By Robert Bicknell

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October 1, 2006

Lord Byron passes / Why Team USA sucks...

Byron Nelson, golf's courtly "Lord Byron" whose 11 straight tournament victories in 1945 stand as one of sports' most enduring records, died Tuesday and the grand age of 94.

Nelson had the greatest year in the history of professional golf in 1945 when he won 18 tournaments. He captured 31 of 54 tournaments in 1944-45, won the Masters in 1937 and í42, the US Open in 1939 and the PGA Championship in 1940 and í45.

Nelson started in golf in 1922 as a caddie at Glen Garden Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas and he beat Ben Hogan in the caddies' championship

Nelson's 52 PGA Tour victories ranked fifth on the career list behind Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Hogan and Palmer. He was elected to the PGA Hall of Fame in 1953 and to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.

Nelson's beautiful swing and humility endeared him to the world. "I don't know very much," Nelson said in a 1997 interview with The Associated Press. "I know a little bit about golf. I know how to make a stew. And I know how to be a decent man."

Arnold Palmer called Nelson "one of the greatest players who ever lived."

There is no higher praise than that.

Another Ryder Cup, another huge loss.

As I predicted, Team USA lost big time to the Europeans in this yearís Ryder Cup. However, despite the crowing from some pundits that my streak of incorrectly predicting winners is over, I donít agree for the simple reason that it wasnít really a prediction as much as it was a certainty.

Lets put it this way, it ranked up there with predicting Andre Agassi would beat Stevie Wonder in a tennis match at high noon. I mention high noon because if the match were held at midnight with no moon, all bets are off.

There were some dramatic moments during this yearís event, especially Darin Clarkeís final putt where everyone ran over to watch and the groups behind were held up. What made it special is that Clarke lost his wife six weeks before and just being there was a major achievement.

Phil Mickelson choked in spectacular style as he played four matches and only earned a half point for his team. Sadly, he cannot blame new clubs for his failure. Jim Furyk made some contributions in the team play, but couldnít win the singles event.

Tiger performance was the best heís ever done in a Ryder Cup, which isnít saying much to begin with, but he did contribute to the souvenir shop business when he accidentally chucked his nine iron into the lake. Pity it wasnít his driver.

Colin Montgomerie remained true to form. It got a bit dicey on the 17th, but he closed the deal on the 18th in his usual fashion and, believe it or not, he actually smiled twice during the round. The camera crews checked their equipment to see if there was a malfunction.

What was impressive was the performances by the rookies on both sides, especially JJ Henry. This kidís sponsorship potential zoomed upwards over anything he couldíve done during the regular Tour without winning a major.

If McGinley hadnít conceded a half to Henry, it wouldíve been the worst finish by the Americans ever, which means Hal Sutton will forever hate McGinley for not getting the monkey off his back.

There are lessons to be learned from this yearís debacle and they apply not just to golf, but to life in general as well.

Big guns do not a success make. Superior firepower, a few WMDs and bags of corn chips donít ensure victory. It takes team work and the strong cooperation for the betterment of the team.

In regards to the Ryder Cup, having Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson on the team are actually more of a hindrance than a benefit because what makes them stellar individual players on the Tour, also limits their performance in team play.

If the US wants to win next time they have to develop a more cooperative mindset and look for players who donít play the ego game. Get some hungry kids who can play great golf and leave the self-centered superstars at home.

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