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Those were Mark Calcavecchia's reassuring words to Europe's pro golfers at last week's Lancôme Trophy tournament in St. Nom la Breteche, a suburb of Paris. With less than a fortnight to go before Calcavecchia and his American teammates take on a dozen of the best golfers from Europe and Britain in the biennial Ryder Cup, at Kiawah Island, S.C., Calcavecchia was the only member of the U.S. team to tune up alongside the Europeans. The entire European team was in Paris, while most of the American team was in the U.S., not playing in the Hardee's Classic in Coal Valley, Ill.
Well, Calcavecchia may not have been spying, but I was. And the Americans can rest easy.
The Europeans may have blundered badly by playing in Paris. Quelles distractions! The spectators at St. Nom la Breteche rarely ventured from the posh tented village behind the 18th green. Everywhere one turned, a tray of hors d'oeuvres was provided, a glass of champagne was offered. The ambiance was more that of a fashion show than of a golf tournament—linen napkins, spotless silver, plates of spinach-wrapped escargots, jazz pianists. A week in Paris can only dull a golfer's competitive edge. The Americans were better off preparing in their own individualistic ways.
French fans did little to inspire the European golfers. The French are not represented on the Ryder Cup team, and they seem to be immune from the Ryder Cup fever that grips most of Europe. The mischievous Scot, Sam Torrance, smacked a superb drive on Friday, and after hearing nothing from the gallery—not even a "Tu l'homme!" (You the man!)—he waved and shouted cheerily, "Merci!" The 25,000 spectators next week at Kiawah are bound to be more demonstrative and more partisan.
There are other significant indications of European torpor: Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer have not been playing their best of late, José-María Olazábal admits that he has "not had the same will to play" since his one-stroke loss at the Masters, and the European golf writers covering the Lancôme tournament offered fretful analyses full of foreboding. Nick Faldo remained optimistic, though: "I'm not worried about what the Ryder Cup team is doing here. The adrenaline will start flowing when we get there."
But can one recover quickly from a week in Paris, where the wine flows faster than the adrenaline? I think not. The prediction here is that the Ryder Cup will return to U.S. hands after six years abroad.
Ex-champ Mark Breland retires from the ring
Mark Breland was a Golden Gloves champion at 17. He was tall and handsome, and people sought him out. They flocked to the Bedford-Stuyvesant Boxing Association in Brooklyn to watch him train. If they were training too, they would stand before the mirror the way he did, twisting their heads from side to side and shaking the stiffness from their arms.
Breland is now 28, and no one imitates him anymore. It has been seven years since the remarkable spring and summer of 1984, when he won his record fifth New York Golden Gloves championship and then, in Los Angeles, the Olympic welterweight gold medal. His Olympic victory represented not so much a championship as the coronation of the next "greatest fighter of his time."