Lessons from the 2010 Ryder Cup

From Pavin’s cure for insomnia to McDowell’s stones, what we’ll take away from 2010 at Celtic Manor.

Thrash TalkWatching this year’s Ryder Cup through the fog of too little sleep and the sputtering pace brought on by epic rain made for quite an experience. When it was all said and done, and I’d caught my breath from a dazzling final day of singles matches, I realized there was plenty to take away.

From the telling difference between the captains, to the way certain players stepped to the forefront on the biggest stage and in the most crucial situations, we can draw conclusions that will last far longer than Europe’s champagne hangover.

McDowell is Great

When the singles pairings came out, the first thing I said was “The Americans better not have it all riding on the final match.” You can watch golfers fold under pressure and then you can see them thrive. And during the final round of the U.S. Open, Graeme McDowell not only hung on for dear life, he brought his game to a whole new level.

If there was any thought his major title was a fluke, all you needed to do was watch him throughout Monday’s match against Hunter Mahan. It’s like McDowell fed off the heat, the fans, the moment. More impressively, he didn’t succeed by shutting it all out, he welcomed it, played off the crowd and in the end didn’t just hang on. When Mahan cut the lead to 1-up with three to play, McDowell came to the toughest hole on the course and drained as clutch a long birdie putt as you’ll ever see. There was plenty of talk about Mahan’s flubbed chip on 17 but that was window dressing. McDowell locked up the Ryder Cup for Europe with that sensational 16th.

Captain’s Job is More than Winning

Call the Ryder Cup what you will, but at its core, it’s an exhibition. So when the captains are selected, they need to take on a larger role than the stoic, bland personality that Corey Pavin displayed all week. The captain needs to be a lightning rod, needs to stir up his team (and maybe his opponents), and certainly should make headlines for something other than being Sominex. One popular golf writer called Pavin “Borey” all week, and Pavin went out of his way to be bland.

For the first time, across America, golf fans were wishing we could claim Monty as one of our own. The guy was passionate, he stirred it up, and he wasn’t an all around fuddy-duddy.

Pavin’s problems with the wardrobe was overblown but it sort of illustrated his deficiency as a captain. He wanted to run the team like a relic from the past. By banning his players from using Twitter during the week not only showed he was treating them like children, he was robbing the fans of one of the greatest innovations for building a connection to their favorite players. If anything, there should have been an edict requiring Twitter, not banning it.

Pavin didn’t get that the captaincy is not just about winning. It’s about putting on a show, engaging the golf community and getting you players in a position to win. He failed on all counts.

Middle of the Night to Beat Football

The minute the football season begins, some air goes out of the golf season. The Ryder Cup solved this by accident, wrapping up each day’s play as TVs started clicking over to gridiron action.

I’m a sucker for events played at crazy hours. Whether it’s the World Cup in Korea at 4am, a college football game in Hawaii with an 11:59pm kickoff, or British Open coverage starting just an hour or two after last call.

Playing this Ryder Cup in the middle of the night adds excitement, makes it that much more special. My wife thought I was off my rocker spending the weekend sleeping in short spurts.

Americans Really Care

I’m not ready to say the U.S. team compares to the Europeans when it comes to passion for the Ryder Cup, but the gap’s far smaller than I had previously believed. It’s only natural that you’d see more camaraderie in Europe. Those guys share a feeling that they play on a second-tier tour, they can easily psyche themselves up through an “us vs. them” mentality.

But the more you listen, not only to the guys who made the team but those back home watching on TV like the rest of us, and it’s obvious that the Ryder Cup is a point of pride among the U.S. players. You’d never see Tiger Woods breaking down on the dais the way Hunter Mahan did. But I’m not going to indict all of American golf because Tiger couldn’t care whether his teammates sweep or get swept. For too long we’ve let Woods set the tone and his aloof behavior can be taken for indifference. I’ll focus on Mahan who couldn’t spit out the words after suffering the clinching defeat.

Emotion is One Thing, but Putting is the Key

So much time is spent during Ryder Cup week talking about momentum, emotion, and more momentum. Seve was the original swagger master, passing it to Sergio. This year’s got its dose of energy from Poulter and Edoardo Molinari.

But nothing swung this Ryder Cup like the crucial putts, both made and missed. The Americans couldn’t find the pace during that awful day of team matches. Dustin Johnson looked like he couldn’t comprehend the idea of rolling a ball into a hole. Then when the singles charge was just about to get off to a red-hot start, Cink gagged on a short one and in the process of getting the Heimlich, coughed up half a point.

On the flip side, the biggest putt of the week came off the flat stick of Graeme McDowell, on the 16th hole, when his lead had just been cut to one and just after Fowler’s miracle halve meant McDowell needed to win outright to capture the Cup. He had the composure and the guts to drain a putt we’ll never forget.

