Patrick+ Logo

Blog

Patrick+

Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

Reusse: Europe's ham 'n egging doesn't have shot vs. USA's depth

There was an early test on Friday of the theory that there was far too much depth on this United States roster for Europe to maintain the Ryder Cup for another two years.

The Europeans had held the hardware since the 14 ½-13 ½ triumph in Wales in 2010. A victory at Hazeltine would give that side – Great Britain/Ireland, now Europe – its first four-match winning streak in the 41 editions of the Ryder Cup.

The first pairs off on Friday morning were the alternate-shot foursomes. Europe had won the Ryder Cup in 2014 with a 7-1 record in those matches.

The ability of Europeans of lesser pedigree to figure out a way to team up for wins and halves has been incomprehensible at times. There was one of those matches at the bottom of the draw on early Friday.

The first three matches a case could be made for Europe having the talent to compete. The fourth had the appearance of a walkover: Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar for the U.S. against 43-year-old Lee Westwood and rookie Thomas Pieters.

This is the way I looked at it:

If Johnson and Kuchar dominated as they should, it would be strong evidence that the bottom portion of Europe’s 12-man squad was going to be out of luck. If Westwood and Pieters could ham ‘n egg their way to a half-point, then there was magic in Europe’s fingertips, as Tom Lehman once said after an inexplicable loss of the Cup.

The foursomes teed off in 15-minute intervals starting at 7:35 a.m. The Yanks started with those hard-nosed young guns, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed. They were the only U.S. pair that had done much in the 16 ½-11 ½ loss in Scotland last time around (2014).

The second match included Sergio Garcia for Europe. It was around 8 a.m. as Garcia approached the green, and there was already a drunk standing on a platform in front of one of tent suites, bellowing what he thought was an insult.

“Waggle, Sergio,’’ he shouted. “Waggle, waggle, waggle.’’

He kept it up, and seemed surprised that the people standing there with him were not laughing at his cleverness. Maybe those folks were savvy enough to realize it was a 14-year-old taunt, dating to the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.

Sergio’s bad habit long since stopped being extra waggles before a swing and has become missing too many putts a great player expects to make.

The fourth match was scheduled for 8:20 a.m. Reed and Spieth already were 2-up by then, having won the first two holes against Justin Rose, the Olympic gold medalist, and Henrick Stenson, the Olympic silver medalist.

So much for the importance of that overhyped exercise in Rio de Janeiro.

Westwood was assigned to hit the opening tee shot. This must have been a bow to Pieters’ ookie nerves, since the Belgian is a noted long hitter.

Westwood hit his tee shot short and to the right. Dustin Johnson stepped up and hammered a 330-yard drive through the morning haze to the middle of the fairway.

Kuchar’s approach shot was a clunker and Europe had a chance to get off the first green even. Pieters missed his par putt and, just like that, the ham ‘n eggers were one down.

Pieters returned the favor of a poor tee shot to Westwood and put him in the left bunker on No. 2. Another bogey and the Johnson-Kuchar combo was 2-up without having done anything impressive, other than Dustin’s bomb off the first tee.

Next was the par-5 third. Johnson hit it long and in what passes for rough at trimmed-up Hazeltine. Westwood then bent it right again, this time over the mound and in the muck near the fencing and behind the tree line.

Perhaps out of embarrassment, Westwood didn’t come over to take a look at the mess in which he had left his partner. Pieters’ ball was allowed to take a drop away from the fencing but still in the muck.

He considered his options and went with a straightforward attack over the trees. He succeeded in hitting it clean, while leaving an incredibly shallow divot in the mud.

That amazing recovery gave Westwood a chance to hit the green and the Euros wound up matching par-5s with Johnson and Kuchar.

It was only a temporary reprieve. The U.S. pair got to 3-up with a birdie on No. 5, and then Westwood’s play officially became an embarrassment on No. 7. This is the actual No. 16, the famous par-4 that resides next to Hazeltine Lake.

Westwood hit the tee ball on the water line, it was lost, the Euros took a double-bogey and they were 4-down after seven holes.

Instructive though it was about the teams’ comparative depth of talent, the eventual 5-and-4 loss for the Westwood and Pieters was only a footnote in a morning of disaster for Europe.

The U.S. won all four matches in foursomes. They had not done that in a session since 1981.

It was clear before noon of Day One that Europe’s tradition ham ‘n egging wasn’t going to cut against this United States collection of wondrous talent.

Huge practice crowds no surprise to Minnesotans who recall 6-17-91

There has been amazement expressed by U.S. and international visitors at the size of the crowds for Ryder Cup practice rounds at Hazeltine National.

On Tuesday, the first day of practice, Hazeltine and the PGA of America estimated attendance at 37,000. Patrick Hunt, the chairman of the event for Hazeltine, was told that this was 10,000 more than had ever attended a Ryder Cup practice round.

The crowd was somewhat smaller on Wednesday, but then it was huge again on Thursday for the final practice round.

Obviously, all those amazed by the crowds driven by enthused Minnesotans were not aware of the most-astounding moment in history of golf attendance – here or anywhere else on the universe.

The 1991 U.S. Open was played here and became Hazeltine’s redemption for its first, much-ridiculed Open in 1970. The ’91 Open went to a playoff between Payne Stewart and Scott Simpson.

These 18-hole Monday playoffs of the past had produced crowds of a few thousand elsewhere, so the USGA did not issue special tickets. If you had a ticket from Sunday, you could get in by showing that.

