Ryder Captains and Old Legends
What Have They Done for Me Lately
Match play is a type of golf competition in which the U.S. seems to do all right most of the time. The Solheim has gone well lately, brushing aside that little debacle in Colorado a little over a year ago. The Westerners usually have the Presidentâ€™s Cup fairly well in hand, because Europe tends to be absent. And, it used to be that this side of the Atlantic used to do quite well in the Ryder Cup, even against the golf-filled continent that is called Europe. One might think that because the Yanks made it look easy at times, that it didnâ€™t really much matter who was in charge. Great golfers just went out and played great golf, right?
Maybe thereâ€™s some truth to that, but I doubt that thereâ€™s a whole lot of it. Besides, in more recent years, the Ryder Cup enchantment has all but worn off, and the US has taken a pasting on a few occasions. Weâ€™ve had the greatest of the greats on board as captains, but there are times when it just looks as though we canâ€™t pull any more rabbits out of the proverbial golf hat. With all of that, two legendary but faded figures are lobbying to join the leadership of an already troubled competition, as far as the Americans are concerned, and it doesn’t look like a good idea to me.
During the Presidents Cup this year, Tiger Woods actually called Davis Love and Fred Couples, the present powers that be for the next round, to reassure them that he wanted in on the action, even as an Assistant Captain, if such a thing is possible within the structure of the team. It is clear that Phil Mickelson wants to be there as well, and both could very well pull it off if a captainâ€™s pick goes their way. Theyâ€™ve both been there plenty of times, so the element of experience would speak well for them.
The problem? Neither one of them, Woods or Mickelson, are playing worth a hoot. Most of the time I see Phil Mickelson on Sunday, he is advertising one of a myriad of medical products for people with aches and pains, just like his. When Tiger started losing a while back, the only time I saw him on Sunday was to complain about why he didnâ€™t win. Now I see him complain about why he isnâ€™t even there on Sunday sometimes Saturday! And these are the men who want to lead our young warriors like the still early twenty-something Jordan Spieth into battle against the Europeans. I once read that many of our World War I generals had grown up as young officers in the Great Plains Indian Wars â€“ different age, different cast of characters, different everything. The next Ryder Cup with Woods and Mickelson feels a little bit the same.
The first question for me would be, â€œAre these assistant captains â€˜playingâ€™ captains?â€ I doubt theyâ€™d be very interested in doing it any other way. The ensuing question is â€œShould elite membership have its privileges, or should we send our best against Europe, not our â€˜used to beâ€™ best?â€ The combined golfing nations of Europe, which includes pretty much all of them, boast one great player after another. Iâ€™m going with todayâ€™s best.
Is it the judgment and experience they bring that would help the American team at the Ryder? Tiger isnâ€™t the man who jumps into my mind at the word â€˜judgment,â€ and Mickelson? Well, who knows? Is it the psychological and empathetic feel for the pulse of the team that is an important quality for a captain? If so, why send the most anti-social person who ever played the game, and partner him with the player renowned for lousy locker room favorability ratings? I think they might do just as well under the leadership of Cheyenne Woods and an unnamed draft choice, if thatâ€™s the criteria.
Nostalgia is great, an important part of a gameâ€™s tradition, but in the actual competition, itâ€™s got to come down to â€œCan you do it or canâ€™t you â€“ right nowâ€ â€“ just like the rest of life. Until they prove it again, keep the old legends at home next year.