Firstly, congratulations to Europe and Paul McGinley for an exceptional Ryder Cup 2014 effort and also to my wife who valiantly allowed the TV remote to remain in my control throughout the weekend.
While it wasn’t the nail-biter we have become used to in recent years, there were plenty of magic moments that will be replayed for decades. The Kaymer chip-in, The Reed shushing, The Donaldson cup-clincher and so on. What struck me most however was the disparity between the two teams in terms of their mental preparation.
I would imagine that McGinley needed to provide very little in terms of motivation. Sir Alex Ferguson was wheeled in to provide a pep-talk but that seemed to be more of a nice occasion than a necessity.
Tom Watson however, seems to have been trying to crush a mutiny most of the time. Phil Mickelson is beloved all over the world. Not only is he one of the most gifted and imaginative players of his generation, but he often gives a great sound byte and recognizes an enthusiastic crowd. So hearing him publically criticize the methods of his captain just an hour after the cup was lost is shocking. The U.S. rookies were the best performers in the squad. Reed, Spieth and Walker proved (almost) unbeatable and clearly got fired up as the event wore on. But the rest? I don’t remember a fist pump or a yell from any of the others. Big Phil himself registered only a couple of thumbs up and looked a forlorn figure throughout.
It’s surprising for a nation often so enthusiastic about their nationality. Watson clearly didn’t have the rapport with the players that you would think is necessary for challenging for the trophy miles from home. Rumour has it he hardly spoke to the players in the lead up to the event and his captain’s picks struck of laziness more than anything else. Webb Simpson fluffed his tee shot on the very first hole and that was pretty much his highlight. Keegan Bradley was ok, but nothing like the man in Medinah. Hunter Mahan did rise to the occasion, but squandered a 4 hole lead to Justin Rose on Sunday. Now look at McGinley’s choices. Ok, so Stephen Gallacher found it all a bit too overwhelming. Ian Poulter had too much resting on his shoulders, but still proved resolute. Lee Westwood? Well, he’s Lee Westwood. Dependable is his middle name.
Now remind yourself of the European passion during the Ryder Cup. Garcia seemed to be in golfing heaven. McIlroy is World Number One and he certainly showed why again. Martin Kaymer has won 2 majors but has never showed so much emotion before.
I hope the U.S. team can figure things out in the next 2 years. They don’t seem to travel well but that won’t be an issue at Hazeltine
As for Europe? All 12 are probably still partying now but will be boarding a plane to Dubai in a few weeks. No doubt the climax to the Race to Dubai will see a certain gold trophy on display too. I wonder if the Fed Ex Cup finale will ever be able to do the same…