The USGA expected 5,000, maybe a few more. This is the hunk of my next-day column in the Star Tribune what actually happened on that Monday, June 17:

(Note: Scott Simpson had been hitting the ball terribly, so this first graph of this excerpt was a tribute to his terrible play – shooting a 78 compared to Stewart’s winning but unimpressive 75).

ON THE PAR-3 17TH, an 182-yarder into the tree-lined swale, Simpson jerked a 4-iron off the hill to the left of the green. Simpson had let his club fall from his hands before the ball hit the mound and bounced into a pond, adding a dented sunfish to his toll of Hazeltine's creatures.

Speaking of creatures: Are we Minnesotans the goofiest mammals on the planet or what?

There had been 52 threesomes on Thursday and Friday, and 32 ½ twosomes on Saturday and Sunday. With a whole field and action on 18 holes for the most of the day, it was danged near impossible to get a decent view of some golf. The acres were crawling with more than 40,000 spectators, maneuvering for the spots in the bleachers or the high ground.

Yesterday, there was a single twosome teeing off at 12:30 p.m. There were 15,000 cars in the parking lot and an estimated 35,000 people on the grounds. This does not work mathematically, logistically or logically.

"I went around this morning to unlock the boxes (for numbers) at the leaderboards," one volunteer said. "I got to No. 16 at 10:45 and there were 30 people in the bleachers, maybe more."

The volunteer jokingly asked what they were doing there, and received an indignant reply. "They said they wanted a good seat," the volunteer said.

Stewart and Simpson made it to the fairway on No. 16 at 4:30 p.m. Thus, we have confirmation that Minnesotans waited more than 5 1/2 hours to see Stewart and Simpson make their approach shots and do their putting on the now-famous 16th. Not only did they wait 5 1/2 hours to see what turned out to be two approaches and four putts, they felt it was reasonable to do so.

On No. 17, two women arrived three hours before Stewart and Simpson reached the tee. They positioned themselves in the bleachers, toward the right side of the green. Simpson's decisive shot came in left, hitting on the mound, beyond the viewpoint of these early arrivers.

"Where did it go?" one woman said.

"I couldn't tell either," her companion replied.

We have had the Vikings' four trips to the Super Bowl. We have had several regrettable football meetings between the Gophers and Nebraska.

The Monday playoff at the 1991 Open now stands as the most embarrassing moment in Minnesota sports history. To have 35,000 people show up to watch a twosome play golf - and then expect they might see something - shows the whole world we are saps, but what do we care?

"This is Minnesota," a Hazeltine member said. "The people would have thought they were being impolite if they weren't here for the playoff."

I believe it. It didn't make any difference if it was Simpson and Stewart, or Steve Gotsche and Ed Humenik, there would have been 35,000 out there, hanging from the trees.

We're Minnesotans, we're goofy and we're proud of it.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Lindenwood at Gophers women's hockey

    2:07 pm

  • Gophers football at Penn State

    2:30 pm on BTN, 100.3-FM

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox

    6:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Jacksonville at Minnesota United FC

    7 pm on Ch. 29

  • Twins at Chicago White Sox

    2:10 pm on FSN, 96.3-FM

  • Lynx at Phoenix

    4 pm on ESPN, 106.1-FM

  • Carolina at Wild (preseason)

    5 pm on 100.3-FM

  • N.Y. Giants at Vikings

    7:30 pm on ESPN, 100.3/1130

  • Wild at Colorado (preseason)

    8 pm on 100.3-FM

  • Minnesota United FC at Tampa Bay

    6:30 pm on Ch. 29

  • Gophers women's hockey at Bemidji State

    3:07 pm

Poll: How will the Gophers do against Penn State?

See more polls

Today's Scoreboard

  • Baltimore

    NY Yankees

     

    - F

    8

    1

  • NY Mets

    Philadelphia

     

    - F

    5

    1

  • Miami

    Washington

     

    - F

    7

    4

  • Toronto

    Boston

     

    - F

    3

    5

  • Chicago Cubs

    Cincinnati

     

    - F

    7

    3

  • Detroit

    Atlanta

     

    - F

    6

    2

  • Tampa Bay

    Texas

     

    - F

    1

    3

  • Minnesota

    Chicago White Sox

     

    - F

    3

    7

  • Milwaukee

    Colorado

     

    - F

    1

    4

  • Cleveland

    Kansas City

     

    - F

    7

    2

  • Pittsburgh

    St. Louis

     

    - F

    0

    7

  • San Diego

    Arizona

     

    - F

    3

    5

  • Houston

    LA Angels

     

    - F

    1

    7

  • Oakland

    Seattle

     

    - F

    1

    5

  • LA Dodgers

    San Francisco

     

    - F

    3

    9

No NFL games today

No NBA games today

  • Toronto

    Buffalo

     

    - F

    8

    1

  • Chicago

    Pittsburgh

     

    - F

    0

    1

  • Tampa Bay

    Carolina

     

    - F

    2

    1

  • Boston

    Detroit

     

    - F

    2

    1

  • Dallas

    St. Louis

     

    - F

    1

    4

  • Edmonton

    Winnipeg

     

    - F

    1

    5

  • Vancouver

    Calgary

     

    - F

    1

    2

  • Los Angeles

    Colorado

     

    - F

    1

    3

  • Arizona

    San Jose

     

    - F

    2

    3

  • New York City FC

    Houston

     

    - F

    2

    0