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Ryder Cup Rundown

Sep. 26, 2006     By     Comments (15)

The Europeans thumped the United States for the third straight time, and I'm tired of it.

Thrash TalkI still haven't recovered from the Ryder Cup beatdown the Europeans gave the United States this past weekend, but there really isn't anything I can do about it. The European team was favored, so the result shouldn't be that shocking. The final score was the same as it was in 2004 at Oakland Hills, 18½ to 9½. The complete domination is what really blows my mind, and it's quite obvious some things need to change for the Americans.

The United States team didn't play great golf, but they certainly played good golf. The Europeans, on the other hand, played lights out. Anything the Americans did, the Europeans did even better. I have never seen so many holed long putts and chip-ins in my life, at least in a three-day period. I take my hat off to the golfers from across the pond. They handed us a third consecutive beating, and all the credit should go to them.

Before I put this Ryder Cup behind me, I want to get a few things off my mind. After that, I'll leave it alone and sit quietly until the 2008 Ryder Cup (or the 2007 Presidents Cup). There is always next time, right?

Tom Lehman's Captaincy
First and foremost, Tom Lehman did about everything he could to help the United States team. In the end, his tenure as captain will probably be looked at as a failure because of the lopsided loss. That shouldn't be the case, however. Lehman loved his team, and he brought them a lot closer than anyone else has over the past decade or so.

For the most part, Lehman had the pairings correct. He kept Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk together, even though they weren't playing their best the first two days. Lehman also mixed the rookies in pretty nicely and kept Brett Wetterich out of action after a very shaky first match. I thought Stewart Cink would be a disappointment, but he actually turned out to be one of the positives for the United States team. Lehman saw this, and I didn't.

Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods

Lehman missed out on a couple of things though. He should have had Scott Verplank in both foursomes matches regardless of how well he was playing. That is Verplank's game, yet he only played one team match (Saturday morning four-ball). Lehman dropped the ball here, but at least Verplank went 2-0 with a hole-in-one in singles. The second mishap was playing Phil Mickelson five times. I don't care where Lefty is ranked, he wasn't into these matches. On Saturday afternoon, it should have been Cink/Toms and Verplank/Johnson.

In the end, these moves probably wouldn't have made a difference. The Ryder Cup was lost when Jim Furyk's ball went into the water at the 18th hole on Friday afternoon. I would have done a couple things differently, but I can't fault Lehman for going with his heart. I definitely won't look at Lehman's tenure as a failure, but the majority will. It's unfortunate because Lehman was a good leader.

Tiger and Phil
Tiger Woods didn't play his best golf at The K Club, but he did have a winning Ryder Cup record for the first time in his career. That's a step in the right direction and bodes well for the future. For the next decade, Tiger will be the unquestioned leader of the team, and that will be huge for the Americans.

Tiger didn't get as many points as he needed to get, but he was clearly into the matches. I have never been the biggest Tiger fan, and I hated it that he played his worst golf in The Ryder Cups of the past. After this past weekend, I have a little more respect for the guy. I'm glad he will be the top dog for the United States for years to come, and his leadership alone will hopefully bring us a win or two in the next 20 years.

Tiger led the United States team with three points. Phil Mickelson, on the other hand, barely showed up to play. A halved match on Friday afternoon provided Mickelson with a half point. That's all he could do the entire weekend. I'm going to take a line from everyone's favorite announcer, Johnny Miller. Phil, you should have stayed at home instead of making the long trip to The K Club.

Mickelson's play was uninspired at best. His playing partner for three matches, Chris DiMarco, didn't play all that well, but he also had the life sucked out of him by Philly-Mick. After the Europeans holed putts to win holes, Mickelson continued to show that fake smile of his. It's great to have fun at The Ryder Cup, but to fake it is a different story. It would have been nice to see him get pissed for once. He might be a dangerous man on the golf course if that ever happens. Wow, what a disappointment.

The Camaraderie Issue
I've always been a big believer of the camaraderie advantage the Europeans have over the United States. After watching this past weekend, I came to the conclusion that this issue is overhyped and outplayed. The Europeans jumped out in front in just about every match, and they were continuously in a great mood for the most part. However, the few European teams that lost matches weren't in joyful moods during their matches.

Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke

Basically, it's easy to be in a good mood while winning. The Europeans led most of the way in all the matches, and their good moods reflected it. If the United States would have jumped out in a few more matches, their body language would have been far better. The European team is probably closer than the United States team, but it's not as big a deal as most media types make it out to be. It's all about jumping out early and maintaining the lead.

Quickly Looking to the Future
I'm not sure who the captain will be for the 2008 matches, but I've heard Paul Azinger's name mentioned a lot lately. There is also Mark O'Meara, who was in the running against Tom Lehman two years ago. If the decision was up to me, I'd pick O'Meara.

The last two United States captains have been really fiery competitors, and we took our two worst whippings in history. "Gentle" Ben Crenshaw led us to our last win, so it's time to get someone like him back in the hot seat. Mark O'Meara will fit that role nicely, and he is good buddies with Tiger Woods. If Tiger isn't happy, nobody is happy. And besides, Azinger is still playing. Get someone in there that can focus 110% on the captaincy because it's obviously going to take that and more to be successful.

Next up on my list are the United States young guns, or the lack thereof. The youngest player on the United States team was 30 years old! That's not going to get it done. It's quite clear the European team will have Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, and Paul Casey leading their team for years to come. They are the youngest on the team, and they are the best on the team. The United States needs more firepower from the young guys. The current U.S. rookies will be 32 and older the next time the event takes place.

In other words, it's time for Ryan Moore, Sean O'Hair, J.B. Holmes, etc. to get their games in tip-top shape for the 2008 Ryder Cup. Contrary to what most believe, there are young Americans capable of great things, but it's time for them to talk the talk and walk the walk. Mixing Moore and O'Hair will veterans like Tiger and Furyk will be great for the United States. Regardless of what you might think, there is still a sliver of hope for the future.

The Final Say
I've only been watching golf religiously since 1996, and I've only witnessed five Ryder Cups in that timespan. Needless to say, I haven't been very good luck for the United States team. We are 1-4 in the last five, and that one victory took a minor miracle. It's clear something needs to be done, but everyone seems to be searching for the solutions insetad of putting them into place.

The European team is only going to improve in the future, so the United States team needs to do the same. Once again, my hat is off to the European side, and it's nice to see them care so much about The Ryder Cup. The U.S. cares more than some people may think, but they just aren't good enough to do anything about it. That's the area where changes need to be made, and only the players themselves can make those changes. Step it up veterans and young guns, step it up!

That's all I have to say this week, and now it's your turn to give me some feedback. How would you grade Tom Lehman's captaincy? Also, are the Europeans flat-out more talented than the United States? Finally, what needs to change for the U.S. in order to be successful in 2008? If you have anything to add, feel free to comment below or discuss it in the forum. Thanks for reading this week's Thrash Talk!

Photo Credits: © Getty Images, © Getty Images.

Discussion

  1. Tech says:

    Personally I think Lehman did great as a captian, especially when all the media was questioning his leadership ability. I think he made the right choice on Saturday afternoon and kept Johnson playing, HOWEVER, I think he needed to kepp Henry playing too, as he seemd to be just getting hot at the end of his round. Perhaps it would have been good to have Henry and Johnson play together that afternoon. They were both getting HOT in the AM and enjoyed team playing. They also were both rookies and I think that would have caused them to pull TOGETHER. If the inexperience would have been too much to pair the two, then the pairing of Verplank and Johnson should have remained and perhaps Cink and Henry? Verplank, although didnt play too well in the am, he was the main support for Johnson and kept him going for the AM round, which brings me to my second pont.

    I know they keep making mention of it all the time, but I think a key factor for the difference between the two teams for these tournaments is the looseness of the Europeans and their camraderie. Obviously Garcia and Olazabal epitomize this. But look at Johnson and Verplank. Verplank didn't play well, but he was a Major support for Johnson, when Johnson played later that day with Cink, he wasn't the same player and played rather poorly(although it was a different format too).

