October 1, 2018
Are the European players that good or is the United States team that bad? No, the Europeans on the record for their careers are not the equal to the American squad, but they were better prepared and had an advantage that became more apparent as the event unfolded. The team that played the best won convincingly and deserves all the accolades. But notable US players were way off their games.
Excuses are easy to come by in analyzing this debacle, but a big advantage was the golf course and the setup. All the European players had played the course many times and were very familiar with the layout. Only a few players on the American side had played the course prior to this week and only Justin Thomas played it in tournament conditions at this year's French Open. The rough was as penal as any that you will see at a major competition, which favored the Europeans. Each home team picks the course and how the course will be setup to play to their team's strengths. That is only logical. Hazeltine, the site of the last Ryder Cup, was equally setup to favor the American's strengths.
Having the Ryder Cup played only one week after a long stretch of important tournaments that concluded with the FedEx Cup finals and the Tour Championship was not the ideal scenario for all players involved. All players would naturally have an emotional letdown. Tiger Woods played 7 tournaments in a nine week stretch. He normally wouldn't do that and he looked tired and possibly slightly hurting.
The Captain's picks worked out best for the Europeans. Thomas Bjorn's choices contributed 9 ½ points to only 2 points for Captain Furyk. Woods, Mickelson, and DeChambeau did not produce one point while losing 9 matches. Only Tony Finau had a winning record at 2 and 1. The Mickelson pick can be second guessed. I think Furyk hoped Phil would have an Ian Poulter effect and inspire and lift his game up for the occasion. Unfortunately, he was a non-factor and a liability. Wish we had Xander Schouffele.
Watching the week progress, it was painful how badly Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, and Phil Mickelson struck the ball. Dustin Johnson and Tiger had poor putting weeks. Bubba Watson had a typical up and down performance. Jordan Spieth was not consistent and a big letdown in the singles. Our one star was Justin Thomas, who was steady and rose to the occasion. Tony Finau, Webb Simpson and Brooks Koepka were solid when they played. Tiger lost all four of his matches. Patrick Reed was no help in his two matches with Tiger. Reed would have shot over 80 in both of those best-ball matches. Tiger paired with DeChambeau in the alternate-shot format on Saturday and Bryson had an off day. To be fair, Tiger wasn't at his best either, but it really hurts when you are not getting support.
Competition like this exposes weaknesses, character, and resolve. Thomas, Spieth, Koepka, Finau, Johnson can play with anyone and wouldn't back down. Simpson showed he can play in this competition and hopefully will get another opportunity. DeChambeau has had a tough few weeks. He had the FedEx Cup wrapped up, but let it get away. He was shaky in the Ryder Cup, but solid in his loss in his singles match. He should be back and strong. Something about this format doesn't fit for Tiger. Maybe he is too much an individual player. Tough to pair him, because there is no one in his class. However, if he is still a world class player, he needs to be on any Ryder Cup or President's Cup team. Phil continues to be Phil, however this probably will be his last Ryder Cup. Unfortunately, he is getting a bit old and too errant and inconsistent for this event. Bubba Watson is a box of Cracker Jacks, you never know what you are going to get. Rickie Fowler , the ultimate good guy, just can't be clutch. His record now in four Ryder Cup's is 2 wins, 7 loses, and 5 ties. Patrick Reed came back in the singles to post a solid win, but his better-ball showing was embarrassing.
The European's were better prepared, worked better as a team, seemed to know each other better, and ultimately "wanted it more" that the Americans. It might have been the best venue for spectators to view a Ryder Cup. The fans were respectful yet wildly cheering for their players. We will over-analyze this to the end, but what really happened was the European squad played a whole lot better than the American squad. Simple – play good, keep the ball in the fairway, hole some putts and you win.