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Strange pleased despite loss

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- Looking relaxed and refreshed, Curtis Strange said his three-year reign as the U.S. Ryder Cup captain was
an honor that culminated in ''the greatest week of my life.''

Strange, who played in Wednesday's Pro-Am at his home Kingsmill
Course the day before the first round of the Michelob Championship,
said he wouldn't second-guess any decisions he made in leading the
U.S. team in its 15½-12½ loss to Europe last weekend at The Belfry
in England.

Even in defeat, the experience more than lived up to
expectations.

''I can't tell you what a great week it was, and I've said to
friends of mine that whatever my wildest dreams of how well the
week could go, it was tenfold better,'' he said. ''Everything went
perfect for the week. The only thing that didn't work out was that
we didn't bring back the cup.''

Strange, who won the U.S. Open in 1988 and 1989, had his reign
as captain extended by a year after the competition scheduled for
2001 was postponed by the terrorist attacks on the United States.

Finally getting to play the matches brought relief and letdown.

''You never know how the week is going to go until you get
there,'' he said. ''All the work that went in and preparation was
worth it because it made it a good week for the players, and it was
just everything.''

The U.S. team went into the final day tied 8-8 with the
Europeans, but won just two of the 12 singles matches.

''I feel so badly for the guys, but it's nothing they did other
than that they just didn't perform as well as you would expect on
some rounds,'' Strange said. ''You know, we lost. ... You don't
play well, you don't win.''

Strange said he didn't necessarily agree that the European
players put more stock in winning the Ryder Cup, a belief espoused
by Scott Hoch earlier Wednesday, but said the tradition runs much
deeper in Europe.

''I think when they grow up in Europe, they think of the British
Open and the Ryder Cup, and I only say that because I've heard two
or three of them talk like this,'' he said. ''It's really kind of a
new baby over here. ... I don't think kids (in the United States)
grow up thinking about the Ryder Cup. They grow up thinking about
the Masters and the U.S. Open.''

Hoch, who finished 0-3-1 in England and lost Sunday's opening
match to Colin Montgomerie, said European golfers view themselves
much like other country's basketball teams when facing the United
States.

''They don't have any more pride than we do in what we do, but I
think it means more to them to win than it does to us,'' he said.
''Plus, we're expected -- I think when the underdog wins, it always
means more to them.''

Strange said the focus should be on the spectacular golf played
and the sportsmanship, rather than who won and who lost.

''(Phil) Price beating Phil Mickelson -- who would have
thought?'' he said. ''But all you can do is applaud him because
he'll never forget it.

''As badly as I feel for Phil and as badly as I felt for the
team at that point, I couldn't help but think for Phil Price,
either, and how he'll never forget this moment for the rest of his
life,'' Strange said.

''It was neat stuff.''