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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ryder Cup Thoughts on the US Team

Yesterday I shared my thoughts about the Euro Ryder Cup team. Today I'll do the same for the US team.

Davis Love III
First of all, I think we have to consider the effect of Arnold Palmer's passing on the US team's play. Just as Seve's death served as inspiration for the 2012 Euro Ryder Cup team's play, I think Arnie's death did the same for the US team this year. Arnie's 1975 Ryder Cup team bag stood on the first tee all week as a reminder to all the players on both teams, but I think it had to affect the US team the most.

That's especially true after the US team swept the first session. Although they didn't know it at the time, Arnie's 1975 team was the last team to have done so. It didn't take long for that news -- and news of the other records from 1975 that were being matched -- to reach the US team room, and the mere coincidence of it all had to make them realize that the week could be something special. Arnie was as much a part of the 2016 US win as Seve had been at the 2012 Euro win.

But it wasn't just a matter of inspiration. While I've had a laugh about the "Task Force" along with everyone else -- and the folks involved now prefer just to call it The Committee -- the fact remains that there were some problems that needed to be addressed. The Ryder Cup has become such a huge undertaking now that there needs to be some sort of consistent organization at the top of the command chain, just to avoid the chaos involved in getting all the players to the functions on time.

It also helps maintain some calm among the players by having a consistent captaining style from one Cup to the next. Pro golfers are creatures of habit, but leadership styles varied wildly from Cup to Cup before The Committee was created. Now, if a player made the 2016 Cup but misses the 2018 Cup, if that player makes the 2020 Cup, he can expect roughly the same sort of leadership style as the player who made the 2018 Cup. That consistency is something the Euros already have, and I think that change -- along with more player involvement in choosing the Captain -- are the main accomplishments of the Ryder Cup Committee.

Oh, and one other thing happened that I think may have been overlooked. While the US team has always "bonded" with one another, they've never been able to relax during Ryder Cup week the way they do during the Presidents Cup, where they normally play quite well. This time, relaxed was a word we heard often from the players. I think that created an atmosphere where they made better strategic decisions on the course, which is something I think has been missing. Perhaps they were just trying too hard but for whatever reason, they seem to have regained their ability to plan better shots. (Having Tiger available for help with strategic planning may have played a big part as well. I had mentioned that as a possible advantage early on, and we know for a fact that Patrick Reed made use of it because he said so.)

So I do think the US team may have turned a corner in terms of their ability to play a Ryder Cup the way they are capable of doing. There are still some tests ahead -- we'll have to see how well they can carry this attitude into an overseas Cup when they reach Paris in 2018, for example -- but clearly something important has changed since 2014.

And it may be that Arnie gave them the final shove they needed to make that leap from tight to relaxed. Given how many lives Arnie touched and the variety of ways he did it, that wouldn't surprise me in the least.

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