    I think the US team tries too hard to "manufacture" this camaraderie, it doesn't even look geniune when compared to the Europeans, namely Garcia/Olazabal and Westwood/Clarke. It seems the only team thing the Americans have is their fist hitting after each hole.

    Perhaps the fact that the Euorpeans did come out ahead at the begining was a factor for their "loose" mood, especially when you look at the American team in last year Ryder cup...

  2. Brad Chapman says:

    I predicted a 19 to 9 victory for Europe. If it were not for the concession of an 18 foot put for par by Mcginley, my predicton would have come true. It also would have been the record worst loss by any Ryder Cup team. Camaraderie and class, ...you can't ask for more than that from a championship team. Until and unless, Team U.S.A. can both find a Captain that inspire the right spirit; and Players who know how to enjoy the game and play well with others. True, Tiger is the undeniably the team leader. But what the Phill is Mickelson all about?!?! seriously what is this guy all about? Dimarco was a big disappointment. Although he has not been playing well, I have to wonder if he just couldn't shine from under the gloom of Phill.

    And shame on J.J. Henry for placing his ball on a sprinkler so he could take broom putter's length relief to when they were all ready playing lift clean and cheat. It brought back memories of Stu Cink at Harbourtown, when he virtualy tee'd up his ball in the waste area there. Perhaps this may be a symptom of the problem... Are we so spoiled we feel entitled?...

    I was most suprised by El Niño. He showed up in spades! Perhaps Sergio and Collin should team up to acually win a Major! Seriously, why is it these guys only showcase their talent in Ryders or Presidents' cups play?

    And I was mostly disappointed in the K Club. On television it looked like Any course, USA.

    In Parting I wonder, who will rise from the ashes? We need a captain, and Tiger needs to throw team BBQ's at his huge mansion. If we take back the cup in ought eight, We'll need to feild the best Ryder cup team ever. Because these guys (the Euros) are only going to get better, and they have our number. Maybe we need Jack and Arnie to Co-Captain.

    Hats off to you Euros, but We'll be back!

    b.

  3. Dave in Oz says:

    Cody, you are sort of on the right track.

    You are spot on about Mickelson when it comes to matchplay. The guy is a very talented player, but only when playing for himself. His trademark is his uncanny ability to pull off amazing recovery shots in tournament play, however making freak flop shots, and great up and downs all day, doesn't put any pressure on your opponent in matchplay- and I think everyone on the European Team knows that when they come up against Phil. Also in the last couple of years Mickelson has completely folded in 'matchplay' situations at the US Open at Shinnecock and at Winged Foot and other players really notice those things.

    The American Team will continue to get flogged at the Ryder Cup whilst they persist with the current selection process that's in place. Sure you need to reward guys who are up the top of the money list but you also need to find room on the team for a couple of proven matchplay performers. A couple of guys like Verplank who aren't flashy players but who get the job done in almost any situation.

    I would pick a player like Corey Pavin over Brett Wetterich to be on my team in a heartbeat. A bloke with proven Ryder Cup experience who plays like a little pitbull on the golf course.

    Finally there is that heavy burden that the US Team carries into every Ryder Cup camapign. The Tiger factor. It is no coincidence that since Tiger has been on the scene (1998) that American Teams in both Ryder Cup and President's Cup have struggled. The reason for this is simple. As the world's most dominant player Tiger may as well be wearing a white shirt with big red circle on it every time he steps foot on the tee. He is a target. A treasured matchplay scalp of every player aound the world. Take a look at the list of relative 'no-names' like Nick O'Hern and Peter O'Malley who have beaten Tiger at the world matchplay and the number of players on both the European and International Teams who have combined to beat Tiger & partner. Every time Tiger gets beaten in the Fourball or Foursomes format, apart from the points, the other side gets a huge psychological lift and whilst its not said publicly, it must be a massive 'downer' for the US Team when their number 1 gets beaten so often. I stood about ten paces away from Craig Parry when he holed the most ridiculous chip shot ever to beat Tiger and Freddie Couples in a Presidents Cup morning fourball match at Royal Melbourne in 1998. The look on Tiger's face said it all-who are these guys- Maruyama and Parry- and what are they doing playing like this. That afternoon the US were completely wiped by an inspired International side that almost won the cup before the singles matches began.

