SO MUCH FOR REDEMPTION. This was the time when team USA would put the nightmarish collapse of Medinah on that fateful Sunday afternoon behind them. And yet Medinah could be seen as a tactical triumph compared to the utter capitulation over three whole days at Gleneagles. USA finished 78 under par to Europe’s 110 under and were entirely outclassed.
Yet who could have imagined that three days that started so brightly with a 2.5 to 1.5 lead in the first morning foursomes could have ended with an excruciating final press conference when the senior pro of the US side decided that it was time to air as much dirty linen in public as possible by praising the actions of past skipper, Paul Azinger and, by implication, trashing veteran skipper Tom Watson in the process?
And maybe it is just this that prevents the USA from performing at its best. The raging egos of men such as Phil Mickelson, whose ill- timed critique was so toe curlingly embarrassing, and Tiger Woods cannot be subsumed in a team environment unless they get their own way. In fact, such is their mutual animosity, they cannot even engage in conversation let alone play well together for their country.
For sure Tom Watson made mistakes aplenty. Having captained the last USA victory on European soil back in 1993 his appointment had always appeared to be founded on sentiment rather than hard-headed reality. His selection of 64-year old Andy North and 71-year old Ray Floyd made no sense whatever when it came to inspiring the younger members of team USA. Neither Ryder Cup veterans Jim Furyk nor Phil Mickelson had even been born when Floyd won his first major.
Compare that with the steady progress and integration of players into vice captains and finally captains on the European side and there is a continuity and team philosophy that remains consistent, something entirely missing in the haphazard selections of the Americans under its PGA committee.
Then there were the odd pairings. Watson had said that whoever was successful in the morning rounds would be chosen to go out in the afternoon, yet he ignored the rookies Spieth and Reed who had hammered Gallacher and Poulter 5&4 in the foursomes. Mickelson, who did not look fit, scraped home with Bradley against a below par McIlroy and Garcia and was sent out in the afternoon against Graeme McDowell and Victor Dubuisson and slumped to a 3&2 defeat. Mickelson was then left to sit out the entire Saturday to his obvious irritation.
Come Sunday afternoon Watson bore the puzzled, half smiling expression of an old man who has been told by his wife to wait outside a store whilst she does her shopping and is not entirely sure that he is standing outside the correct store.
And everything Watson got wrong only made McGinley’s sure and studious leadership look better in comparison. The PGA of America has now formed a task force, yet another military term the USA is always so keen to invoke whenever the Ryder Cup is mentioned. We have had combat team uniforms, a ‘war on the shore’ and now a task force. And to be frank it does not look a very impressive line up.
The 11-man team comprises three losing captains in Ray Floyd, Tom Lehman and Davis Love III plus three modern players who have the worst losing records of all their countrymen in Jim Furyk, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Ricky Fowler, who has played eight games and not won any of them has also been co-opted. The remaining places are occupied by PGA ‘suits’.
It is hard to see how that lot are going to change things in time for 2016 and the next Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. Perhaps Paul Azinger, very much Mickelson’s favourite, and the last successful US captain will be appointed but don’t stake your mortgage on it.
Steve Stricker looks the man most likely to at the time of writing and less than two years is no time at all in which to change the attitude and philosophy of an American side that has become used to coming second and has seemingly lost the group motivation to win. Until all those flaming egos, fanned by individual managers and PR hangers-on, become focussed in one, united team ethic things are unlikely to change.