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He clutched the Cup at the victory press conference and smiled while his teammates needled him affectionately. Nonetheless, his skin had a sickly pallor rarely seen on a golfer. Said Calcavecchia, "I've had enough tension this week to last a lifetime."
What to make of so much fear and trembling? Some observers will argue that the 14½-13½ American win proved something—that the U.S. PGA Tour is renascent, maybe, or deeper than the European tour. "For us to come through redeems our Tour a little bit," said Beck. "They've been ungracious winners the last couple of years. They've criticized us and degraded us, and it's been hard to take."
But it's hard to see how the merits of pro golf in either the U.S. or Europe can be adjudicated by one swipe of Langer's putter. What's more, the Europeans won by two points in 1987, and the teams tied in '89.
What recent Ryder Cups have proved is individual mettle, so perhaps we should start according Ryder Cup heroes the same respect we grant the winners of major tournaments. Consider this curiosity: Aside from Ballesteros, the spiritual leader of the European side and winner of 4½ of a possible five points at Kiawah, and former PGA champion Lanny Wadkins, Ballesteros's American counterpart, who accounted for 3½ points, the five top performers were Olazábal for the Europeans and Azinger, Beck, Fred Couples and Corey Pavin for the U.S. Collectively they have won zero majors, and collectively they can probably beat any five players in the world.
Azinger and Couples, in particular, left Kiawah with their reputations enhanced. The lean and hungry Zinger, good-naturedly referred to by one British reporter as "some kind of stick insect," played much better than his 2-3 record suggests. He was the best shot maker and the most relentless competitor among the Americans. Two of his defeats, both shared with Beck, were at the hands of Ballesteros and Olazábal, who were undefeated as a team, and the score of both matches was 2 and 1. In the latter loss, a Friday afternoon four-ball, Azinger had six birdies on his own ball. Saturday morning he and Mark O'Meara waxed Faldo and David Gilford 7 and 6 for the most lopsided victory of the weekend. On Sunday, Azinger took on Olazábal and won 2 up in the best match of the competition. Two years ago Azinger was 3-1 at the Belfry, including a one-up win over Ballesteros in singles. The Europeans now regard him not as a giant-killer but as a giant.
For Couples, Kiawah meant redemption. Two years ago he wound up sobbing on the shoulder of his wife, Deborah, after bogeying the 18th hole to lose to Ireland's Christy O'Connor Jr. This year he teamed with 49-year-old Raymond Floyd to win two matches on Friday, carried the struggling Stewart to a crucial half against Ballesteros and Olazábal on Saturday and made easy work of Scotland's Sam Torrance on Sunday.
Too much was made of Floyd's steadying influence on Couples. "I don't think I'm making Freddy any better," said Floyd after their two victories on Friday. "The experience he gained in the last Ryder Cup has made him better."
Also vindicated was Pete Dye, the designer and builder of the Ocean Course. Dye has long contended that he builds his punishing layouts with match play in mind. The Ocean Course, with its table-top greens, marshes paralleling the fairways, huge carries over water, and sprawling sand-and-scrub transition areas (the course has no bunkers), forced the action on every hole and put a premium on creative shot making, particularly on Saturday and Sunday, when the wind gusted to 30 mph. The sadistic 17th, a 197-yard par-3 over water to a diagonal green the width of a hearth rug, was so unassailable that players aimed their tee shots at the spectators on the dunes to the left of the green, hoping for lucky caroms. "It's so hard it's unbelievable," Floyd said of the course. "If you had to play this golf course with a scorecard, I don't see how you could finish."
Nothing illuminated Dye's match-play design better than Friday morning's first foursomes match. Ballesteros and Olazábal found themselves in marshland on No. 2 (triple bogey) and up to their hips in scrub on No. 4 (double bogey), but they still edged Azinger and Beck. (Had it been a medal round, Ballesteros would have been making plane reservations at the turn.) The match provided the Europeans their only point of the morning, as the Americans took a 3-1 lead.
In the afternoon's four-ball competition—the Americans' bête noire at the Belfry—Floyd and Couples overpowered Woosnam and Faldo 5 and 3, and O'Meara and Wadkins halved their match with Torrance and Ireland's David Feherty to give the U.S. a 4½-3½ lead at day's end. The lack of discourse between Woosnam and the taciturn Faldo led some observers to conclude that the Europeans were suffering discord, but European captain Bernard Gallacher angrily rejected the notion as "completely offensive, because the European camp has never been happier."