For the third consecutive time and eight out of the last 10, the Europeans are the king of the Ryder Cup.
It has now been 21 years since the U.S. won a Ryder Cup on foreign soil when Tom Watson took his team overseas to the Belfry and came away victorious. With Captain Tom at the helm again for the first time since that ’93 Cup, the Americans looked to recreate that magic and win the Cup back for the first time since 2008, but this time around it wasn’t meant to be.
The Europeans, lead by Ryder Cup veterans Rory Mcllroy, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, and Sergio Garcia, dominated for most of the three days, going 7-1 against the U.S side in foursomes (alternate shot). It was a Ryder Cup rookie though, Jamie Donaldson of Wales, that earned the European side the decisive point needed to retain the cup Sunday when he hit his approach shot on the 15th hole Sunday in his match against Keegan Bradley to within feet of the cup to ultimately win the match 4&3.
Donaldson watched his shot his the green and immediately held up a 1, signifying that his team was number one and once again victorious. That’s because they played like the best team out there for the majority of the weekend.
With the exception of a few bright spots by the American side, including the rookie pairing of Jordan Speith and Patrick Reed and the fact that Reed went undefeated (3-0-1) in his Ryder Cup debut, the Europeans dominated on every facet.
The U.S. came out strong both Friday and Saturday mornings in fourball winning both of the morning sessions by a combined total of 5-2. However, they struggled in the afternoon sessions both days that included some questionable decision making by Tom Watson.
Watson elected to sit the Reed/Speith pairing Friday afternoon in favor of the Phil Mickelson/Keegan Bradley pairing despite the rookie pairing winning their morning session easily 5&4. There were also questions about playing the pairing of Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker all four sessions despite the fact that they looked gassed after the Saturday morning session and were going up against a fresh, rested European team in the afternoon.
There were also the captains picks that went a combined 2-5-2 over the three days, headlined by Webb Simpson who, after getting blown out in his Friday morning match, was sat until Sunday.
Then, there was whole Phil Mickelson debacle. On top of the fact that Watson sent out Mickelson with Bradley Friday afternoon despite him being 44 with arthritis and it being cold and with the hot hands of Reed and Speith on the bench, Watson then decided that Mickelson needed to be rested and sat both him and Bradley for both sessions on Saturday. Saturday marked the first time in his Ryder Cup history, dating all the way back to Oak Hill in 1995, that Mickelson sat for an entire day and didn’t play a single match.
As a result, the biggest story Sunday, at least for the American side wasn’t so much what happened on the course, but what went down in the press room after.
With the European side celebrating outside and Mickelson sitting as far away from Watson as possible at the table, he opened up on the captain and threw him under the proverbial bus.
It all started when Watson was asked for seemed like the millionth time why the Europeans seemed to have such a stronghold on the event as of late.
“The obvious answer is that our team has to play better,” Watson said. “And they do. I think they recognize that fact. That collectively 12 players have to play better.”
After a few more questions, a reported asked Mickelson since he was on the team the last time the U.S. won in 2008, that maybe he could shed some light on what the biggest difference was between that team and this one. That’s when the bus was put into drive.
“There were two things (Paul) Azinger did that allowed the players to play their best,” Phil said. “One was he got everybody invested in the process… who the picks were going to be, who was going to be in their pod, when they would play. And they had a great leader for each pod. In my case, that was Raymond Floyd. We hung out together and were all invested in each other’s play. We were invested in picking Hunter Mahan that week.”
“The other thing Paul did really was he had a great game plan… how we were going to go about playing together; the golf ball; the format; what we were going to do, if so-and-so is playing well or if so-and-so is not playing well. We had a real game plan. Those two things helped us bring out our best golf. We all do the best we can and were all trying our hardest. We use the same process in the Presidents Cup and we do really well. Unfortunately we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best.”
Mickelson wasn’t done yet either. There was a follow up asking if any of the players had any say in what went down during the week and he continued to dig the knife in deeper.
“Uh…no,” Phil said. “Nobody here was in any decision. So, no.”
At this point, you could feel the tension in the room build to a peek. Watson tried to explain that the two had a difference in leadership tactics and that was ok but it was too little too late. The damage had been done.
We now have two years to discuss what was the U.S Ryder Cup team and the PGA of America will go. Who the captain will be, who the players will be, how the captains picks selections will be decided. While there are many question that will need to be answered, there is one thing we know for sure. If the United States wants to win back the cup, they will need to make some changes when they head to Hazeltine National Golf Club in 2016.
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