I lived in Europe for seven years, and there are many differences to American life, some obvious and some subtle. Among the differences that were most noticeable to me were the differences in the types of cars, especially the race cars. Formula 1 sports cars are small, nimble machines built for taking tight curves and managing difficult conditions. They are fun, sexy and perfect… for Europe.
And then there are the NASCAR cars. They are big on the outside and big on the inside and are good for going full blast in straight lines, with the occasional dogleg turn. They are large, loud and overwhelming in their sheer power. As I look at the results of the first two days of the 39th Ryder Cup, the impression is of a vintage Alfa Romeo in a drag race with a Dodge Charger that is prepped for a superspeedway. The Americans as a team have put the pedal to the medal and they are on the verge of leaving the Euros in a cloud of dust.
Initial credit goes to U.S. team captain Davis Love III who, recognizing the raw power and intimidating presence of his squad, set up the Medinah track as the rough equivalent of Daytona Motor Speedway. The course is long and fast with fairways like banked turns and asphalt-hard greens. All of the Euros’ guile accumulated through hundreds of rounds in rainstorms on courses that have more humps and bumps than an elephant graveyard. Medinah is a straight-ahead test of muscle and testosterone, perfect for the Americans.
And then there is the team itself. The Americans are physically a bunch of power forwards playing against a European team of relative point guards. Ten years ago Tiger Woods was the most physically imposing golfer anyone had ever seen. Now the U.S. includes skyscrapers Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Keegan Bradley and Bubba Watson, and Woods is still equal parts PGA and NFL. They are big and they are intimidating.
And then there is the distance they hit the ball. The last team of Yankees with this many big hitters included Ruth and Gehrig. Keegan Bradley gave a graphic example of the difference between the two teams on his initial tee shot of the Cup, blasting his drive some 60 yards beyond that of his closest competitor. Bubba Watson insists on having the crowds cheer during his tee shots, probably to disguise the screams of agony from his ball as he puts it in orbit. Phil and Tiger are among the short knockers in this bunch. If the U.S. team had any more bombers they’d qualify for military funding. Sure, the Europeans have Rory McIlrory and Nicolas Colsaerts, two of the longest hitters in this or any other world. But the rest of the European contingent is much more reliant on skills like sorcery around the greens and controlling ball flight. For the Americans, their thoughts about ball flight run more towards spacecraft than witchcraft.
As the sun set on Day 2, the Euros showed flashes of hope. But if they are going to make it close, they better start thinking big. Otherwise, Sunday is going to be a long victory lap for the big, bad Americans.