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Sep 23

Ryder Cup Personalities

Personal Dynamics and the Ryder Cup

May Come Down to Who Gets Along

What a long way we’ve come since the first days of the Ryder Cup so many decades ago, a competition which was originally intended to be a British/Irish versus the United States affair. Few people know it, but Samuel Ryder was a rather refined gentleman, a man of faith, a gardener, and the son of a gardener. In fact, his professional claim to fame was the packing of garden seeds for the cost of a penny. He sounds like the perfect person to preside over and fund such a gentleman’s match as Europe versus the U.S., the tournament’s present-day format.

reed 1 Much has changed since those days. Personalities like Tiger Woods and Seve Ballesteros were thrown into the mix, men for whom losing a golf match of any kind was utterly unthinkable and unacceptable. Within the rules and general decorum, most of the time, a golf match was mental and physical war, the last stand of the hundred Spartans – never give up, never surrender.
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Now, there’s an added development to this year’s Ryder Cup, surely seen in past versions, but particularly poignant in this one. Unlike the early days, it is possible to be a good deal more outspoken. It is acceptable to be more self-expressed, to come out with it if you have a bone to pick with an adversary or a colleague – and to a point, to be a jerk.

reed 3On the European side, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy have had an edgy relationship over the past year. McDowell has seen it change from a big to little brother thing, to Rory being the big man on campus, especially in the eyes of his sponsor, which both share. The European captain might want to think twice about pairing the two, despite their best efforts to mend the conflict. In a duo of confident personalities, perhaps a power struggle could upset a rhythmic relationship and destroy good shot-making.
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For the Americans, there’s a conflict embodied within one player that could affect the team as a whole. Patrick Reed was, only a few years back – nobody, at lesat on the tour. Then, a flame began to smoulder in his game, and he started winning things. By 2013, and well into 2014, he was suddenly – somebody, and Tom Watson chose him for the Ryder team.

reed 2 Who is going to play with Reed? If the players had their choice, maybe no one. Reed is the perfect example of ‘a rabbi who praises himself being a congregation of one.’ Declaring himself to be among the five best players in the world, he is, let’s say, difficult to be around sometimes. He can glamorize it internally all he wants – don’t care. To most of us, he’s a jerk, not our first, but the only one presently on the Ryder Cup team.


What is it that happens when two strong personalities are paired. Is it an alpha male thing when it comes to the pan for the next shot? Is it a case of taking one’s eye off the competition, and getting into a rivalry with your colleague instead?

We may want to think of the old days as sweet and well-mannered compared to today’s more open atmosphere, but divas and divos have always existed, in every form of competition, like one-upping, jealous opera stars, the only difference being that the golfers carry weapons. This year’s Ryder Cup may come down to a few specific players, and whether they can leave their egos and axes back in the clubhouse. In fact, it could spell the difference in the final outcome – grrr.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.