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Why the U.S. is Getting Dominated at the Ryder Cup

Sep. 27, 2013     By     Comments (6)

The US Ryder Cup team has not faired well of late, I explore why that is and how to fix it.

Thrash TalkFor the past ten years the U.S.Ryder Cup team has been pretty awful. Actually the U.S. team has been bad since 1997. Save a miracle in 1999 the U.S. has won only one other time, 2006 at Valhalla. Seven to two since 1997 and one needed at the time the greatest comeback in history to get the win. One could argue that the miracle was matched by the European team in 2012, but still seven to two borders on domination.

For 2014 the U.S. PGA has tried to switch up the momentum and brought on Tom Watson who was a previous captain to try and change the tied. I am a big fan of trying something different. Going with Tom is a bit against the grain and the U.S. team certainly needs a jolt. It is an interesting situation because the U.S. team is so dominate in the other team event, the Presidents Cup. Nearly undefeated in fact, add to that Freddie Couples excellent captain's picks for this year and I don't expect the International team will be able to beat the U.S. team. So it is not just that the U.S. is bad in team events, because if that were true the U.S. would have lost at least one of the Presidents Cups. So what is the reason the U.S. is so bad in the Ryder Cup.

In my opinion it's just that the Europeans want it more. I don't mean that they have some sort of will power that allows them to play better and make the U.S. players play worse, although it may seem that way. No, I think the European team breeds very good match play golfers through a process of playing in more match play team events. It starts with the Seve Cup. This event matches Great Britain and Ireland versus continental Europe. It is typically played at the same time as the Presidents Cup and is usually made up of players who will likely play in the Ryder Cup the following year. This event is much better for breeding new match play golfers than the Presidents Cup because more European golfers get the chance to play in the event and learn match play skills than American players get to play in the Presidents Cup. So golfers like Robert Rock who has not yet qualified for the Ryder Cup for some reason plays his way onto the Ryder Cup or get picked has already played in a full slate of matches and is ready to play at a moment's notice. He is now a veteran match player but has never played in a Ryder Cup, but he is seasoned.

The Europeans also play in a little known event called the Royal Trophy where the Europeans play Asia in a Ryder Cup style event. For this event the current European Cup Captain plays as a playing captain and the team is typically set up for players who are "on the bubble" for Ryder Cup selection and can again gain valuable match play experience. This event does not have all the television coverage or media attention as in the Ryder Cup, but there is team golf and an additional opportunity to play in match play event.

Jim Furyk

In the Americans case the top six or seven guys are the same top six or seven that play in the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. So only a few guys get match play golf experience outside of the regular golfers like Tiger and Phil. So the team is not very deep. Take Brandt Snedeker, I believe if he had had a chance to play in an event like the Seve Cup with the pressure of his fellow players and country it would have helped him immensely in the Ryder Cup, Webb Simpson also. Brandt struggled with the pressure of a Ryder Cup and it showed.

The Americans just don't get the reps necessary to play well in the match play type events. Especially the rookies, because in the U.S. if you are a Ryder Cup rookie it may well be your first match play with teammates event ever. For the Europeans it may be their third or fourth time playing in this type of event. The U.S. is at a HUGE disadvantage. Match play is a different animal. Team match play, foursomes especially, is even farther from standard golf. Experience plays a big role in who has the advantage and it shows in the results in recent years.

My proposal is the change things up by creating an event call "The Civil War". The current Ryder Cup captain should play and be captain of his team. The teams can be split by East and West with the Mississippi being a decent boundary, or North and South. The players should not be the big names but players who are on the bubble or players the captain thinks gives him the best chance. The teams can be completely picked by the captains of each respective team. The Golf Channel televise it and it can become a great event set in the shadow of the Ryder Cup format. It can be set up to give money to charity decided by the winning team, and be a great event to watch. This will give valuable experience to rookies before the Ryder Cup, and some of the senior golfers can relieve their glory days by playing the event.

I know it will never happen, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't. The U.S. is going to continue to struggle in my opinion unless we prepare as much as the European team is preparing.

Photo credits: © Andy Lyons.

Discussion

  1. WUTiger says:

    One contributing factor to the 2012 USA loss: Final day attitudes. The Europeans said, "Let's go out and play golf." The Americans said, "Oh, let's go to the office one more time."

  2. mancest says:

    I love the idea of having something in the fall here in the US for that "2nd tier" of younger guys who didn't make the Ryder cup. I would love to watch that, and it would be great experience for these guys.

    I also think the tour championship for the PGA tour should be a match play event, but I think match play is really golf at it's finest.

  3. liquor box says:

    Why not have a possible's v probable's?

    This system allows great players to prove they have what it takes as any mistake will cost them a spot and the possible players have to prove themselves to get a spot on the team. nothing teaches pressure like pressure itself.

    I think team golf has a real chance of becoming massive with the Olympics having golf, it could be a launching board to greater things.

  4. “...Watson who was a previous captain to try and change the tied.”

    They call Alabama the Crimson Tied...
    Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  5. thefinlex says:

    errr...a few things..firstly the internationals do have one win at Royal Melbourne in presidents cup so not quite undefeated although obviously dominant in that event...secondly in Europe a lot of club level golf has match play team events and then of course in the UK they have the walker cup V the US,another great breeding ground for talent and exposure to team match play which even at junior level is a regular thing.Matchplay golf is the purest form of competitive golf in my opinion and I love it as well!

  6. I think your overall conclusion is correct Michael. It means more to us. But there are reasons why this is so, and it goes well beyond preparation, but I'm not particularly sure American's really understand these, nor would they like to hear them either, and I doubt they'd accept them anyway.

    I've thought about this question a few times and have concluded that American teams have been populated for a decade with individual achievers who never saw the value of the RC.

    It seems strange at face value. America is a sovereign country more than capable of wrapping itself in the flag when it chooses, and should (in theory), be the easier to galvanise and motivate. Europe is an uncomfortable construct based around a mutual trading bloc that has only spent the best part of 10 centuries at war with each other. The RC is about the only thing that brings us together in sport and precipitates a temporary suspension of the mutual loathing and deep distrust.that otherwise characterises our complex inter-relationships.

    The following European players never won a major I put in brackets their RC record

    Lee Westwood (58%)
    Colin Montgomrie (65%)
    Sergio Garcia (67%)
    Ian Poulter (73%)
    Luke Donald (77%)

    Compare this to some who've all won major championships

    Mark O'Meara (32%)
    Curtis Strange (35%)
    Jim Furyk (37%)
    Tiger Woods (44%)
    Phil Mickelson (45%)

    Is Lee Westwood (Europes worst on my list) a 14% better golfer than Tiger Woods (America's best)?

    I think salvation might be hand though in the emerging generation who are perhaps a little bit more irked by what's gone on

    Johnson's D & Z, Anthony Kim, Dufner, Keegan and Kurcher all have RC records that exceed 50%

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