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 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.
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.
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!