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Olé! Olé!
Rick Reilly
October 06, 1997
In a stunning upset in Spain, a European team led by captain Seve Ballesteros gored the U.S.
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October 06, 1997

Olé! Olé!

In a stunning upset in Spain, a European team led by captain Seve Ballesteros gored the U.S.

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Seve was manic, but the players understood. Making him surrender the Cup in his own country was more than they could bear. "We can't let that happen," said Monty. "He'd be a blubbering mess."

Seve was a mess as it was. On Thursday, the day before the matches began, the phone rang at 5:15 a.m. in the room of Seve's Sancho Panza, assistant coach Miguel Angel Jiménez. "Come to my room," Seve said. "We need to discuss the pairings." The pairings weren't due until 2 p.m.

"Are you crazy?" Jiménez said groggily.

"Well, this is very important."

Jiménez went.

The Daily Mail of London reported that during practice on Thursday Seve made Faldo, Montgomerie and Germany's Bernhard Langer play the 17th over again. They hadn't done it right, he said.

Kite, meanwhile, was into undermeddling. He said his main goal was to make sure his team "had one heckuva time, no matter what the outcome." Camp Kite was a very happy place until widespread sucking set in. The captain attributed America's loss to a lack of course knowledge, but he had invited the top 25 U.S. golfers to go to Valderrama with him in July, before the British Open, to get a feel for it. Only three players who ended up on Kite's Ryder Cup team went. "I wasn't forceful enough," Kite said.

He was not a force during the week, either, showing up mostly for moral support, with his wife and kids—and, on Saturday, Michael Jordan—in his cart. Seve didn't cart around his kids, and he made his wife walk with the other wives. Wife and kids on the Seve Chevy? Are you mad? Clarke and Woosnam rode with him one day as he screeched around the course, and they lived to regret it. Barely. "They were a little scared," Seve admitted. You talk about a Rider Cup.

Exhibit A of how Kite got outcaptained: As the Americans' world fell in on Saturday—they wouldn't win a single point the entire day, the first time this had happened to any team since 1967—Lee Janzen and Jim Furyk had a 35-foot putt in the near darkness on number 18 in their alternate-shot match against Montgomerie and Langer. If the U.S. could just two-putt, it would likely win the hole and save half a point. Anybody would have said, "Let's just call it an evening and come back tomorrow, when we don't have to read bentgrass in the dark." Plus, Monty hadn't sat out a match the first two days. To make him get up early the next day, finish the alternate-shot match and then play a singles match hours later might just have killed him. But Kite was nowhere around to offer that kind of advice. He didn't arrive until after Janzen had bombed his putt 10 feet by and two seconds before Furyk slapped the comebacker badly past the cup. U.S. concedes hole. U.S. loses match. Monty sleeps in. Monty ties a battling Scott Hoch the next day for the half point that gives Europe the win, 14½ to 13½.

It was never that close. In fact, the Europeans never trailed in these matches. They scored the first point of the first day when Mickelson clanked a huge six-foot putt to lose to Italian Ice (Costantino Rocca) and Olazábal. Europe led 4½ to 3½ at the end of the first round. Then, on Saturday, Seve and his toreros turned the fairways red with American blood.

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