This past weekend the United States Professional Golfers played against the European Professional Golfers for the coveted Ryder Cup. They played a golf course outside Paris, France. Advantage Europe. I’ll explain what I mean later. In truth Europe took full advantage of the set-up and handily won the Cup back from the Americans.
Before I get into the competition itself, I’d like to make an observation that all amateur golfers should take notice and keep in mind. Missed shots. I watched both American and European golfers hit some beautiful shots with irons and woods. Some terrific chips and fabulous long putts that stunned and excited the crowd. However, at times they looked just like you and me. Missing short and very short putts. Chip shots that remained in the rough. Tough sand shots that didn’t get out of the bunker, etc. If these great players, players that hit perhaps a thousand balls a day, practice chipping, putting and sand shots more hours than you could ever dream of doing, can miss, of course you will too. Why should you get upset and have it ruin your game and your enjoyment? Too often the amateur golfer gets upset with a bad shot and carries it on so they hit more bad shots. I usually get over it quickly but the other day, I was having a bad hole and then I missed a short putt. Instead of marking my ball, regrouping my thoughts and emotions, I continued to putt and actually 4 putted that green. This got me more frustrated and unfortunately I carried it to the next hole. My mistake. Anyone can miss a putt, chunk a chip, blade a chip, etc. The key is to regroup. Put it in prospective. Relax and then continue.
Let’s get back to Ryder Cup play and set-up. Let’s look at a few things:
- The home team gets to set the course up. Naturally, the Captain will ask for the course to be set up in a way that suits his players.
- Americans like to play on fast greens. The European greens tend to be slower and their players are used to that.
- Many of the top European golfers play on the US PGA tour and therefore on faster greens. They also play in Europe on the slower greens.
- The Americans play few tournaments in Europe and have a harder time adjusting to the slower greens.
- Most PGA tournaments allow bombing drives and the rough is not so thick, so the professional can hit out of it and still reach the green. Accuracy off the Tee is great but not necessary.
- This European set-up was such that accuracy off the Tee was important and being in the rough was penalizing.
- Americans have comradery but are truly individuals from birth.
- No matter what, each player has to produce his best golf. The Americans were outplayed. They didn’t play badly, the Europeans just played better.
There are three basic games played. Two rounds of Fourball (Two man best ball) where each player plays their own ball and two rounds of Foursomes (Alternate shot). The third is straight match play one on one. Historically, the American team plays well in Fourball and not as well in Foursomes. If the Americans need to make up ground it is usually in the match play on Sunday.
All of these players know one another and play practice rounds together. They tend to know each others’ games. I don’t know how to get into a golfers psyche. What makes one pairing work and another not work.
The team Captain along with his co-Captains has the difficult job of setting up the pairings. I’m sure they take input from the players themselves but that does not always work either. Who do you play? Who do you sit out? These are difficult decisions at best. Captain Furyk chose to break up a previously winning group of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed and put Jordan Spieth with his good friend Justin Thomas (a Ryder Cup rookie). There have been comments about this but Spieth and Thomas won 3 of their 4 matches. They only lost to the phenomenal combination of Molinari and Fleetwood (nicknamed Moliwood) who played fabulous golf and won all of their matches. They were a buzz saw.
Years ago the American teams dominated the Ryder Cup. That’s the reason the opposing team became Europe and not just Great Britain and Ireland. Top modern golfers tend to play on the PGA tour no matter where they are from and the world rankings contain many European golfers in the top 50 and even the top 10 in the world. There is definitely more parity. Even so, the American team did not play up to their potential. They were sub-par, flat and were beaten by a fired up European team that played well. Some even had some of their best rounds of the year. Sergio, who tends to play his best golf at the Ryder, did it again.
I’ve heard comments that the American team does not have the comradery that the European team has. This may be true but it does not mean that there is no comradery on the American team. Historically, the Europeans have travelled together, drank together and generally hung out as a group. Americans have tended to be more independent and I believe hang out in smaller groups. How many times have we heard of two or three American golfers sharing a house for a tournament?
Now here’s a bombshell, some older revered golfers have stated that the tour players are too friendly. They should be enemies on the course and not more than cordial off the course. Who’s right? Personally, I like the idea of having friends to play with, hang with, eat with and drink with. Let’s relate it to ourselves. Don’t we have the most fun when we play with our closest buddies. Oh sure we want to play well and anyone who says they don’t want to have the best round of the group is not being real. We want our friends to play well and we want to play just that little bit better.
I just watched Phil Mickelson say he did not enjoy the set-up of the golf course at the Ryder Cup. The fairways, in his opinion, were unrealistically narrow based on the game he and many other American golfers enjoy playing. The fairways were too narrow and the rough too thick. That is not the course they play on the PGA tour. Even US courses with narrow fairways have wider fairways than they played at the Ryder Cup. The rough in Paris was worse than the rough at the US Open tournaments, which cause many golfers to gripe about.
Let’s face it, the American team was not familiar with the course and did not get enough practice on the course, especially the greens, to figure out how to play it. Perhaps more practice would not have worked because it would have forced the players to play a different game. Maybe a game they don’t enjoy. Realize these are just my opinions.
Patrick Reed has made a stink about pairings and who played in which event. Who played and who sat may be more a bone of contention than pairings. Either way, it is easy to blame the team Captain. He has the final decision. However, he has input from his co-Captain staff and also player input. In the end the players need to play their best golf to win. The Americans did not do that. The Europeans did. This was proven in the singles matches. Just think, how do you complain when Bryson DeChambeau hits a shot to within 2 feet for a conceded birdie and Alex Noren sinks a forty foot plus putt to halve the hole and win the match. The Europeans rose to the occasion. There is nothing more to say.
2020 will be a new Ryder Cup. It will be on American soil and Steve Stricker, the American Captain, will have the opportunity to set the course up more to the liking of the American team. The Europeans will have to adapt. Let’s see what happens then.
Did you watch the Ryder Cup? What’s your opinion?