    My point is this. So much is dependant on momentum. The US Team lose it every time Tiger gets upstaged in the team format. Even though Tiger and Furyk won their opening Fourball match on Friday morning, by the time they had holed out on Saturday afternoon for a win, they had combined to lose their previous two matches and the US Team was down 10-5. The cup was already long gone and all the momentum was with the Europeans for Sunday.

    If I were the US Team Captain I would not play Tiger until the second day of the competition possibly in the afternoon as well. Leave the opposition guessing and keep something up the sleeve to build a bit of momentum in the tournament.

  4. randy says:

    it's time to change.
    if left up to me, to hell with the "point system". all players would be captin's picks. if someone really dose't want to play, then great, stay at home with your lovely wife, and make more babies. sounds good to me. i'd rather pick the hungriest player, with no major win on his resume, to go fight these guys. oh, by the way, that is what this is. just ask the euros what they consider the cup to be, in private of course.
    just do away with the dadgum points, let the capt. pick the guys who are playing hot now, and who really want to go beat the hell out of someone!

  5. ragontona says:

    Per Tom Watson:

    "Right now only the top 10 players from each tournament earn Ryder Cup points. I think the top 10 Americans in each tournament should get points.

    "In the last several years international players have dominated the top 10, leaving fewer points for Americans to earn to get on the Ryder Cup team.

    "A person who wins a tournament pretty much is assured a pretty good shot at getting on the team. Before you had to win a couple of tournaments to get on the team."

  6. Several thoughts:

    1. I'd have paired the rookies with other rookies. I've never liked pairing rookies with veterans because I think both play differently. The veteran "tries harder to make up for the rookie" and the rookie gets a bit dazed like "I have to hold my own or I'll be letting down {veteran name here}. That's my one criticism of Tom Lehman. A Henry/Johnson pairing would have done really well, I think.
    2. Phil Mickelson disgusts me at this point. Tiger took a leadership role, but Phil is even older. Yet all we get from Phil is "I give up after the PGA every year" and "Hey, the Ryder Cup starts in one week. Ooh, new equipment! I'm gonna switch!" Disgusting.
    3. Shame on JJ Henry? Sorry, but those were the rules. If you think for one second a Euro player wouldn't have done the same thing, you're nuts. The area was wetter than most areas because it was near a sprinkler, so he followed the rules to his advantage. The rules aren't there just to penalize.
    4. Colin and Sergio don't play in the Presidents Cup, of course.
    5. Tiger played on the 1997 Ryder Cup team.
    6. You wouldn't play Tiger until the afternoon? You're crazy.
    7. I'm not ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater in regards to the selection process. Tweaking, fine. Wholesale captains picks? Never.

  7. Like I've mentioned in the forum, I would go with the Tom Lehman method. He had his own standings of top-10 Americans in each event. That list had Stewart Cink and Scott Verplank within the top 10, and they went 3-1-3 for the week.

    That's a simple tweak, yet effective. I agree with Tom Watson's comments on the points sytem.

  8. j.p.Corbeil says:

    I think the USA should concentrate on fixing their selection process. Golf is still played individually. A team needs its best players. Every week the field shoud be weighted.

    If a tournament takes place against a major or a special event and only 3 of the world best 50 are present, the winner should not get more points than the second guy at the British Open.

    Set up a formula: the tournament gets a rating for each of the top 50 players playing in the event (or 25 or whatever...): 50 points if #1 is there, 49 points if #2 is there...and so on. Apply that to the theoretical total for the top 50 which is 1275. Make a ratio of that week's total over 1 275 depending on the field (637 points would make the ratio 50%).

    The winner of a weaker event would then get half the points (or 60% or 35%...)which would avoid the situation where a one tournament winner would almost automatically make the team.

    Seems complicated ? Not really and it would favor stronger players in stronger fields.

  9. JP, they have that system. It's called the Official World Golf Ranking. It takes a "strength of field" measurement.

  10. Yeah, but JP has a point. John Rollins shouldn't get more points for a win at a second-rate tournament than Chris DiMarco got for second at The British Open. I definitely see your point there.

