Months later, Ryder Cup loss lingers

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- There long has been a perception that when it comes to the Ryder Cup, American players don't care. Certainly not like their European brethren, who seemingly lap up the every-other-year event that is a constant source of conversation overseas.

Of course, the U.S. wants to win, and revels in the competition, but pretty much puts it aside -- win or lose -- in the aftermath.

That assessment has always been unfair, and if any proof is needed, it is on display here at Sherwood Country Club.

Eleven of the 12 U.S. Ryder Cup team members (only Phil Mickelson is missing) are competing in the World Challenge presented by Northwestern Mutual, the annual fundraising event for the Tiger Woods Foundation.

And while two months have passed since the Europeans staged a stunning final-day comeback to prevail 14½-13½ at Medinah, the defeat still stings. Perhaps more than any of the recent losses in a long list of them.

"The first week or two it wasn't much fun just trying to sleep, to tell you the truth," said Steve Stricker, who is playing for the first time this week since Sept. 30, the final day of the Ryder Cup. "That one hurts, and I think it still hurts a lot of us just because of how it all played out.

"For me personally, not winning a point. I haven't watched it. I don't plan on watching it. But I've heard that a lot of things went their way for it to happen. I feel a lot of the responsibility there, just because I didn't do anything for the team, didn't make a point for the team."

Stricker, who was one of captain Davis Love III's at-large picks, went 0-4 and lost all three of his team matches with Woods.

On the final day, Stricker lost a late 1-up lead to Martin Kaymer, and then had to watch the European celebration at his expense on the 18th green as the German holed the putt that clinched the Cup.

The Americans had taken a seemingly insurmountable 10-6 advantage into the final day, but could manage just three singles victories and what turned out to be a meaningless half from Woods in the final match.

The only singles winners were Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner. Had Stricker or Jim Furyk, who blew a 1-up lead with two holes to go against Sergio Garcia, been able to hang on for a half point, Woods' match -- which he led on the 18th hole -- could have clinched the Cup for the Americans.

Woods, the defending champion this week, shot 69 on Friday at Sherwood and trails tournament leader Graeme McDowell -- one of two European Ryder Cup team members in the field along with Ian Poulter -- by 4 strokes. McDowell has a 3-shot advantage over Bo Van Pelt, Bradley and Furyk.

A few weeks after the Ryder Cup, Woods acknowledged that he apologized to the four rookies on the team -- Bradley, Webb Simpson, Dufner and Brandt Snedeker -- for not doing more to help, winning just a half point out of four.

Mickelson, when playing in China a few weeks ago, acknowledged the sting of the defeat as well.

"I think the first two weeks following the Ryder Cup was a really tough low, one of the biggest lows of my career," he told reporters. "It was one of the biggest disappointments that I've had to deal with. That disappointment will last a lot longer than a month. I still feel disappointment from it. I still feel that over the next two years, we'll still have the same disappointment from not winning this year's Ryder Cup."

Bradley, who had never played in a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup previously, made a strong team with Mickelson, going 3-0 before sitting out the Saturday afternoon session -- one aspect of Love's captaincy that has been second-guessed.

"There's not a day that goes by where I don't think about the Ryder Cup, absolutely," said Bradley, who lost his singles match to Rory McIlroy. "At the time I thought, you know, we played so well, we'll come back and win the next one. But since then I've realized, man, that hurts that we didn't win it."

Snedeker went into the Ryder Cup off the high of becoming the FedEx Cup champion. A week later, the loss was as bad as any he has endured.

"It was definitely tough, I'm glad I had some time off after that," said Snedker, whose wife Mandy had the couple's second child on Oct. 13. "It was a tough loss. I won the FedEx Cup the week before, I was so excited and didn't really get to enjoy it all and straight into the Ryder Cup. … And to have that as probably one of the worst defeats of my career, one of the low points of my career on that Sunday night.

"It was everything you dream of and such a storybook writing, and then to have it all fall the other way was kind of tough. It's still tough to think about and talk about."

And yet, it is one of those things that will be difficult to ever forget. The PGA of America is expected to name the 2014 U.S. captain sometime in December -- by the end of January at the latest, which means that Sunday collapse will be revisited as the Ryder Cup again gets attention.

"I don't think you ever want to get over that," Snedeker said. "Nobody here wants to move on and say it's OK because it's not OK. You want to remember that and use it as motivation the next time you get in that situation so you can overcome it."