Until points are awarded for succinct and compelling observations or intriguing analysis, the days leading up to the Ryder Cup will remain fairly hollow.
Take one of Davis Love III’s daily press conferences, for instance, and apologies for not being more specific as to whether it was Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday, since these gatherings were a bit like the Kardashians — too many of them and too little substance.
But at one of these sittings, Love used the word “fun” about a dozen times.
The Americans had a “fun” team and had had “fun” in the locker room and were looking at “fun” pairings that could produce a “fun” week. Good gracious, you would have thought Captain Love was commandeering the Good Ship Lollipop to the land of sugar plums and candy canes. Fun? Love’s last four visits to the Ryder Cup were as a captain at Medinah in 2012, a vice-captain at Celtic Manor in 2010, a player at Oakland Hills in 2004, and a player at The Belfry in 2002. All four resulted in losses, so it stands to reason Love has forgotten what it is to have “fun” at a Ryder Cup.
Here’s a hint. Win.
If Love were to search the deep recesses of his mind, he might remember the feeling because of his six times as a Ryder Cup player, he played on winning teams in 1993 and 1999. Now those weeks, we assume, were “fun.” None of this is to suggest it is all about winning, that the Ryder Cup is a bust if you don’t come out on top. But given the Americans have lost six of the last seven and eight of 10 — after years of pretty much having their way in this biennial affair — what you so often hear from this side of the pond is how they need to be a better team. They equate that with all being friends, with getting along, with sailing on a Good Ship Lollipop, if you will. Such bunk.
For some reason, Americans think the key to this European magic is their camaraderie. Come on, they had very little use for Colin Montgomerie, save for three days every two years. Then they put him on a pedestal, all for the good of the cause.
Page after page in the 2016 Ryder Cup Media Guide points out great examples of how this is all a myth about Europeans always being great friends. Ian Woosnam wanted to punch his captain, Seve Ballesteros, when left out of the lineup for the opening two sessions in 1997. When Nick Faldo benched Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood in 2008, there was nearly a locker room revolt. Darren Clarke and Montgomerie were teammates on five different occasions and likely they never spoke a civil word to one another. Europe won four of those contests. Never, ever have European captains or players attempted to sell us a bill of good on the need to have “fun.” No, they build the team around having a common purpose, a method to their pairings, a continuity in the process. If egos are ruffled along the way — Bernhard Langer in 1999 wasn’t picked, but should have been; ditto Paul Casey in 2010 — so be it. They are big boys and understand the mission. Langer swallowed his pride, didn’t complain, and played one more year, in 2002, then served as captain in 2004. Casey said he showed restraint because Europe won the year he got snubbed “and that’s what’s important”.
Compare that to how the Americans have taken on Ryder Cup life in this new era of its “task force”. It’s all about trying to make everyone happy. Rickie Fowler was picked for the team, not for his form, but because players like him. Bubba Watson, a special sort of weapon with his massive power, wasn’t picked because players don’t embrace him. But when Watson went public with his desire to be part of the team, Love named him yet another vice-captain.
“Jump aboard the Good Ship Lollipop, Bubba,” is pretty much what Love said, for the US captain, a very honourable man, wants everyone to like him and everyone to have “fun”. Blessed with brilliant talent — Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler are all top 10 players — the Americans are still in prime position to win.
But they also have plenty of time to try and have “fun” — which could spell bad news.
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