Pro Golf: U.S. needs to rediscover spirit of ’08 to stop Ryder Cup rot
GLENEAGLES Scotland -- Every two years a small group of wonderfully talented, hugely successful American millionaire golfers have to line up like schoolboys to explain why they are no good and why they don't get on as well as their European count...
GLENEAGLES Scotland - Every two years a small group of wonderfully talented, hugely successful American millionaire golfers have to line up like schoolboys to explain why they are no good and why they don’t get on as well as their European counterparts.
That has been the scenario after eight of the last 10 Ryder Cups but, despite the myriad inquests, they seem no nearer understanding the reasons than 20 years ago when none of the current group were even involved.
Back then, and in the late 1980s when Europe finally began to chalk up some Ryder Cup wins after decades of total U.S. domination, it still felt like something of a surprise to see the slick product of the PGA of America brought down by their country cousins.
These days, however, with most top Europeans plying their trade on the U.S. PGA Tour and with European names dominating the business end of the sport’s world rankings, it is the Americans who arrive at the Ryder Cup hoping to produce an upset.
Often there is very little between the teams and an odd putt here or there could have changed the entire match and the tone of the post-match analysis but this week Europe secured a crushing five-point victory when they won by 16-1/2 to 11-1/2.
The U.S. had the best of the fourballs but were crushed by an aggregate 7-1 in foursomes and were also beaten in the singles.
While winning teams always tend to be happier and are able to gloss over any minor setbacks, by definition the losers have to look for explanations.
What became clear as the weekend unfolded was that Europeans, including captain Paul McGinley and his five vastly experienced vice-captains, really did seem to be a group of friends out for a fun time.
While many of the Americans also undoubtedly got on well and enjoyed the week, the disconnect between captain Tom Watson and some of his men looked clear.
It was brought into sharp focus when Phil Mickelson launched a stinging attack on the 65-year-old’s methods, saying he was particularly frustrated at how little input the players had.
That lack of “team spirit” has been an accusation regularly thrown at the U.S. and, usually, strongly refuted.
However, when nine-times Ryder Cup veteran Jim Furyk was asked if he could explain the losing streak, he maybe unwittingly revealed the individualism that generally characterizes the most successful golfers is still too prevalent in the U.S. team.
“I haven’t really studied the other team. My focus is on my game and myself,” he said, adding he didn’t even really know how his team mates had fared in many of the matches.
Furyk also accepted that the Europeans seem to put a lot more thought into their pairings, something that was at the very heart of McGinley’s thinking from even before he got the job in January 2013.
“It used to be by their styles of play but they (Europe) seem to match up personalities real well,” said Furyk.
“Luke Donald (who did not play this year) and Sergio Garcia - you’ve got one guy that barely has a pulse and the other guy, Sergio, who is jumping around and having fun all day, and together they bring each other even.”
The last time the U.S. won the Ryder Cup, under Paul Azinger in 2008, they employed a “pod” system where three groups of four players spent a lot of time together on and off the course and it certainly seemed to develop good spirit.
Mickelson, still fuming after being left out of both Saturday sessions, said he was exasperated that, having finally found the “magic bullet”, the three captains since then – Davis Love III, Corey Pavin and Watson - had abandoned the system.
No doubt there will be a lot of soul-searching among the hierarchy of American golf as they think about their captain for the next event on home soil in two years.
Whoever gets the job - and a recall for Azinger is already being widely discussed - his first task should probably be to pick up the phone and start talking to McGinley.