Veterans to blame for Europe's Ryder Cup loss

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! Sports

Europe's weak link turned out to be its greatest strength, and a collection of other underrated players did themselves proud. So how exactly did the defending champions slide to a five-point defeat in the Ryder Cup?

The answer, one which will be scrutinized heavily and lead to much head-scratching across the Atlantic, lies in the failure of the European heavyweights to perform.

Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington were expected to form the backbone of Nick Faldo's team and with good reason.

Garcia has been a Ryder Cup stud ever since he joined the team at the tender age of 19, entering this year's event with a 14-3-3 record.

This time though, still on antibiotics after an illness last week, he was a mere shadow of the dominant beast that strutted around the K Club in Dublin in 2006. The passion and drive that has marked his involvement in previous matches was visible only fleetingly – and Europe suffered.

His heavy defeat to Anthony Kim at the start of the singles round gave the Americans huge momentum and set the tone for the U.S. victory march.

"It was a difficult week," Garcia said. "I have said before that I care more about the team winning than I do about however many points I score. But neither thing really happened here and of course it is disappointing."

Westwood also failed to win a match at Valhalla and was unable to live up to the role of on-course captain that Faldo had envisaged for him. The Englishman allowed himself to become flustered by Boo Weekley's habit of revving up the home crowd and got distracted from the task at hand.

Perhaps the most surprising of all was Harrington. The popular Irishman has won three of the last five major championships and proven himself to be a titan under pressure. All he could manage, though, was a half-point from a possible four and a tepid defeat to Chad Campbell in Sunday's final match summed up his miserable week.

If not for the fine efforts of Ian Poulter, Faldo's widely criticized choice ahead of Darren Clarke, then the deficit would have been far greater. The same goes for Graeme McDowell, Robert Karlsson and Justin Rose.

Faldo was not a universally popular choice as captain, but he can not be blamed for the defeat. His decisions stood up to scrutiny, especially that of Poulter, who was outstanding with four wins in five matches.

This one is on Garcia, Westwood and Harrington, although Faldo refused to apportion individual blame.

"It was a special Ryder Cup," he said. "We are talking about fractions, little things that went the other way. The standard of play was incredible, but the U.S. was just a little bit better."

Faldo lamented the limited numbers of traveling supporters – far less than at Oakland Hills four years ago.

Soaring gas prices and the threat of impending recession is believed to be the main reason that Europeans did not make the trip to lend their voices to the continental cause.

But that can't be blamed for the result. If flying has anything to do with it, then it was the inability of Europe's squadron leaders to achieve takeoff that caused their demise.

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