Ron Agostini

Agostini: Modestan saw Ryder rebirth up close

Ladies and gentlemen, the Ryder Cup has been born again.

It was restored last weekend as the flags waved and the cheers poured over the Kentucky countryside. Just when it appeared Europe had lapped Team USA over the past decade and reduced the Americans to second-tier status, something else happened.

With all due apologies to the Rolling Stones, the Americans performed an unforgettable emotional rescue.

Their pulsating 16½-11½ victory was the United States' first in the Ryder Cup in nine years and Europe's worst loss in 27 years. How it came to be, without the injured Tiger Woods and a young and modestly talented American team in his place, numbed the senses.

The consensus: Don't ever let the Americans play the underdog card.

Sue Fiscoe, Modesto's director of golf, attended the Ryder Cup at Valhalla and was shocked by the event's drama and spectacle. She'll serve in an official capacity at the 2010 Ryder Cup -- at Celtic Manor in Wales -- when she becomes a district director of the PGA of America.

The Modestan stood near the 14th green Sunday where Anthony Kim, the Americans' boy wonder, marched to the 15th tee not knowing he already had plundered Sergio Garcia 5 and 4.

"The people around me were saying, 'He doesn't know he won,' " Fiscoe said. "He just hammered Sergio until they told him to stop."

The episode underscored both the arrival of Kim, 23, the next American star, along with the absence of fear in Kim and the other five rookies (9-4-8) who weren't saddled by the baggage of recent Ryder Cup flameouts.

Meanwhile, England native Shane Balfour paid off a few friendly bets at McHenry Golf Center. The teaching pro, watching on TV at home, was amazed by the through-the-roof standard of play.

"The No. 1 player of the tournament was Kim. They didn't need Tiger Woods," Balfour said. "Kim is the whole package."

Other Ryder Cup observations:

AZINGER -- Captain Paul Azinger, via his at-large selections and partner combinations, created a let-it-loose attitude, a 180-degree flip from the stoic and tense American teams of the recent past. Another thing about Azinger: He instilled all his attributes as a player -- imaginative, resilient and willing to fight -- onto his team. For the first time in years, the Americans dropped putts and played to the crowd, qualities owned in recent years by Europe.

FALDO -- Nick Faldo, the European captain, has been skewered by the British media, but the tabloid crowd never has liked him. The hit he's taking is partially unfair. Though he weakened the team by passing over Ryder Cup lions Darren Clarke and Colin Montgomerie, his choice of Ian Poulter (4-1) proved inspiring. Team Europe failed because:

1. It was outplayed, and

2. Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington and Lee Westwood combined for zero wins.

WHINING -- Westwood's complaints about "abuse" from the fans amounted to a sour-grapes whine. He should know by now about the Ryder Cup -- it draws loud and enthusiastic fans in the thousands, and a few of them will be idiots.

"I talked to a bank president from Nottingham (England), and he thought the Americans were wonderful," Fiscoe said. "He said the American crowd is nothing compared to what the European fans do over there."

BOO -- Move over, John Daly. You've been replaced by Boo Weekley, the newest blue-collar favorite. Weekley rode his driver like a toy horse, then twirled a front-nine 29 on Oliver Wilson in the singles. His 2-0-1 record, featuring about a mile's worth of holed putts, surprised the Europeans and himself. Like Kim said, he "compatibated."

TIGER -- It's impossible to say the team was stronger without golf's reigning king, but a new dynamic kicked in without him. Minus Woods' intimidating and brooding presence that has dominated golf for the last decade, the Americans seemingly were freed to try on their own M.O. Even Jim Furyk did a little dance and fist-pumped.

KENTUCKY -- J.B. Holmes (2-0-1) and Kenny Perry (2-1-1), the two Kentuckians on the U.S. team, delivered exactly what Azinger envisioned. Holmes, another Daly offshoot, was dismissed as a long-hitting novelty until he birdied three of his last four holes Sunday. He spun a 79-yard wedge to within two feet at the 17th to finish off Soren Hansen and all but clinch the cup.

THE SHAG BAG -- Local girls excelled last weekend at the NCGA Junior Tour's Sacramento tournament at Haggin Oaks. Kirsten Locke of Murphys (72-76 -- 148) and Spencer Heller of Turlock (73-75 -- 148) tied for fourth, two strokes behind winner Bonnie Hu of Fremont. The rest: Shawnee Martinez of Modesto (73-79 -- 152) tied for 13th; Christine Uhalde of Modesto (76-77 -- 153) tied for 15th; Krysta Clark of Manteca (77-77 -- 154) tied for 17th; and Lindsay Shoot of Manteca (81-81 -- 162) tied for 27th. ... Coming up: The fourth annual Teen Golf Tournament at River Oaks in Ceres, organized by Turlock's Teen Advisory Council, Saturday. Call 537-4653.

HOLE-IN-ONE -- Richard Hardwick, Fullerton, 192-yard seventh at Stevinson Ranch, 3-wood.

Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or 578-2302.

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