With team-mates slagging each other off in the press and allegedly squaring up to each other in the locker room, the USA Ryder Cup team is in disarray, writes Alex Perry
The USA Ryder Cup team, you might remember, won the 2016 edition of the matches quite comfortably. It sparked a US-wide campaign to herald this current group as one that will go on to win Ryder Cup after Ryder Cup until everyone is sick to the teeth and we have to add players from the rest of the world to our team in order to cope.
Well, it didn’t quite work out like that, did it? The American team, with only a handful of changes from the one that won 17-11 at Hazeltine, came over to Le Golf National and managed to get beaten by an even larger margin, with Thomas Bjorn’s men edging it 17.5-10.5.
Since then, the US team has seemingly gone into meltdown…
Reed ruffles feathers
Barely an hour after the final ball was struck, Patrick Reed spoke to the New York Times. He said he was sat in the losing team press conference and seething with his team-mates and captain.
“I was about to light the room up like Phil in ‘14,” he said, referring to 2014 when Phil Mickelson controversially used the same platform to air his disappointment with captain Tom Watson on the most public of stages.
Here's the transcript of Phil Mickelson throwing Tom Watson under the bus and then reversing over him several times: pic.twitter.com/OAil1cZGBM
— Alex Perry (@AlexPerryNCG) September 28, 2014
The reason for his upset was the team being asked why Reed and Jordan Spieth, who had proved to work so well together at previous Ryder and President Cups, split up. Spieth replied that the whole team had discussed it, while captain Jim Furyk said it was his call.
“The issue’s obviously with Jordan not wanting to play with me,” Reed noted. “I don’t have any issue with Jordan. When it comes right down to it, I don’t care if I like the person I’m paired with or if the person likes me as long as it works and it sets up the team for success. He and I know how to make each other better. We know how to get the job done.”
As for his captain, Reed wasn’t happy with being benched for two sessions. “For somebody as successful in the Ryder Cup as I am, I don’t think it’s smart to sit me twice,” he added.
But Reed’s complaining was met with derision from one unnamed Ryder Cup team-mate, who is quoted by the NY Post as saying Reed is “full of s***” and that he “begged to be paired with Tiger”.
Best friends torn apart
Elsewhere, Reed’s complaint of what he called Furyk’s “buddy system” didn’t completely hold true. Close friends Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka played seven times between them on the opening two days, but only played together once – losing the Saturday afternoon foursomes to Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.
According to L’Equipe, the pair fell out on the plane en route to Paris and were then pulled apart by team-mates and opponents alike at the Ryder Cup after party when tempers flared again, with Koepka threatening to “flatten” Johnson.
(Tabloid newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic have suggested that Johnson accused Koepka of getting too close to fiancée Paulina Gretzky, but you can read into that what you will.)
Koepka, of course, has denied these reports. Speaking ahead of the Dunhill Links Championship, he said: “This Dustin thing I don’t get. There was no fight, there was no argument – he’s one of my best friends. I love the kid to death.
“As far as camaraderie, it was fine, it was perfect. The problem is [the media] try to find a reason why we lost and the simple reason is we just didn’t play good enough.
“If we play how we’re supposed to play we win, it’s simple as. But there’s nothing wrong with our team. Our team was great, Jim was great.”
And then, just add a little bit of extra spice, Mickelson himself weighed in about how the course didn’t suit him.
“The Europeans did a great thing,” he said ahead of the Safeway Open. “They did the opposite of what we do when we have the Ryder Cup here. The fairways were 14 to 16 yards wide. Ben Hogan, who is the greatest ball striker of all time, had a 5% margin of error. So if you hit the ball 300 yards, which we all hit it more than that, you need to have a 30-yard wide fairway to be able to hit it.
“The fact is, they had brutal rough, almost unplayable, and it’s not the way I play. I don’t play like that. And I’m 48. I’m not going to play tournaments with rough like that any more. It’s a waste of my time. I’m going to play courses that are playable and that I can play aggressive, attacking, make a lot of birdies, style of golf I like to play.”
How was this not known before? Surely someone somewhere involved in the so-called Ryder Cup Task Force knew that this course would not fit Mickelson’s eye.
And what a terrible shame for the likes of Xander Shauffele and Kevin Kisner who both probably did more than Mickelson to earn a wildcard pick and almost certainly would have returned more than zero points.
Furyk hits back
So what did the captain have to think of all this? He sat down to chat with the Golf Channel to answer all our questions.
First of all, Reed did know he’d be paired with Woods. Some time in advance, in fact.
“When I started looking at who [Tiger] would pair well with, I kept coming back to Patrick Reed,” Furyk said. “There was always the idea that we could go Tiger and JT, and Patrick and Jordan, but ultimately they knew going into the week, weeks in advance, they knew they would start the Ryder Cup with Patrick and Tiger being partners.”
As for the Bash Brothers’ bust-up, Furyk confirmed it was over almost as soon as it started.
“Whatever altercation started, or what happened, it was very brief. It was very short. Neither one of them really took anything out of it. They’re like brothers. Brothers may argue, brothers get into it. But they’re as close as they’ve ever been, and it really had no effect on either one of them.”
He added: “I’d take those 12 players into the fire any day, on any course. And I still would. Last week didn’t work out the way we wanted, but I love those guys and I love what we had together in the team room. And I’d do it all over again.”
So what’s next?
This was meant to be the “golden generation” of the US Ryder Cup team, remember? Instead they are all throwing each other under the bus, allegedly threatening to kick 10 bells out of each other, and whinging about the course.
Compare that to the European team, who revealed in their press conference that they had started a WhatsApp months ago to get the camaraderie started early from their various corners of the globe. Then there was Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari blowing kisses to each other across the room.
If the USA want to start competing at the Ryder Cup any time soon, they need to start by sorting out their differences off the course. It’s one thing to say you don’t care if you like the person you’re playing with as long it’s working on the course, but this time around it’s completely derailed the USA’s chances of winning their first Ryder Cup on European soil for quarter of a century.
Whoever their next captain is has got one hell of a job on his hands. And whoever our captain is must be rubbing his hands together.
And Team Europe?
All was good in the home team’s camp, and the 2018 Ryder Cup will be remembered for the blossoming bromance between Fleetwood and Molinari.
And Twitter caught fire shortly after the tournament when this video appeared…
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) October 1, 2018
The comedy timing in this is perfect. You can’t teach that. A sitcom surely beckons?
Pass the tissues
It’s become common for Ryder Cup captains to show inspirational videos to their teams on the eve or even during the tournament. It has also become something of a tradition for said videos to be released to the prying world shortly after the tournament ends.
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) October 2, 2018
Is that something in your eye?