1/2.
It was the greatest comeback in the Cup's history and spoke volumes about the depth of American talent. When they had to, the boys in the bad shirts played golf at a level that you see once or twice in a lifetime. One after another they defeated the European players until finally, scratching and clawing his way back from a four-hole deficit,
drained the putt of his life.
There were many lessons learned over the three-day weekend. The golfing press, a besotted lot, will no doubt dissect the strategies and tactics of the opposing sides. And much will be written about the crucial matches at the end. But there were other lessons learned and we detail them here:
- Get a New Shirt. Those who watched could have but one question: What was up with the American uniforms? On Friday, they looked like frogs in their olive pants and striped shirts. On Sunday, they looked like bad wallpaper from Home Depot (HD) - Get Home Depot Inc. (The) Report. The outfits of the American players' wives were equally hideous. Next time, call Ralph Lauren (RL) - Get Ralph Lauren Corporation Report.
- Get a New Ranking System. The Sony world rankings led the golfing press to predict -- and many to believe -- that the U.S. team would make hash of the European squad. It didn't quite work out that way, to say the least. The European team humbled the Americans in team play. Only the dramatic comeback in the singles matches enabled the Americans to prevail, and then just barely.
- Get a New Crowd. The constant hazing and heckling of the European team by the American crowd reflected badly on the U.S. side. Payne Stewart's concession of his match on the 18th hole to Colin Montgomerie, sportsmanlike as it was, did not make up for it. It is hard enough to play golf under the pressure of Ryder Cup play. You shouldn't have to do it with some nitwit calling you a "choker."
- Get a New No. 2. It is the case that Tiger Woods is the world's greatest player, but the greatest player on the golf course these last three days was not Tiger Woods, it was Colin Montgomerie. He was a rock, who made so many tough putts under such difficult conditions (the hazing of Monty was relentless and tasteless). Monty is frequently described by his peers as a "horse's ass," but he rose above the field at Brookline and must now be regarded as the world's second-best player, supplanting David Duval, despite Duval's crushing win against Jesper Parnevik in the singles on Sunday.
- Don't Get a New Announcer. "Covering" the Ryder Cup is a weird experience in that what you really do is go to the media village or inside the clubhouse, watch the action on TV, and then run out to the course when crucial holes shape up. In the singles play, because there are 12 twosomes on the course, one spends most of the time watching TV. This system of "reporting" has one great benefit: Johnny Miller. He is by far the best golf TV commentator in the business.
- Get Some Respect. In preparation for this assignment, I read virtually everything I could get my hands on about the American and European teams. If I had relied on this research, I would have concluded that Paul Lawrie and Padraig Harrington and Miguel Jiminez and Darren Clarke were marginal players who couldn't compete at the American level. In the event, all four played magnificent golf, especially Lawrie, the British Open champion, who played all five matches and lost none.
- Stop Crying. What's with all the boo-hoo at the end? It is the case that three days of grinding pressure brings one's emotions very close to the surface. But the blubbering of the American players at the end was disrespectful to the Europeans. They were the ones who should have been crying and, with the exception of Sergio Garcia, they didn't.
- Don't Ever Call Jesper "flaky" again. Although he was crushed in his singles match against Duval, Parnevik played some of the greatest golf ever under extreme pressure in the foursomes and fourball matches. In a 25-mile-an-hour wind on Friday afternoon, he shot a 29 on his own ball on the front nine. He was almost as good on Saturday.
- Don't Ever Count Justin Leonard Out. Looking for scapegoats, the American press singled out Justin Leonard as a nonperformer going into Sunday. Four down against Jose Marie Olazabel on Sunday, the long knives were out. Leonard got it back to 2-down and realized that his was the crucial match. He then proceeded to birdie 14, birdie 15 and birdie 17 to ensure the needed half-point.
- It's Not That They're Better, It's That They're So Much Better. The level of play at the 33rd Ryder Cup was simply extraordinary. Coming off the 17th green after winning his 4-ball match with Colin Montgomerie, Paul Lawrie was congratulated by European Captain Mark James' wife. "Well done, Paul," she said in her perfectly British way. Well done to all of them. They brought a U.S. open course to its knees.
John Ellis is a columnist for Fast Company magazine. He focuses on business trends and has written frequently about how the Internet is changing the media world in particular.