JOHN MCHENRY: Not every star can be a hero this week. But everyone must carry a load

As a sporting spectacle, the Ryder Cup has the capacity to reach the dramatic pitch of All-Ireland finals, a World Cup, the Six Nations Championship, the Super Bowl, and the NBA finals.

All are terrific events and ridiculously watchable. All, represent the very pinnacle of their respective sports but none, in my mind, consistently attain the compelling heights we savour in this biennial golf spectacular.

For a sport dominated by personal and individual performances, the Ryder Cup provides an unusual golfing spectacle — a format where nationalistic pride, effort and a team performance are the key ingredients.

It is a collegiate effort where even the greatest personalities are expected to perform without pay or selfish agendas. 

And the final reward for the players for five rounds of fierce pressure? Pride for a job well done but otherwise, little more than bragging rights.

The greatest thing about the Ryder Cup, since Europe started playing the matches in 1979, is that there is rarely, if ever, a blowout. 

Even with a commanding lead, as the US had in Medinah in 2012, no team can fully rest or be assured of victory until the final putt has been drained.

While all of us will be sucked in by the personalities, the rivalry, the quality of shot-making and even the proximity of the spectators to the players, the reality is that ultimate victory will be derived from whatever team can get the most out of their players, not just on the course, but in the team room.

The sum (individuals) of the parts must play as a team. Only then can either team be truly effective and play with the level of passion and fearlessness required to win.

Thomas Bjorn (Europe), Jim Furyk (US) and their vice-captains, must find that right winning formula. 

With the players only assembling a few days ago, now is not the time for experimentation. 

They need to have a plan that their teams has already agreed to buy into in place and they need to execute that plan to perfection.

That includes finding the right performance balance between their proven veterans and their rookie players, and it will require tough decisions in the team’s best interests.

Not every star can be a hero this week. But everyone must carry a load

For their team plan to succeed, it will require proper, honest communication, constructive feedback and a whole lot of patience — especially in the different playing disciplines of fourballs and foursomes — from elite performers who have no choice but to put their egos in their pockets. 

As a collective, they need to understand that not every player can be a hero, but everyone must carry the load.

Selflessness, and that appreciation of their individual role in the bigger picture — be that playing, mentoring or even supporting their peers on the course — will be the most critical factor in determining the final outcome.

For players like Justin Rose and Tiger Woods, the captains must recognise it is hard to maintain peak performance after a long season, especially in Rose’s case, when he has already achieved two of his five goals - world No. 1 status and the FedEx title (the others being a major championship, a Ryder Cup victory and the Race to Dubai title). 

The same too can be said for Tiger who must be exhausted from his recent efforts and exploits.

Attaining victory is draining. It will be fascinating to see how both captains utilise their star players from the off. 

Will they have enough confidence in their own systems to keep players fresh or will they err by flogging their star players, as the US have done with Woods in previous matches.

The correct calls can be inspirational, the wrong ones, divisive and destructive.

As a collective, Europe and the US must now make their own luck, in all three disciplines (foursomes, fourballs, singles). 

From a European standpoint, that means capitalising on marginal gains they have in terms of the course set up and home support. 

They will want early momentum, but USA will understand that so I expect the strongest possible teams on both sides to start first thing this morning, by way of gaining an early advantage, with every team member playing before the singles.

There are fewer more daunting environments in a pro’s career than the first tee at a Ryder Cup, representing either Europe or the USA, but to a man, I can tell you that none of the players would swap this opportunity for anything else.

More on this topic

Padraig Harrington believes Ryder Cup could head towards ‘neutral set-up’ coursesPadraig Harrington believes Ryder Cup could head towards ‘neutral set-up’ courses

Harrington to run rule over Ryder Cup prospect Hovland at WentworthHarrington to run rule over Ryder Cup prospect Hovland at Wentworth

Robert Karlsson named as one of Europe’s vice-captains for 2020 Ryder CupRobert Karlsson named as one of Europe’s vice-captains for 2020 Ryder Cup

JP’s dream becomes a realityJP’s dream becomes a reality


Put provenance first this season and make 'Made in Munster' the label to be seen in. With outstanding craftmanship and commitment to quality, these homegrown designers are making Munster-made fashion wish list worthy around the world. Shopping local has never looked so good. Carolyn Moore reports.Made in Munster: Shopping local has never looked this good.

Karen Cunneen-Bilbow Owner, Fabricate IrelandMade in Munster: ‘I turned my hobby into a business’

An invitation is extended to all to pay a visit to Bride View Cottage, writes Charlie WilkinsSeasonal cheer will spread early in Co Cork as an invitation is extended to all to visit Bride View Cottage

After a week of Fortnite Chapter 2, we think it’s fair to say Epic lived up to their name with the game’s ‘re-launch’.GameTech: Happy after a week of Fortnite Chapter 2

More From The Irish Examiner