Dysfunction at the Ryder Cup on Several Levels
After all the anticipation of a breakthrough on European soil in the 2018 Ryder Cup, the resulting American performance has been best described as a ‘beatdown.” It’s a perfect term for the epic collapse, worse than the 2014 debacle under Tom Watson that caused the formation of a task force to make sure it never happened again. There may be little point to resurrecting that idea. In terms of the hard facts, as in the final score, it was Europe 17 1/2 to America’s 10 1/2, a rout by any definition. How could a team of such luminaries who have triumphed individually all over the world come to such an inglorious end? The simple answer is that the European field was made of the same high level stuff. They just stayed on a more even keel, and showed up when expected.
Ryder Cup emotions are always wound up, and the atmosphere at LeGolf National was a more spirited affair than a typical tour event might be in either the PGA or European season. We see the passion in European soccer from both players and fans, so we know it’s coming. For the Americans, it is alternate years of chest-beating and moping. Occasional dust-ups between players and fans were featured again this year, as Rory McIlroy again challenged gallery members to a putting contest. I didn’t sense the external rancor between players and captains this year, but it was there lurking. Patrick Reed, Masters Champion, fired a salvo or two at Jordan Spieth for wanting to play with another partner. He had a good point that the two had made an excellent pair in past match play events. Spieth claimed it was a group decision, but Reed would have none of it, and co-blamed the team captain, Jim Furyk. Reed has never been or tried to be the warm fuzzy of the outfit, and claims not to care which people dislike him or why. I don’t buy it. That’s what people say when they’ve been hurt, but fortunately, Reed won’t care about my armchair psychology, either. In the same vein, though, there appears to be some manic quality in the American psyche that the Europeans are able to overcome.
Was it the course that created the 2018 Ryder Cup massacre? No way – all these men are international players, and if Americans can win at St. Andrews, they will not be freaked out by LeGolf National. Fatigue? Absolutely, but both fields are subject to that. Granted, some Americans, the older ones, played seven of the last nine weeks. I don’t remember being fragile or without strength in the 40s, but I remember that I wasn’t quite the marathoner I was twenty years before. In terms of personnel, Tiger Woods sports a poor record as a match player. Perhaps his spot on the team should not have relied on a long comeback and a first win in several years. Phil Mickelson, several years older, was a choice made a few years too late. A fine golfer in his day, he is headed for the senior tour where he will excel again, not for glory against the twenty or thirty somethings of two continents. Bubba Watson certainly has the majors credentials, but not so recently as to merit a Ryder spot.
In the next round of this festival of intercontinental nerves, spots on the team should be doled out even more ruthlessly than they already are – no sentimental choices of any kind, including the elimination of past legends. Relax the pre-Ryder Cup schedule if possible, and get over fitful obsessions with national pride. This isn’t war, it’s golf, a useful game as an antithesis to war. Win or lose, another fascinating Ryder Cup has come and gone. It’s a highlight of the year for me, but I’m glad it doesn’t come around more often.