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billy foster

Thirty years of hurt: Where did it all go wrong for the USA?

The knives are for Zach Johnson and his team. We look at why they’ve once again left Europe empty-handed in a Ryder Cup

 

We lost. Who is to blame? Head must roll! There is little more amusing than watching a Ryder Cup autopsy play out.

While Zach Johnson’s team did not go full Phil Mickelson and shove him under a bus at their post-event press conference, there are plenty out there unwilling to accept that sometimes in sport one team wins and another loses.

Yes, the knives are out for Zach and his men and it remains 1993 since the USA last won on European soil.

But let’s get out our best Baddiel and Skinner for them. We can wail about 30 years of hurt, assess the merit of some of the sharpest barbs, and consider a couple of the other ‘insightful’ suggestions made to try and even up one of the longest losing runs in sport.

USA Ryder Cup woes: Why did the USA lose another Ryder Cup in Europe?

They were undercooked

Paul McGinley was particularly pleased with this bit of analysis. So much so he simply repeated it all weekend.

He wasn’t wrong. Some of the Americans looked like they’d forgotten how to hold a club during the Friday foursomes.

It did seem remarkable to think the best way to prepare for one of professional golf’s most intense events was to take five weeks off from competitive action.

Jordan Spieth certainly thought there was something to it. “For me personally, I’d like to feel pretty sharp going in and obviously individually, I did not have the opportunity to even play any of those events where I may have.”

Spieth, of course, had a very good excuse – he and wife Annie welcomed their second child – but what about some of the others?  

Were there no events on the PGA Tour between the end of the Tour Championship and Rome? Didn’t Justin Thomas play in the Fortinet Championship? Was that not Rickie Fowler lurking around the top 10?

Yes, top 50 players don’t get any FedEx Cup points if they play in Fall Series events, but they could have played all the same.

I’m sure the leading US players would have been welcomed to Wentworth with open arms if they’d wanted to compete at the BMW PGA Championship.

We’ve got to be careful, of course. To use an old racing saying, some horses run fresh. Not everyone needs to play the week before.

But McGinley was spot on with another point too. They would never have prepared for a major in this way. The PGA Tour fixture list is one thing, but lack of competitive action is not on Zach, it’s on the players.

Marco Simone When is the 2022 Ryder Cup

The course favoured the Europeans

Just as Hazeltine favoured the Americans. As Le Golf National favoured Thomas Bjorn’s men in 2018.

If you’re surprised that captains set up a course to favour the home team then you’re also probably the sort that was also born yesterday.

It’s just my opinion, but I didn’t think Marco Simone particularly favoured Luke Donald’s lads.

Of course, if you can’t keep the ball on the property you’re always going to struggle but I didn’t think the nature of the fairways were anything as constrictive as seen in Paris.

If the Europeans took to Marco Simone more easily, perhaps that was because some of them had actually played it in the run up to the event.

There was the US scouting trip – though apparently not all of them went (some for very valid reasons) – but who can expect to conquer a course from a quick once over?

Many of the Europeans (McIlroy, Hatton, Fitzpatrick, Hojgaard, MacIntyre – the list goes on) had at least seen the layout in competition by taking part in the Italian Open.  

Ryder Cup crowds

The crowds are too partisan

The Ryder Cup is boring, so wrote Shane Ryan in Golf Digest, and it’s because the ‘crowds are an insurmountable hurdle to a competitive event’.

We’ll be looking back in two years’ time at Marco Simone, in the wake of Bethpage, thinking it was a children’s tea party.

I’m not suggesting the Americans weren’t subject to some hostility. There are some obvious reasons for this, which I’ve tried to sum up here, but everyone knows what they’re going to get coming in.

As Rory McIlroy said: “It’s just the way it is. It the way the Ryder Cup goes. You have to have thick skin.”

Patrick Cantlay certainly seemed to use the thousands of hat-waving spectators as fuel for his fire. He was incredible on Saturday afternoon and in the singles. Toughen up and get on with it.

Ryder Cup singles

They are terrible at foursomes

The Americans are horrendous at foursomes in European Ryder Cups. They are so horrible, in fact, you might as well have handed your own clubs to Michael Greller, sent Spieth to the bleachers, and climbed through the ropes.

In the last three events staged on this side of the pond, US teams have picked up a grand total of four foursomes points. FOUR. From 24 matches.

They lost 7-1 at Marco Simone (4-0 in the first session and 3-1 in the second), 6-2 in Paris in 2018 (4-0 in the first session and 2-2 in the second), and 7-1 at Gleneagles four years earlier (3.5-0.5 in both foursomes),

Alternate shot is a nuanced format. We don’t play it that much in our own clubs, never mind at the professional level.

That said, some of Johnson’s pairings were just downright bizarre. Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns struggled as a partnership in the Presidents Cup, but we’ll send them off first in foursomes?

I bet Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton couldn’t believe their luck. Burns hardly looked like finding a fairway. Scheffler’s putting, Sunday’s magnificence against the Spaniard aside, is still a work in progress.

But then Zach outdid himself by sticking Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth out together on Saturday morning. Had he watched Jordan in the fourballs?

Times were tough. Trailing five points, and having taken criticism for leaving them out in the first place, this felt like an act of desperation – which bore no relation to what was going on out on the course.

Three up after three, McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood didn’t even need their best down the stretch. That one is on Zach.

europe win ryder cup

The singles draw should be open

We’ve opened the cupboard labelled: ‘The Solheim Cup was a draw and so we should have a playoff’. It’s trying to re-engineer the event to suit yourselves.

The argument goes like this. Wouldn’t it have been great – after ‘hatgate’ – to have seen McIlroy and Cantlay going head-to-head in the singles?

Why can’t the captains come together and pick who plays each other?

This happens in the Presidents Cup where before each match, the captains meet and select who will be facing off. They have a chance to react to the selection of their opposite number.

Is that the Presidents Cup the Americans always win? Yes, I can see how doing it like that might appeal to them.

In the Ryder Cup, the captains hand over their order from one to 12 and whoever they match up against is who they play.

I like it this way. There’s an air of mystery about it. It allows for uncertainty and that can spring some surprise results. It can add to the drama. Not every game has to be a boxing match.

Rahm/Scheffler delivered in spades. As did Morikawa and Rose. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Now have your say on the USA Ryder Cup woes 

What do you think of the USA Ryder Cup performance? Is it just a case of excuses, excuses, excuses? Or will the USA bounce back at Bethpage in 2025? Let me know by leaving a comment on X.

Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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