    Any American golfer that finishes in the top 10 at a major should get more points than a golfer winning a second-rate tournament.

  11. Cody, I'm agreeing with him and pointing out that there's already a widely used formula for strength of field. I can also add that the Europeans pick part of their team based on OWGR, too (five of them, IIRC).

  12. Dave in Oz says:

    Morning Erik, Cody and viewers,

    Erik good point about Tiger playing in the 97 Ryder Cup. I use the term 'playing' loosely- for the record he went 1-3-1 for the week getting pumped 4&2 by Constantina Rocca in singles. That whole episode in Spain proves my point about not playing Tiger in every round of Foursomes and Fourballs at Ryder Cup.

    The question you should be asking previous Team Captains is this; Why would you set your #1 player up to be the whipping boy of the Europeans every time in the Foursomes and Fourball format?

    After five goes at it Tiger's foursomes and fourball record stands at: (7-12-1) or in plain english Played 20, Won 7,Lost 12, Halved 1. He has had 11 different partners in those contests. For the past four Ryder Cups every US Team Captain has rotated another player to partner Tiger after a loss. Give credit to Lehman this year- he at least persisted even though Tiger and Furyk lost two on the trot.

    Compare that to Europe's #1 Colin Montgomerie who in the same period has played 18 foursomes/fourballs, won 10, lost 4 and halved 4 with only 5 different playing partners over the course of 5 Ryder Cup contests.

    It's clear the US players lack stability at the top and seem to go from one Ryder Cup to the next looking for the perfect pairings. The Europeans meanwhile turn up with pretty much the same team of regulars(Monty, Harrington, Sergio, Clarke, McGinley and up till this year Langer) and go "all right what have you (US Team) got for us this time?". To them its about the competition- not finding out who wil gel with who.

    So yeah- I would leave Tiger out of it until the afternoon of Day 2. It's not like he is a big impact player on Friday's and Saturday mornings. In the five Ryder Cups Tiger has played he is 5-10-0 for the first three sessions of play. Amazingly he is 1-2-0 for every one of those Ryder Cups playing Friday and Saturday morning.

    Or in plain english he is only a 50/50 bet in fousomes and fourballs for the first day and a half!

  13. Brad Chapman says:

    Not Play Tiger Woods? -- Because you think what? Look, Tiger Woods is the man period! If only there were a captains eject pick and we can get rid of the Mickster. Play Tiger every match. Maybe pair him with Dimarco. Captain Tom needed to make better captains pick plain and simple. Where's Couples? You don't only pick a guy because you think he can win, but also for the overall composition for the team. I don't care if the Captain's pick wins any points or not, if they add to fire of the team ...pick'em. Lanny Wadkins is a good example of this. Tiger will only get better. Do you think he wants to be a european whipping boy??? I don't think so! by the by He's only 30, he will figure it out and learn to dominate the team pairings. I have faith. So Oz, ...with all due respect to your statistical annalysis, you're dead wrong.

    b.

  14. Andy Greenwald says:

    Hate to beat a dead horse, but we need to get realistic.

    The top 10 (or 12) americans in golf could not have beaten the Euro's this time or last time. The Euro team is flat out better than us, and have found ways to raise their game to the appropriate level when it is needed for the Ryder Cup. The same cannot be said for Tiger and Phil.

    My only suggestion to the next captain is to focus on tweaking the course for the US Style of play.

    I would also endorse a "silly season" event where the top 12 americans play in four ball and foursome matches to decide who wins the most money.

    The ryder point system has it's issues, and for once I agree with Erik about the OWGR and using it. Unfortunately, this concession will go to his head. EB already thinks he knows it all.

    BTW...I was impressed with the K Club, and it had some interesting holes where players found the water on some risky shots. I like that. Maybe, I had lower expectations. Ballybunion would have been great to watch, but give the K Club some kudos.

  1. [... I still haven't recovered from the Ryder Cup beatdown the Europeans gave the United States this past weekend, but there really isn't anything I can do about it. The European ...]

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