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The Great American Slump
American golf, it would appear, is in a slump

For the first time in my not short life, the American press is downbeat about its team's Ryder Cup chances, declaring that there is an overall slump at the top of the game.

What they mean by this is quite beyond me but I suspect that it stems from the fact that the Tiger has played like a mere journeyman pro since the Masters in the spring.

The Man himself has not helped with declaring that he is 'sort of' and 'could be' in a slump.

This doubtless follows from the fact that he has not finished in the top-10 of the last three majors and has earned little more than nickels and dimes in recent weeks.

I was glad to have learned what constitutes a slump having read so much about it. This puts my mind at ease for now I need no longer be concerned about my own game.

Clearly, why I'm not playing to par or better is because I am in a slump. Indeed, I now understand why I have been playing so badly for so long. I have been in a slump for some time. I cannot be certain about you but I am, officially, in a slump.

This will make post medal round conversations easier. Now, we need not ask each other how we played, we need only ask if we are in or out of a slump. It also sounds better and avoids any unnecessary embarrassment. It will also be more congenial to ask 'how is your slump?' or, 'is your slump any better?'

I almost feel concerned about my slump already.

Where do slumps come from?

Are they inborn, genetic defects that we have to live with or can they be excised or exorcised? What is their nature?

Are they physical or metaphysical, organic or inorganic?

The only thing that seems clear about slumps is that they manifest themselves in poor scoring.

Another interesting question concerning slumps is, are they restricted to playing the game or can they also manifest themselves in judgement?

Strange that no one has asked this question before. I have always thought that the US Ryder Cup team selection system was based, arguably, on a more anti-slump detecting system than the European in that its rankings are made from points gained only from top-10 finishes.

The argument being that regularity of top-10 finishes better reflects consistency and excludes the possibility of a Pierre Fulke entry into the team, who played excellently in late 2000 but hasn't reproduced that form in 2001.

One would consider this system quite democratic and that it would naturally be extended to simply include the top-12 as the team.

Strangely, this is not how they do it so Lehman and Faxton will, thankfully not be attending the festivities at the Belfry this year.

The places that they would democratically have filled are to be occupied by Scott Verplank and Paul Azinger. Scott is not well known in this country where he has failed to distinguish himself in four Open visits.

In the 1991-2 season he played in 39 events and made the cut in only two of them, making some $5,000 in the process.

After two operations, one to remove a spur from his elbow and a second to bore two holes through the elbow joint itself, he would appear to be de-slumped to the extent that he took second place in the Byron Nelson Classic this year and, at the age of 37, finds himself in the Ryder Cup team.

If this is not strange enough the case of Paul Azinger is even more odd. Paul went into a slump after he won the 1993 US PGA championship.

This was understandable for his right shoulder was hurting so much that he could not even put his score card in his hip pocket without pain. Seven years later and after an operation to remove a tumour, he won again at the Sony open in Hawaii and, stranger still, has emerged from yet a further slump to take second place in the Memorial Tournament this year.

There would appear to be an age correlation with slumps, perhaps explicable by fading faculties.

One only has to consider the fall from grace of Faldo and Lyle as they slipped into their 40th years. It is perhaps noteworthy that this year's US Walker Cup team also contained a trio of forty-somethings, all of whom failed to score a single point in the 15-9 drubbing their team received at Ocean Island last weekend.

It is strange that the US Ryder Cup team also contains a trio of forty-somethings in the form of Calcavecchi, Sutton and Hoch; stranger still that Azinger and Verplank, neither of whom are spring chickens, should add to it. This year's Ryder Cup team is a strange make up of the clearly great and the clearly not too great.

With the Open Champion Duval the only player showing consistently good form of late it is perhaps understandable that the US scribes should be reduced to generalising the whole US contingent as in a slump.

But one should never forget that the Tiger has been in a slump before and emerged from it to perform a grand slam.

Also, some of us are old enough to have heard it said, over and over again, that this year's Ryder team is the weakest ever to represent America. Slump or no slump, they are a strange bunch of tough cookies.




©    22 - AUGUST 2001



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