Sep 30

Post-Ryder Cup Crankiness

Mickelson Takes a Swipe at Tom Watson

I am an avid golfer who doesn’t get all that bent out of shape by the Ryder Cup results. I appreciate that part of the game where a ball is addressed, a club is swung and an individual does his or her best in that split second of contact. Snit fits in the locker room don’t interest me at all. But, it’s sure interesting to someone, and American Phil Mickelson really let it rip after the beat-down Europe laid on the states last week. The target? Captain Tom Watson, of course.

phil 2 Apparently, Watson didn’t choose the right players, set a game plan and work it in the way that Paul Azinger did when we were winning this thing. According to Mickelson, ‘Zinger “got everybody invested in the process,” and secondly, he “had and worked a great game plan.” Since those days of the ideal approach, we have strayed, and lost, especially in the inept Tom Watson tenure.

Watson, on the other hand, openly disagreed with the Azinger strategy. He doesn’t believe in pods, only twelve guys that are supposed to go out and play great golf when they are told, and against whom. Watson, once the choices were made, followed the evolution of the event to see who had the hot hand – although in one case, at least, the players with the hot hand sat – plus, Mickelson himself sat for an entire day after playing the first session with Keegan Bradley. OK, is that about it so far?
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I don’t have an answer for any of this, and I barely have an opinion at all that causes a rise in my competitive nature – I only have questions – here goes.

phil 1I got the impression that Watson, according to Mickelson, was a bit autocratic, didn’t feel out the players, and made decisions without consulting anyone, some of them wrong, as he admitted. Some say, including Mickelson, that this failed to fire up anyone on the team. But, was this a real team to begin with? One commenter suggested that Americans, particularly sportsmen, are “trained to be too individual, independent, competitive, and stubborn to be effective in such events.” Mickelson has never struck me as much of a collaborator, no more than Watson is, and even less, perhaps, than Tiger could be. Maybe the commenter is right – I don’t know.

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Second question – who is supposed to fire up whom? I guess that young people expect that sort of thing – high school and college coaches need to be good at that sort of thing. What does it take to fire up a veteran who has played in a lot of these, and wins a lot, all things considered? What gets Phil Mickelson to produce his best round of golf? A follow-up question – does he, and other players, have any obligation to come with game, inspired or not? Just addressing the ball, getting ready to swing, naturally excites me. I am incapable of boredom addressing a golf ball – but then, I don’t play as much as they do, or for the same stakes.

Granted, a captain has many responsibilities to his team, from personnel choices to strategy, but the most powerful man or woman in the tournament is the one  holding a golf club. He or she is the only person there in whose hands the tournament rests.

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Some have suggested that we, the golfing audience, have been spoon-fed player images that just aren’t right. Phil has been portrayed in the press as the PGA sweetheart, but many, some of them players, see him as the PGA brat. We have watched as Tom Watson achieved legendary status through the decades, and he plays an incredible game of golf versus his age. He can also, according to some, be self-righteous and “my way or the highway.” I read that more venom will be released in the next few days, and it could get downright nasty, even compared to today.

There’s one more question I might want to entertain, in addition to “were the right players selected?” and what was Billy Horschel doing last week? Just asking.

Is it possible that the European team was made up of better golfers than the Americans? Well, they win their fair share of tournaments on American soil, but they don’t dominate. All right, then, was the European team a real team, not a bunch of stroke play enthusiasts that are mostly “me, me, me?”

I don’t know the answers to any of this, but the aftermath is unbecoming, and it takes what little interest I had out of me, and I had to run to cover the Handa Cup just for relief.

Thank goodness that this charming event, at least the way we seem to be playing it out, doesn’t happen again for two more years, no matter who is captain, no matter who is on the team.

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