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Thoughts on the American Collapse at the Ryder Cup

Oct. 10, 2012     By     Comments (2)

Up 10-6 it seemed inconceivable on Saturday night that the Americans could lose the Cup, but they did.

Thrash TalkAs I watched Steve Stricker's chip shot on the 17th hole during the Ryder Cup roll past the hole about four feet, my heart sank into my stomach. I had a feeling at that moment that we had lost the Ryder Cup. Stricker would make a valiant par at the last and force Kaymer to make the putt to win, but it just seemed that after the bogey on 17 the outcome was all but certain.

The failings of the American team on that Sunday do not come down to any one player. Twelve American golfers went out to play and only three managed to win. You could argue that had Tiger cared he probably would have won as well, so call it four. I looked at the matchups on Sunday morning and I thought that we were in trouble right from the start.

Donald was going to be very consistent to Bubba's wild hit-it-all-over-the-place style. Poulter becomes someone else during those matches and Webb is still learning the ropes. If there is a place were rookies struggle in the Ryder Cup it is in the singles because there is no teammate to lean on. Webb could find comfort with Bubba in the team part of the matches but once alone the fact that he was a rookie started to show. The same situation also applies to Keegan Bradley. He was the American hero going into the singles, but without Phil to high five and lean on the magic was gone.

Mickelson's loss to Rose was not in the same category. Rose got amazingly lucky on seventeen. Phil's chip could have easily gone in, and his putt was probably in less than 10% range of making. Phil should have gone to eighteen with a one up lead, but golf is like that sometimes. Rose did make a fantastic birdie on eighteen and deserved the win.

Brandt Snedeker showed signs on the first day that he was going to struggle with the pressure of a Ryder Cup. His drive off the eighteenth on Friday was pretty awful, and to me is showed he was going to struggle with high pressure situations. He was a disaster on Sunday.

I believe if Davis Love III made a mistake it was putting so many rookies out early on Sunday. The reason I have trouble saying this was a glaring mistake is that his experienced golfers were not playing that well either. I think if I were making the line-up I would have put Furyk much earlier. In fact, He would have been my lead off player. Furyk had a wonderful 2012 missing out on a number of big tournaments, but he was playing very well. He was the better player in his fourball match with Snedeker, and if not for the putt on eighteen he would have tied Garcia. This way I lead with experience but not a Tiger where if the Europeans get a win it would be such a huge win.

Phil Mickelson expresses disappointment during the singles match of the 2012 Ryder Cup

My number two would have been Dustin Johnson. Johnson was the MVP of the Ryder Cup for the Americans. He has experience, he was playing well, and could have gotten an early point and helped to swing the matches in the right direction. As a side note, I temporarily considered giving the MVP to Phil because they earned the same amount of points, but I had said earlier in the day that I would only give it to Phil if he won his singles match. I then would have put out Bubba, then start sprinkling in the rookies, mixed in with Zach Johnson, and Phil and swapped Kuchar for Stricker at the back of the line-up. I will say though, that Kuchar was by far the biggest disappointment for me in the singles matches. He played really badly which was a big surprise to me. Still he is a good match-play golfer and given the right position might have come away with the win.

Many will argue that I am Monday morning quarterbacking, you are right, I am undefeated on Mondays. And the fact remains that Davis performed wonderfully as a captain on Friday and Saturday. 10-6 is an outstanding lead and should have been enough. There are some additionally things that Love could have done, I think he set up seventeen too difficult. He had the whole course geared for birdies which the Americans did very well, at but then made the seventeenth a torture chamber. That hole belongs at a US Open and the Americans played it terribly. Push the tees up and make it a birdie hole, I think the Americans would have faired better with an easier seventeenth.

Still it made for some fantastic drama. The Europeans deserve to celebrate such a dramatic achievement and they played to their potential on the final day. I would have enjoyed seeing the Americans win, but having the result be in doubt until the penultimate group was really great for golf and great for the Ryder Cup.

One last thought on the Ryder Cup is in regards to Rory McIlroy's late arrival to the golf course. There is more to this story than we are being told. Where is his caddie in all of this? In a day and age where everyone has mobile phones how could no one have wondered where he was at about 45 minutes until his tee time? I just find the story very fishy and that this made up story of eastern time was some baloney we were expected to buy into. There is more to that story, but I doubt we will get to hear it.

Photo credits: © Mike Ehrmann.

Discussion

  1. Some possible reasons for the European win and the USA loss.

    The USA, like Europe in 1999, thought, with reason, they had won on Friday night. 41/2 points from 12, with a team that had accumlated a 10-6 lead, is hard to argue against.

    At one point on Friday USA had a 10-4 lead, significantly, Europe won the final two points giving them momentum and hope for the singles.

    When Europe won the opening singles this gave further momentum, and put the USA under pressure FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE MATCH. The domino theory in action.

    Tiger Woods. Has only played in one winning Ryder Cup team. For the best US player this is an astonising return, as is his 13-17-3 record. Also, the apparent need to select a player whom he can partner in the pairs.

    The captain can only select the pairs and playing order. The need for leaders on the course becomes very real in a team context. Step forward Ian Poulter. Also, consider the effect had Luke Donald not won the opening single, this was a massive point, giving encouragement to the team and sewing doubt that the unimaginable could happen to the USA. The domino theory in action.

    The Europeans flowered in the singles, the USA struggled as exemplified by Rose and Mickleson on the 17th. When you have the flow the breaks go your way.

    Finally, another example in team golf. Alison Nicholas won the Solheim Cup for Europe against a superior USA team through shrewd captaincy making the the whole better than the individuals.

  2. Agree on the tee time thing. Eastern Time from watching the Golf Channel, really? That's the best you can come up with?

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