Tait: U.S. dominance in Curtis Cup eye-opening
Thursday, June 7, 2012
NAIRN, Scotland - Welcome to the Catastrophe Cup. Well, it is if you’re a British or Irish golf fan.
Catastrophe is just the word to describe Great Britain & Ireland’s performance in the Curtis Cup since its inception in 1932. Put it this way: If the Curtis Cup were a boxing match, the referee would have stopped the fight many years ago. Probably as far back as 1985, when the United States held a 19-2-2 lead.
The United States doesn’t just lead the series; it dominates it. Of the 36 biennial contests so far, the U.S. leads 27-6, with three matches halved.
Who on the GB&I side forgot to throw in the towel?
The U.S. leads in every category you can think of. Overall, the score is 325.5 – 218.5 for the red, white and blue. The U.S. also holds comfortable edges in every session. The U.S. even holds a commanding lead in the foursomes, a format that should suit the GB&I team. It leads that session 28-21. The girls of the stars and stripes also lead the singles by a similar advantage.
Quite why the Ladies' Golf Union has continued to send teams to take a hiding every two years is a reasonable question. However, the Curtis Cup is a tradition that needs to be continued out of respect for the Curtis sisters, who donated the trophy that has found a near permanent home at U.S. Golf Association headquarters in Far Hills, N.J.
Throw in hopeless optimism, too. Every two years, the LGU announces a team and sends it off to the match with the usual “this team is our strongest, good enough to win” platitudes. Usually, it ends up lauding teams for their bravery and team spirit, etc., etc., as the girls limp home after yet another drubbing.
There was a brief spell in the late 1980s and early 1990s when it seemed as if GB&I finally had found parity. The 1986 team won at Prairie Dunes to break a run of 13 straight losses. Many thought that victory was a mere fluke. They were wrong.
GB&I won again in 1988, 1992 and 1996, with a 9-9 tie in 1994. That’s five of six matches undefeated. Heady days, indeed.
However, it’s just as well the LGU didn’t build a permanent home for the Curtis Cup at its St. Andrews headquarters after that run. That 1996 team was the last GB&I team to lift the cup.
Sixteen years later and the Catastrophe Cup has returned. We’re back to the good old – bad old, if you’re of GB&I persuasion – days when the U.S. simply turns up and romps to victory.
So what do you do when the opposition has greater strength in depth? Surely you don’t agree to extend the matches to an extra day?
That’s just what the LGU agreed after the 2006 match. For years, it was a two-day match. Now, it's played over three days. Since 2008, there have been two sessions of foursomes and four balls for two days, followed by all eight players contending the final day. Given that U.S. players generally are more comfortable playing their own ball, agreeing to play eight singles seemed to be a bizarre concession.
Guess what? The U.S. has won the past two matches.
Will it be any different this time?
If history is any guide, then no. Thankfully, the eight GB&I girls don’t care about history.
On paper, the squads should be evenly matched. All 16 players here are within the top 90 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking. GB&I has the highest-ranked player in Charley Hull, at No. 5. The U.S. also has a top-10 player in No. 8 Lindy Duncan.
Both teams have players in form, even though the teams were picked ridiculously early.
And if you were thinking the GB&I team would benefit from home-course advantage, then think again. Nairn might be a quintessential links, but U.S. teams have proved quite adaptable to links golf. U.S. teams have won eight of 12 matches played on traditional links.
So will it be the Catastrophe Cup or the Comeback Cup? Answers on a postcard, please.