It’s hard to believe today’s news conference at PGA headquarters was covered with such urgency for an event that awaits 19 months in the future. Davis Love III will get another shot at bringing the cup back to America. He led his 2012 team two-thirds of the way to victory at Medinah only to watch a Euro rally derail the celebration. Now a task force has assembled golf minds from the PGA of America and the PGA Tour to determine the “formula” for winning the Ryder Cup. DL3 is the man and this time things will be different. The point system will be altered, the Captain’s picks stretched a little bit closer to the start of the matches and past captains and influential players will supposedly have more say. We’ll see what happens.
Of course my reaction to all of this hoopla is a feigned yawn. As a member of the PGA, this mercurial association that now administers perhaps the game’s greatest spectacle, I have my doubts whether this meeting of the minds will produce a winner. Yet I would like to see Team USA hoist the trophy at Hazeltine. I plan on being there. I’m 1-1 at Ryder Cups.
The 2014 Ryder Cup proved to be most forgettable. From the selection of Tom Watson as the leader who would claim the cup on foreign soil to Phil’s open mic forum at the end it was never boring. Old Tom was committed to putting his team on his back the only problem was he never hit a shot. Believe what you want but Tom Watson did not lose the 2014 Ryder Cup. He may not have communicated a winning formula to his players but Tom’s old school and sometimes those personas lead by example. Perhaps none of his team members were watching. Regardless of who was at fault it was brutally painful to watch an uninspired team hack their way around Gleneagles. Ultimately the event turned out to be not just a drive-by but a hit & run with the PGA’s Derek Sprague driving the bus and Pete Bevacqua riding shotgun. Losing is ugly but some of the behaviors after the final putt was holed could only be described as unprofessional.
There are several ways to view this current Ryder Cup voodoo. You might consider it a display of smoke and mirrors, clouding performance on the days of the matches with decisions made months in advance. One thing about this newest game plan is it takes the burden off the PGA of America. They selected Davis, a player favorite and a tremendous representative of American professional golf. If the Euros take this next contest you can’t blame the PGA. They formed the task force. They got it right (so far?). You can only blame the players, the men hitting the shots. Isn’t that the way it should be? Somehow Team USA has strayed from this responsibility of owning up to the fact that performance matters.
Another spin is that the PGA of America is desperate to produce a win after owning this event for so many years. When the system allowed European players to participate the game changed. Nicklaus losing at Muirfield Village? Unfathomable. Since then America has been beaten soundly at home and abroad. Such a trend may result in a diminished viewing interest from fans especially when college football and the NFL are well underway in their seasons. If the Ryder Cup loses its polish it could significantly impact the association’s revenue stream (the membership never sees a dime) for years to come.
The reality of this pep rally (thanks John Feinstein) is that one team will supposedly be fully engaged while the other could care less. Darren Clarke will bring a strong team to Minnesota and not much will change for the Euros. Why should it? They’ve beat Team USA in a variety of fashions over the years. They have nothing to lose even if they do let their opponents borrow the cup for two years. They’ll get it back probably sooner than later.
The pressure will mount as the fall of 2016 approaches. Not on the Euros mind you. Should the red white & blue lose this match what will be the next strategy? A new task force? More colorful uniforms? Better pairings? A new cast of motivational speakers? Watch out for that bus and little girls President Sprague. You never know what might come back to haunt you.
In the end the 2016 matches will only reveal what most golf fans already know. Team USA wants it so bad they end up throwing up on their shoes instead of embracing the opportunity. I don’t know about you but I would be thrilled to say I participated in the Ryder Cup matches — win or lose. That’s the problem with our teams. They expect the attention with all the perks but when it comes to stepping up to the tee they forget that competitive golf requires desire, perseverance and ability. The days of “mailing it in” are long gone.
With so many “qualified” task force members trying to figure out the new formula for success it is actually as simple as breathing. In order to win the American’s just need to play better. Hopefully Captain Love can get that through their egocentric heads his second time.