Americans may remember it as one of the great moments in golf, but the U.S. victory over Europe on Sunday in the Ryder Cup was portrayed Monday on this side of the Atlantic as an orgy of jingoism and poor sportsmanship.
"Joy of Ugly Victory Brings Out the Ugly American," said the Guardian, one of Britain's most sober newspapers. The tabloid Daily Mirror declared the "United Slobs of America" the winners of the three-day competition in Brookline, Mass.
European commentators focused their criticism on the American celebrations on the 17th green Sunday when players, wives, girlfriends, caddies and spectators rushed out to engulf Justin Leonard after his 45-foot putt had dropped, all but completing the greatest comeback in Ryder Cup history.
Leonard's opponent, Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal, had to wait out the celebrations before stroking a 25-foot putt to keep Europe's hopes alive. He missed, and the Americans came from a 10-6 deficit to win, 14 1/2 to 13 1/2.
"There is one line you must not cross in golf--the line of your opponent's putt," wrote Frank Malley, the British Press Assn.'s chief sports correspondent. "It is written as indelibly in golfing etiquette as the fact that the club president gets his own parking space."
Olazabal described the celebrations, for which U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw later apologized, as a very ugly picture and added, "If I had behaved like that, I wouldn't have been able to sleep peacefully."
The media in Britain, whose top golfers were on the European team, led the attack on American players and fans, comparing their behavior to that of soccer hooligans. Commentators in other countries were more reserved, but El Pais, the leading newspaper in Spain, called the spectacle one of the saddest in golf history for Europe.
"Let us be painfully honest about it," columnist Matthew Norman wrote in the London Evening Standard. "Yes, they are repulsive people, charmless, rude, cocky, mercenary, humorless, ugly, full of nauseatingly fake religiosity, and as odious in victory as they are unsporting in defeat.
"The only good thing to be said in favor of the American golfers, in fact, is that if nothing else, they are better than the Europeans."
Said the Portuguese Web site Diari Avui, "The Americans had an advantage, were better golfers, but it is too bad they couldn't hold their emotions."
Although Sunday's dramatic finish drew the highest U.S. television ratings in the history of the event, relatively few Europeans were able to tune in. In Britain, for example, it was telecast on a subscriber-only satellite network, not on the BBC.
British sportswriters, however, offered readers vivid examples of what they called appalling behavior: A fan shouting at the top of Olazabal's backswing during his approach shot to the 17th green, spectators sending rookie Andrew Coltart in the wrong direction as he looked for a lost ball, verbal abuse directed by fans throughout the competition at Colin Montgomerie, who said his father left the course early in disgust.
"The partisan scenes wouldn't have looked out of place at an Old Firm match," commented the Scotsman, a Glasgow newspaper, referring to the bitter rift between the city's two big soccer clubs, Rangers and Celtic.
But no European doubted the U.S. will to win--so evident among the players and their supporters.
Daily Telegraph columnist Susannah Herbert marveled at the awesome spectacle of a dozen identically dressed, gleaming American wives and girlfriends of the opposing players.
"These women have raised the sporting wife stakes to a whole new level," she wrote. "They are a team in every sense of the word. They don't just sit together. They shop together."
Reflecting on the premature U.S. celebration on the 17th green, the Press Assn.'s Malley wrote, "Yes, it was discourteous. At worst it was downright disrespectful. But it did prove one thing--how much the Americans cared. That, after months of apparent apathy in the U.S. camp, was perhaps the biggest revelation of the 33rd Ryder Cup."
Stobart reported from London, Boudreaux from Rome.