The gulf between the two sides was clear to see. The obvious truth is that team USA need to take the Ryder Cup more seriously to break their European jinx
If there is one sporting event guaranteed to deliver excitement it’s the Ryder Cup. Every two years, we gather to see these two powerhouses of world golf go head-to-head and somehow it never fails to throw up spine-tingling drama. And so it was again. The final score line might be emphatic (17 1/2 – 10 1/2) but for long periods of Sunday afternoon, it was looking uncomfortably close.
And yet, when the dust settles, the Americans will need to reflect on that seven point losing margin. As uncomfortable as it was for the Europeans at times, the score line does fairly reflect the gulf between the teams.
This was supposed to be the strongest ever US Ryder Cup team and yet, for the majority of the event, it felt like they were fighting a losing battle. Given the strength of the US team (it included nine major champions), the severity of the loss exposes some important issues that, until they are addressed, the US team simply will not win in Europe.
The Fed Ex Cup
There is simply no hiding from the scheduling issues that are hindering the US team. Flying through the night immediately after one of the most important days of the year, you could see how tired they were when they stepped off the plane in Paris. Tiger Woods, who last week looked imperious, seemed tired both physically and mentally. That he failed to win a single point is a major reason why the Americans lost this Ryder Cup. In total, 11 of the Americans played at the Tour Championship versus just six Europeans. Make no mistake, tiredness was a factor at this Ryder Cup and it is a shame that the biggest event in golf is in any way diminished by an eminently avoidable problem.
The good news is that from 2019, the PGA Tour are making significant changes to their FedEx Cup schedule. There will be three season-ending play-off events instead of four and the FedEx Cup will be over by the end of August. This will make a big difference in Italy in 2022.
If the Americans were serious about winning the Ryder Cup for the first time on foreign soil in almost three decades, they would not turn up on the Monday having never seen the course before, as many of the team did. The only US player to compete at this year’s French Open was Justin Thomas – he was also their leading points scorer. What they discovered during the course of this Ryder Cup was that distance played second fiddle to accuracy and that missing fairways was the quickest way to lose matches. By the time the penny dropped, the writing was on the wall. Familiarity too can help alleviate the nerves that play such a big role at the Ryder Cup. If the Americans are serious about winning in Italy in four years time, they need to find the time and the desire to familiarise themselves with the venue first.
Watching this Ryder Cup it was clear just how far out of their comfort zone the American players were at Le Golf National. Yes, there were 18 holes. Yes, there were bunkers and greens, tees and water – all the same ingredients you get each week on the PGA Tour. And yet, at times it looked as if the Americans were playing on the moon. The partisan crowd combined with a course that was set up to punish wayward drives, took the Americans out of their comfort zone. Of course, you can never truly replicate the atmosphere of the Ryder Cup but you can certainly broaden your horizons. You can play in front of crowds that don’t necessarily want you to win. If the Americans played outside the US more often and if their longest courses also featured more punishing rough, they might just be better prepared for the European challenge. Until that happens, it will always feel like the most intimidating of away fixtures.
Winning the Ryder Cup on foreign soil is incredibly difficult, that’s why it is so rewarding for the team that makes it happen. Eventually, the US will win in Europe but as the gap between the calibre of the teams only seems to narrow, the Americans will have to go that extra mile to make it happen. This was the greatest ever US team on paper and they lost by seven points – the facts don’t lie.