Sports

Europeans entertain on, off the course

LOUISVILLE — So, what, you thought these Europeans were going to go down without a fight?

Did you really think just because Friday was so majestic for the Americans, so in tune with Captain Fantastic Paul Azinger's blueprint, our fine guests from across the pond would just roll over and concede the Ryder Cup?

Not for a bloody second.

After all, as much as snatching back the coveted trophy means to Azinger and his Yankee-doodle dozen, retaining that piece of shiny hardware means just as much to the Europeans, who fought tooth-and-nail to chip the margin to 9-7 heading into Sunday's final round.

"I think we've got the momentum back on our side," said the Euros' Ian Poulter, who then predicted, "(Sunday) is going to be one hell of a day."

The Americans, and the Europeans, wouldn't want it any other way.

After all, despite the U.S.'s clear "13th man" advantage, a surprisingly sizable portion of the Valhalla gallery is backing Europe. They have their Union Jacks and European flags. They even attempt that sing-song "Ole, Ole," knowingly full well it will be drowned out by the chants of "Boo" (for Weekley) and "U-S-A, U-S-A."

Plus, an estimated 30 percent of the 1,600 credentialed media for this international event comes from the other continent, most of it a delightfully grumpy group of English journalists more than happy to spit Ale all around.

Take this salvo from Oliver Holt of the Daily Mirror, who belittled the Americans' visit to the Muhammad Ali Center on Monday night:

"(Its) puzzling why the bunch of rednecks and preppies who will be competing against Nick Faldo's team this weekend should bother to visit," wrote Holt. "I mean, come on, golf doesn't do racial integration, particularly not in the states. One of the team, Hunter Mahan, even likened the Ryder Cup week to being treated like 'a slave.'"

Then there are the thoroughly entertaining and snarky television commentators from the BBC, who said Saturday after Boo Weekley sank a par putt on the sixth and quickly entered into his get-up, get-up crowd gyrations, "I have a great amount of respect for Boo Weekley's game. I have less respect for the way he acts after holing putts like that."

Truth be told, the British commentators are a rare joy, whether they are complaining about "the annoying little planes overhead," or referring to the lack of wind on the course as "not much of a draft out there."

"I wish you hadn't mentioned draft," replied one of the commentators. "Very dry lips here."

If the Euros fail to make up the needed ground on Sunday, there won't be many tears shed for the defeated captain. Most have pillaged Faldo's selection of the banty-rooster Poulter over venerable Cup hero Colin Montgomerie. Never mind that Poulter is a stellar 3-1 in his four matches.

When Faldo was caught onscreen whispering something to a confidant, a blogger for the Guardian speculated the words were, "I've really made a mess of things."

When an e-mailer told another blogger Faldo would have to take the blame for a European defeat, the blogger replied, "I can at least do that for you."

Ah, but the Euros aren't dead yet. They staged an impressive morning rally Saturday before the Boo-S-A's Country Boy Combo of Weekley and J.B. Holmes whipped up on Lee "Whiner" Westwood and Soren Hansen to lead off the afternoon.

After that, the final hour, from 6:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m., when all three matches went down to the final hole, was as good and dramatic as golf gets.

"You never see faces like that — pretty close to never — after guys make putts, the pure emotion," Faldo said. "These guys are able to produce some unbelievable stuff."

And with one glorious day to go, the Europeans proved they aren't going to give up the Cup without a fight.

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