The 2018 Ryder Cup has quickly swung towards team Europe. The question is, why has the best American team ever assembled crumbled so badly? The answer - don't blame Furyk, his players let him down
When it comes to Ryder Cup captaincy, there tends to be one simple rule of thumb. If you win, you’re great, if you lose, you’re bad. Simple. Of course, there is a degree of truth to this one-dimensional judgement but to really assess the merits of a captain, you need to look more closely at the matches themselves.
This week Jim Furyk has had the highest ranked team ever assembled at the Ryder Cup, six of his players are in the world’s top 10 and he’s had arguably the greatest golfer ever to have ever lived at his disposal. Without meeting a single one of them, an alien could have landed on Friday morning as captain of Team USA and put any of the 12 Americans together and expected the points to start rolling in.
What’s more, Furyk has played it very much by the book so far. On day one he put out all 12 players including his three rookies. He teamed up golfers who have had success together in the past or who seemed to have personalities that would naturally gel. On day two, he tried some different pairings and left out the out-of-form Mickelson.
Of course, with hindsight you can pull his pairings apart but surely Furyk had the right to expect much more than what his players have given him. Losing 10-6 heading into the singles, Furyk now needs to his men to pull a rabbit from the hat.
There are many possible reasons why team USA currently find themselves in a hole that only seems to be getting deeper. The most compelling would be the golf course. Le Golf National has had sharper teeth than you usually see at the Ryder Cup with rough that is much deeper than you regularly get on the US Tour. Players have been consistently punished for missing fairways. Suddenly, bombing drives as many of the US team so regularly do, has played second fiddle to accuracy – a challenge they simply haven’t risen to.
Then there are the crowds. Rarely do the US players compete in front of crowds who don’t necessarily want them to win. Ever since they started to lose control on day one, the Americans have wilted in the face of a crowd that is finding an evermore powerful voice. Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas aside, Furyk’s men look like they’ve been intimidated. No matter what the world rankings say about this American team, they’ve largely lacked the character needed to win the Ryder Cup on foreign soil. What is Jim Furyk supposed to do about that?