8 thoughts on “Lessons from the 2010 Ryder Cup”

  1. What’s with the “Tiger doesn’t care” crap? How much did DJ look like he cared when he was playing like crap earlier in the week? Does Tiger have to over-react like Overton when he holed out for people to think that he “cares” about these things? He may not care as much as he cares about majors, but he cares.

    Europe won when Monty had them cut the greens slow. And the U.S. lost when Cink couldn’t make a pair of three-footers. That it fell to Mahan – who can hopefully use this to strengthen himself – was a shame. Cink is the goat, and Mahan only shares a little of the blame (btw, his drive on 16, his second and third shots on 16, and most importantly his tee shot on the 17th were nearly all as bad as his flubbed chip, but nobody’s talking about those shots…).

  2. Scott,
    can’t you just admit that the European team was superior and that’s the reason why they won. I can remember just as many putts that the Europeans missed as the ones you mentioned regarding the US, and a few ones that the US should have missed and they somehow went in.
    Europe was superior, that’s why they won.

  3. Once again the American Press not only ignores the essence of golf but takes losing to another level. The press will castigate Trahan for years until some other poor slob stumbles into the limelight. The American team turned around everything on the last day to almost pull it out of the bag, good show boys.

    I think all of us who love the game find the Ryder Cup the best show in golf. We stay up late (or get up early) to watch, get nervous, hold our breath etc and we are not even holding a club! I can only imagine the pressure on the players and their families.

    I think I will try to take away something positive from this like the image of Graeme McDowell making the putt on 16 and also watching him on the tee box at 17 in front of the whole world making a decent swing…wow.

  4. I agree with the previous post. The Ryder Cup has to be the most emotionally challenging thing to do in golf. I just played on our “Ryder Cup” pitting our course against another local course. The pressure on the first hole was immense. I have played professionally and I can honestly say that I have never felt that much pressure. We had 24 guys on each team and to think of the fact that if you don’t execute, you are going to loose. It was insane, thankfully I woke up and we won 6 of 9 points in the matches I was involved in.

    It was also the best golf event I have ever played in. You should try it sometime and get an idea of what these guys are going through. And for no payment I might add.

  5. Scott,can’t you just admit that the European team was superior and that’s the reason why they won.jb90

    I don’t want to speak for Scott, but I don’t think he said anything to the contrary. Europeans putt better on slow greens, but the golf course was the same for everyone. Slick move by monty.

  6. Both sides played well on different days. Some players played better than others, also on different days. That the difference was a half point (or the equivalent of one putt e.g. citing Cink’s putt in the singles but could equally have applied to any putt on any match throughout the tourney) shows just how close the competition was. And this is match play, so anything is possible. In the end, there wasn’t much to choose from between the teams. But as in any sport, someone has to win. So let’s just say Congrats to Europe and see you in two years time for another thriller.

  7. I don’t want to speak for Scott, but I don’t think he said anything to the contrary. Europeans putt better on slow greens, but the golf course was the same for everyone. Slick move by monty.
    Peter Forstall

    Where exactly is the empirical evidence to suggest that Europe benefitted from those greens? The commentators have so much time to fill they just talk about mundane stuff that is largely irrelevant. If they never would have mentioned that, would that even be an argument? It’s not like they were rolling like the greens at your local muni. Many of those players play in both the US and Europe. Many travel all throughout Asia to play. They are all professionals, the speed of the greens aren’t going to affect them that much, especially on day 3…after practice rounds.
    Reality is the US won 2 out of the 3 (conventional) days. It was amazing golf which is why we all watch the Ryder Cup.

    Can we all agree on one thing though? The display that Overton and Watson gave after holing the wedge has no place in golf. It’s a gentleman’s sport and that was disgraceful. I lost a lot of respect for them. It’s the preverbial, “Act like you’ve done it before”, situation. Lee Westwood sunk a 40 footer to win the hole only minutes before and gave a fist pump. Overton/Watson shout like they were at a frat party. Disrepectful in my opinion.

    Can’t wait until 2012 at Medinah!

  8. I don’t want to speak for Scott, but I don’t think he said anything to the contrary. Europeans putt better on slow greens, but the golf course was the same for everyone. Slick move by monty.
    Peter Forstall

    Slick move? The greens had the same speed as the ones European players play every week in European Tour tournaments. Did you expect Monty to make the greens as fast as those on the PGA Tour seeing as only 3 or 4 players that were on the Ryder Cup team have a PGA Tour card? He didn’t set up the course like Azinger did in 08 to favor Europe, he had a normal European Tour set up with thick rough.

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