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American's view unhappy Ryder Cup future

Humiliation from the worst American defeat in the Ryder Cup's 77-year history had barely registered when United States golfers faced an even bleaker thought - the future.

The Europeans' 18 1/2-9 1/2 victory here Sunday in the 35th Cup matches was their fourth in five tries and a higher-ranked set of US golfers had no clue about how they might fare any better in two years at a rematch in Ireland.

"We've had years to figure it out. We can't figure it out," US captain Hal Sutton said. "Off the top of my head, I don't know anything to do."

Sutton stressed individuality to his players, but it backfired when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson bonded badly to go 0-2 and Chris Riley asked out of an afternoon session where his hot hand might have helped avert disaster.

The failure figures to weigh heavily when the PGA of America considers a captain for the 2006 Ryder Cup.

"Change is a large part of life," Sutton said. "They will analyze it and see if there are any changes that need to be made."

But with a young set of rising European talent and no US Cup player younger than Woods at 28, Europe's future looks in firmer hands than the Americans no matter what the rankings from years of stroke play might argue.

"It may not change. We may just keep losing," American Kenny Perry said. "They beat us four of the last five so we need to figure out something. We need to figure out our team a little bit better.

"Our foursomes and four-balls just need to gel a little bit better and get guys playing that are more comfortable with each other I think.

"And try to get a little magic. They got off to a good start Friday, making a lot of putts, and it was meant to be for them. They played beautifully."

Europe seized a record 6 1/2-1 1/2 lead after the first day, dominating four-ball and foursomes matches. Playing at ease as if just buddies enjoying a casual game, Europeans thumped their chemistry-lacking US counterparts.

"The right thing for us to do is just play better," US veteran David Toms said. "We got off to such a poor start that we would have needed a miracle to come back."

In a showing as disgraceful as the US Olympic men's basketball failure, the four top-ranked Americans were 5-12 with one match halved. Woods went 2-3 with Davis Love 1-3 with one halved. Furyk and Masters champion Mickelson were 1-3.

"You can't do anything differently. You take 12 of the best players in the world and put them out there and they've got to play," Love said. "Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Davis Love are supposed to play great. None of us did.

"It's a long two years to get another chance. We need to find something. We need to do something different. We tried too hard. We just squeezed too hard for whatever reasons. Next time, we've got to get off to a better start."

Europeans milked their underdog role and charmed the crowd with autographs and warmth. Americans will no longer be fooled into thinking they are favored in an event heavily decided by duos simply because their solo stroke-play rankings are better.

"They are the favorites next time and we're the underdogs. We know we are," Love said. "That's the difference. We're already half a point underdogs next time."

Americans settled for a draw at the Presidents Cup last year but will have the chance to face the non-Europeans next year on home soil.

"It's getting very hard for us to win either of these events when the rest of the world, other than the United States, is getting bigger and better at golf," Perry said.

"Why are they equal or favored? You have got Russia and China and all of those other countries playing golf. Seriously. Wait 20 years. Who will be the number one ranked player in the world?"

"Now he's from Fiji. He's not on our team. K.J. Choi, maybe a guy from South Korea. Or maybe Russia. We don't even know."

There's one thing the Americans know all too well - the pain of losing.

"In two years' time, we will be back and hopefully we have got the core of our team right here," Perry said. "We know how badly this stings and we will come back and get them next time."

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