Thanks for your concern America – but the Ryder Cup is very much alive
I’ve spent the weekend crying into my beer. Woe is me, the Ryder Cup is no more.
Alan Shipnuck, the doyen of American golf writers, arrived at that conclusion in a piece that – as the young people say today – ‘broke the internet’.
Deny it as he will, you suspect his tongue was firmly in his cheek as he used a quiet Thursday to wind up the perpetually offended social media generation.
But, though I understand the irony of this, he still managed to push the buttons on my keyboard.
If you haven’t read the article, or don’t want to spend the next 10 minutes chucking things at your screen, let me summarise:
The Americans are, like, really good.
The Europeans are, like, really old.
The Americans are going to win the Ryder Cup for the next 10 years and beyond. USA! USA! USA!
We might as well stop watching because it’s going to get really boring when Europe get crushed every time.
Now it’s not unusual for our cousins across the pond to come across as, well, a bit confident.
‘Land of the free’, ‘Greatest country in the world’, ‘Leader of the free world’ and all that – Americans are not, on the whole, a country of shrinking violets.
But it is a big step, given the US have won only two Ryder Cups since 1999 and haven’t tasted victory in Europe for 24 years, to assert that we’re about to see ‘a decade-plus of blowouts, sapping the intrigue out of the Ryder Cup’.
Here’s where Shipnuck and I do agree.
The American team is good. Very good. In Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka – to name just four – they have some superstars that will form the vanguard of their Ryder Cup efforts for a long time to come.
They’ve had superstars before, though.
Europe smashed American might during the era of Tiger Woods. Remember him, arguably the greatest player of all time?
The team that got obliterated under Bernhard Langer’s captaincy in 2004 at Oakland Hills included Woods, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III and Jim Furyk. Give it time and they will all be in the Hall of Fame.
While Shipnuck was sticking daggers into Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia for their ever-increasing grey hairs, he lauded the ‘wily vets’ of the Americans.
Phil! Kuch! Bubba! No European could fail to raise a smile at the naming of that particular trio. None of them have a winning Ryder Cup record.
I thought the inclusion of Mickelson, the architect of the ridiculously named ‘Task Force’, was very interesting. Only the Americans could make planning for a week of golf sound like Desert Storm.
This man, now heralded as the saviour of the Ryder Cup stateside, is as responsible as anyone for the misery that continent has suffered over the past two decades.
Yes, he’s smiling now but he’s only a Parisian breakup away from letting loose on Furyk with a volley of Sunday night verbal daggers. Et tu, Phil?
Then you are back where you started.
Let’s take a closer look, too, at that humiliation in Hazeltine last year. Everyone forgets that, having been 4-0 down after the opening foursomes, Europe only trailed by a point – 6.5 to 5.5 – going into the Saturday afternoon fourballs.
Europe’s demise was as much to do with some questionable captaincy – Darren Clarke’s inclusion of Danny Willett, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer after some desperate Friday form continues to puzzle even now – as it was to American excellence.
Trailing by three points going into the singles, Europe were forced to frontload and Love III was skillfully able to pick off the lower order.
He could look back to Medinah, after all…
17-11 looks like an absolute thumping, but it wasn’t too far away from being a different story.
While the Americans can rightly show off their talent, I’m incredibly optimistic about the new conveyor belt of players that will form the heart of Thomas Bjorn’s squad next September.
Europeans actually hold 10 of the top 20 places in the world rankings. Honestly, they do. I checked. And this was the year Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood announced their arrivals on the global stage.
Hatton, if he can channel that aggression into a single-minded focus on claiming American scalps, could become Europe’s new Ian Poulter. Who’d love to see him go up against Patrick Reed? Answer: Everyone.
In harness with Rose, the newly returned Paul Casey – two players who actually deserve the term ‘wily vets’ – and their ilk, there is a core of talent there that could prove to be a very big thorn.
Europe’s dominance was sustained by being ‘plucky underdogs’, Shipnuck asserts. Well, what are they going to be next year Alan?
And I’ve got through a whole piece without even mentioning Rory McIlroy. Or Jon Rahm.
Far from worrying about the fight to come, I welcome it. I can’t wait. It’s going to be like 1985 all over again.
Long live the Ryder Cup.