Does the U.S. Ryder Cup program need a re-boot?

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

After establishing a big lead on Friday and extending it Saturday, Team Europe handily beat the Americans 16 ½ – 11 ½ to win the Ryder Cup on home soil. Looking back at past Ryder Cups, there was usually one thing that defined the competition each year. Who or what stood out most to you about this latest edition of the biennial competition?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Probably the nastiness between the two teams, manifested by the McIlroy-LaCava turmoil, which was ostensibly caused by the pro-Euro fans taunting Patrick Cantlay for not wearing a hat.  (Just re-reading that sentence and shaking my head at how silly the whole thing was.)  But it certainly raised the level of ill-feeling to a height we’ve rarely seen, and not for the better.  I’m an old-fashioned guy, who much prefers friendly rivalry and good sportsmanship, and there wasn’t much of that in this Ryder Cup.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): For me, one thing that stuck out was that Rory was played and he performed (earned the most points of any player, both sides). Similarly, the best players (stars) on Team Europe were their best players for the most part. Would I have expected Scheffler to go 0-2-2 at the start of the week? Or Morikowa to go 1-3-0? No way. Fowler at 0-2-0 did what I thought he’d do. The Americans were simply outplayed all three days.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: The Euro ‘big boys’ delivered. Rory, Victor, and John had a quiet confidence in themselves and then they played well too! There is always something about the USA Team that bothers me. On paper, they should win but when they are interviewed, I get the feeling if two of them were drowning and there was one life preserver, they’d fight over it instead of sharing it. Regardless of who wins, there is one unexpected hero. In this case, it was Justin Rose. As the elder statesman he should contribute to the leadership to inspire others with his experience, but it was his level of play that his team-mates saw.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Aside from Crenshaw’s shirts? Past Cups have stood out, for me, because of the vulgar and uncouth mobs at the War on the Shore (so American to call it that) and Bethpage Black. Sad that they’re going back there, at least that’s the pre-LIV pact plan. This one was amazing for the size of the crowds, astounding, and how the jibing at Cantlay was so (compared to the behavior on the other side of the pond) civilized. The other takeaway is the life-changing play of two rookies — Hovland and Homa. Watching them was worth the steep price of enduring Azinger.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): What struck me was that Rory finally stepped up and asserted himself as the best player in the world and the spiritual leader of this team. Maybe it was because he didn’t have the shadows of Poulter, Garcia, Westwood etc. lurking around. He was able to be the guy without checking to see if it was ok and he seemed comfortable in the role. He was ably supported on the course by Rahm, Hatton and Hovland and in the parking lot by Lowry too. This is McIlroy’s team for the foreseeable future.

Did either captain do anything particularly right or wrong that had a material impact on his team’s performance?

Deeks: If either Captain did something wrong, I don’t know what it was.  I guess Luke Donald did more things right than Zach Johnson did, because the Euros won.  Was there a masterstroke?  Not that I could see.  The Euro boys just played better, simple as that.  And they had massive fan support, which has to be motivating.  However, I will concede that the media pointed out that Luke set up the course to take full advantage of the Euros’ alleged superiority from 180-220 yards, so maybe a full analysis will prove that strategy worked.  Either way, the Euros pulled off a solid victory, and I’m happy about that.

Loughry: I think one sneaky good move was choosing to play Foursomes first on Friday by Luke. At first, he was criticized (severely), but that start couldn’t have been any better, and made the difference in the end. You can’t get that far behind after Day 1, and into a deeper hole on Day 2. For Johnson, he sure passed on a lot of good players, who were playing better of recent, to get to the team he wanted. I think that was part of the reason for the result. Thomas didn’t play horribly, Fowler, Schauffele and Speith sure didn’t have their stuff. Could another player or players have done better?

Schurman: Europe continues to select worthy rookies with an eye to the future and they did it again. The USA makes their selections for “the moment” while Europe is constantly grooming. I dislike the selection method used by the USA. It should be the top 12 points winners or the captain should choose the entire 12. As soon as the captain bypasses players who finished higher on the points list, he opens the door for thoughts of “how would he treat me if push came to shove’? On a deeper scale, more and more people are becoming anti-American. These feelings translate within the European players who have it as their own common motivation.

Quinn: Well, Johnson made controversial picks and they went 4-12-4. Those picks, and letting the majority of the squad not tee it up for over a month before the competition, turned out to be particularly wrong. Donald got his guys believing in themselves and with Molinari’s stat studies, flipped the Friday format and put the right guys together. Don’t think it was close which captain did the better job, but Johnson had the most impact.

Mumford: Luke Donald switched the format around and went with foursomes first on Friday and Saturday and that had huge consequences. Zach Johnson allowed his players to sit around for five weeks leading into the Cup and they arrived flat and unprepared. Johnson also stuck with unproductive pairings, when he really needed to shake things up. Clear win for Luke Donald in the captain’s category.

With another failure on foreign soil, the U.S. squad will no doubt begin the long process of navel gazing to try to figure out what went wrong. Does their program need a complete overhaul as it had after the Tom Watson fiasco at Gleneagles?

Deeks: No. I bet the Americans will win at Bethpage, with a rabid New York crowd behind them, and all handwringing about the US team will cease and desist right there.

Loughry: The Americans just need to play better, especially in partner formats (specifically Foursomes/alternate shot). And the Captains need to stop picking buddies, just take the best players. I believe that there are too many Captains picks. This week for the Americans proved it.

Schurman: Why not call Phil Mickelson to be the captain? I love it when Europe wins and Phil could help divide the USA Team with his LIV thoughts or even some of the same nasty backbiting opinions he offered Tom Watson. Most of the players dislike him and the USA fans might even boo him. Wouldn’t that be a slap for those trying to ‘grow the game’?

Quinn: Ahh, the way this thing has been going, if they do play in 2025 in front of the mouth-breathing mob at Bethpage, they’ll probably win. The only change would be simple. Have all the team qualify, or have the captain pick the entire team. Half measures just create problems, emotional and political. And keep parents out of it — hello Mr. Schauffele. What is this, high school?

Mumford: Since the Davis Love gang took over after Gleneagles, they’re batting .500 – two wins on home soil and two losses away. Methinks they need change at the top in the form of an inspirational leader. Freddie, Davis, Strick, Zach and Furyk are nice enough guys but none of them brings a fresh perspective to the table and none of them are what I would call crusty, bang your fist on the table types. They’ve created a boy’s club that has succeeded at home in spite of themselves but is hopelessly lost in Europe – rudderless, feckless and totally lacking leadership. Time to say sayonara to the Love Connection and bring in a battle-tested kick-ass captain with 12 captain’s picks. A guy named Tiger comes to mind.



The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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