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Steve Cameron: Presidents Cup leaves something to be desired

Steve Cameron

How many Central Valley golf junkies watched the Presidents Cup this weekend -- or maybe even drove up to San Francisco to see it live?

My guess is...

Not too many.

Oh, some guys coming off courses around the area will have stopped in the grill to watch Tiger, Phil and the rest of the U.S. lads polish off the Internationals for the umpteenth time.

The Raiders getting blown out in New York probably lured a few TV viewers to the early part of Sunday's golf "showdown," but with the 49ers kicking off at 1...

Well, watching Sean O'Hair clubbing Ernie Els like a madman beating a goat with a pitching wedge probably wasn't going to hold all that many viewers.

Now on the other hand, if this had been the Ryder Cup, well, that would be a different story.

Why?

Simple: Americans don't take much notice of far-flung, worldwide team sports events -- until foreigners start winning them.

Then you've got an entirely new dynamic.

We hate to lose, pure and simple.

Back in the day, the U.S. routinely cruised to Ryder Cup victories when the competition was limited to Great Britain and Ireland. One mismatch followed another.

But then, when the European Union was formed and players from Spain (Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal), Germany (Bernhard Langer) and the Scandinavian countries were included among the opposition, a funny thing happened.

Europe started winning -- and kept on doing it, tossing in a couple of embarrassing routs just to make everything a bit more painful.

Ballesteros, in particular, was a combative character who refused to swallow the myth of American supremacy and set fire to the rivalry. Seve and Olazabal teamed up to torture U.S. teams in match after match.

Ditto for the grumpy Scot, Colin Montgomerie, who could spend months playing "rubbish" -- as they say in Britain -- and still sink every putt he saw in the Ryder Cup.

So suddenly, it became a very big deal when the U.S. -- followed by boisterous, howling crowds -- managed at last to regain the Cup last year.

I can tell you from living in Scotland that the Ryder Cup is a massive competition to everyone on that side of the Atlantic.

There was plenty of grief handed out when the Euros waxed us in 2006, and I listened to buckets of it.

So when order finally was restored in '08, I got my chance to strut around some Scottish clubhouses in a nice, white Ryder Cup sweater.

And make no mistake: Americans living outside the country never shake their allegiance to the red, white and blue.

I watched the 2004 Olympics on the BBC, which naturally focused most on the efforts of British athletes. Even Englishmen placing seventh in obscure sailing events were profiled at length.

It was easy to take that in with an air of superiority, knowing that the U.S. would need a chartered cargo plane just to haul home all its medals from Athens, but then...

The American men's 4x100-meter relay team -- favorites by streets and hoping for a world record -- dropped the baton in a messy exchange that suggested the runners had never even been introduced.

And Great Britain won the gold -- in our race!

Sheesh, the interviews and victory laps and shots of celebrants wrapped in the Union Jack went on forever.

Amazing, but for all the truckloads of medals we win and records we set, that catastrophe with the baton in the 4x100 -- and Britain snatching gold -- is one of my most enduring Olympic memories.

For all the wrong reasons.

But it underlines what I meant about Yanks only getting worked up when we start losing.

Nobody even knew a 12-meter yacht from a bass boat until we lost the America's Cup after a winning streak that lasted more than century.

When we finally lost the thing to New Zealand, ESPN immediately picked up the rights to televise the rematch. We even learned who the "grinders" are on a racing yacht.

Frankly, I expect Americans to begin paying attention to world baseball competitions -- since we can't seem to win any of them.

As for the Presidents Cup, Aussie Geoff Ogilvy probably got it right after Sunday's singles ended with the U.S. winning 19 1/2 to 14 1/2.

The Americans are now 6-1-1 in Presidents Cup play, which seems just a bit odd since this year's International squad boasted seven major winners: Ogilvy, Els, Y.E. Yang, Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, Angel Cabrera and Mike Weir -- none of whom managed a winning record over the five sessions.

"There's no question that we really have to win this thing a couple of times to make the whole event more relevant," Ogilvy said.

No kidding, Geoff.

I normally watch every second of big-time tournament golf, but I was dozing on the couch long, long before the awards ceremony.

The Presidents Cup needs a shot of caffeine.

Me, too.

Steve Cameron is a freelance columnist for the Sun-Star.

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