NCG columnist Pete Willett on the team dynamics of the Ryder Cup. Oh, and his love for the American crowd
The Ryder Cup is my favourite event on the golfing calendar. It is three days of relentless distraction from the usual toil of planning lessons, marking work, and weeping silently. The Ryder Cup is held every other year at some of the best UK resorts.
From the first tee to the final putt, it all matters. It matters so much that an uncomfortable, anti-American sentiment has started to bubble deep inside. Writing an impartial column is difficult when embracing partisanship is so enjoyable, but I will try my best.
In the previous 15 Ryder Cups, which Europe have consistently dominated, of the 180 Sunday single points available, the score is level at 90 each. This statistic highlights that the tournament is won or lost on the fourballs and foursomes, which means that the decisions the captains have to make regarding playing partners are vital.
All teachers know how difficult it is to group pupils in a way that will maximise their potential. I’m aware that deliberating over how to pair 12 highly motivated, extremely professional, world-class athletes seems a million miles away from a teacher writing a seating plan to cut down on times where kids avoid writing essays by drawing on each other’s faces.
But I know a golfer – really well – and you’d be surprised at just how similar they are to 10-year-olds, so here goes. There are six categories that can be used to describe any student:
They can do everything; the type of student that will lead by example and coax others up to their level – the type of golfer you want in your first group on Friday morning.
They could do anything; the type of student that will demand excellence and intimidate others up to their level – the type of golfer you want standing over the final tee on Sunday afternoon.
They might do something; the type of student that will smile agreeably and nod as someone tells them their level – the type of golfer that will lay up
They will do nothing; the type of student that will stare vacantly and not be able to spell the word ‘level’ – the type of golfer that you would not expect to be playing in the Ryder Cup.
Who knows what they will do? The type of student that will ridicule relentlessly and not care about their level – the type of golfer that can ruin or redeem any partner’s mindset.
You don’t want them to do anything; the type of student that will plan maliciously and destroy indiscriminately – the type of golfer that is a vice-captain for Team USA.
Everyone is a combination of two of these categories, with one usually being prevalent. For Darren Clarke to have the biggest influence on Friday and Saturday, he must select the most mutually beneficial partnerships from the plethora of possibilities. That is no easy task.
If someone is beautiful and brilliant, they can work with anyone, apart from a particularly boisterous bastard. If they’re bland with flashes of beauty, they will make a formidable partnership with someone who is brilliant and boisterous.
Don’t stick any type of boisterous with any form of bastard, and keep a bastard that is boisterous well away from someone who is bland and brainless… it would be a bloodbath. If they’re sometimes boisterous but often bland, they’ll benefit massively from a guiding hand; give them someone beautiful and things will be lovely; pair them with a bastard and it will get ugly.
Two beauties together will guarantee success, but possibly at the expense of weakening the rest. Finally, if you do have two brainless, never put them together; sticking shards of metal in a socket is never clever (true story – Adam Ford of class 7B nearly lost his life).
The team that is victorious on Sunday will be able to attribute their success to three factors: the influence the captains will have on their players, the influence the players will have on each other, and the influence the crowd will have on everyone.
So, after the captains have picked their pairs, and the players have exerted their influence over each other (for better or worse), it is the crowd that will have the biggest impact.
Team USA have only won five of the last 16 Ryder Cups. Four of those five victories have come on home soil. For the Americans to stand a chance of winning, they need their baying mob of imbeciles to caress their egos every step of the way. Like one of those brainless bastards from your childhood, the one that pulled down your shorts during the school’s Christmas assembly (f**k you, Paul Jennings), they only have the courage to keg you if they’re backed up by a giggling group of reprobates. Team Europe needs to shut those groupies up.
They need to silence the pudgy, basement-dwelling, irritants, stuffed on cookie dough and pissy beer, pausing between mouthfuls of hotdog so they can scream ‘Baba booey’ until their jelly faces turn red.
They need to stun the angry, unwashed, Make America Great Again swarm, desperately gripping their concealed-carry compensators and belting out a mini-erection inducing ‘mashed potato,’ hoping to impress their cousin.
They need to smash the obnoxious dads, with their shiny teeth, Lego man hair, medicated ex-wives, and resentful children. Squeezed into their cargo shorts and boating shoes, they’ll bellow ‘get in the hole’ whilst high-fiving all the other members of the Dentists’ Big Game Hunt Society.
Team Europe need to silence these cretins quickly.
Whether it is the captain, the players, or the crowd, it is the influence they exert that will decide the outcome. During my 33 years as an avid sports watcher, I have never cared more about the result of a single event. I am desperate for a win. Such desperation can lead to puerile outbursts. A more immature mind than mine might resort to petty insults or unflattering generalisations. I’m realistic enough to admit that I will struggle to resist the occasional capitalised tweet (I’ll keep the syllable count low for the sake of the dim Yanks). But it will be far more effective if it is the European players that do all the talking.
Darren Clarke needs to pick his pairs carefully, they need to support each other intelligently, and the crowd needs to be dealt with swiftly.
If these things happen, Europe will win, and I’ll try to support gracefully by embracing the same sense of fair-mindedness that has permeated this unbiased article. If not, the Americans will claim their second victory this century… those fat, stupid, greedy, classless, bastards.