Opinion: Playing the Stereotypes

Our golf writer examines the supposed gulf in quality between the American and European Ryder Teams. 

The Miracle at Medinah was one of the most seminal moments in recent sporting history. For the European Ryder Cup side- led then by Jose Maria Olazabal- to pull off such a dramatic comeback in enemy territory was quite frankly unprecedented. It seemed to herald a new age, one where the swaggering confidence of the American golfer was being challenged by a new breed of confident, equally brash Europeans.

The sight of Poulter’s sartorially audacious clothing choices was undercut by the image of Rory riling up the crowds in Woods-esque fashion. But now Medinah seems to be a fading memory, and the current explosion of American golfing talent is threatening to establish a new dynasty of American golfing domination.

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This isn’t so much an examination of the last American victory. While America reclaimed the trophy in comprehensive fashion, the very idiosyncratic team structure has always lent itself to ebbs and flows. I’m more concerned by the current trends in the broader golfing world. Since Sergio Garcia won his inaugural major at Augusta, an event that the Spaniard felt the need to immortalize further by wearing the jacket during his wedding dance- in what was a rather cringe-worthy moment of self-congratulation- we have seen Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, and Justin Thomas dominate the Major spectrum, with little or no European interest.

Clearly, the recent seismic shift in power between the American Tour and European Tour will have had some part to play in the proliferation of American talent. The FedEx Cup system has added a razzmatazz to the PGA Tour that the European Tour simply cannot compete with. Covering the European Tour myself, it’s incredible how few elite events there are on what has become a shadow tour. This has forced the European Tour to alter their Ryder Cup qualification guidelines, with the Tour simply unable to financially compete with the incentives offered by America.

But to me, it seems that there has been a more fundamental shift in the American-European divide, with the old stereotypical categories being reinstated. Speaking in completely general terms, the Americans were always recognized as being brasher whilst the Europeans were seen as aloof. But the American side went through a period where its chief protagonists were more alienating figures. Think of the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Jim Furyk. These were guys who seemed to live very much in their own hermetically sealed worlds. This emboldened the European side, with the likes of Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy, to redefine their notions of what constituted a European Ryder Cup player.

And then the European side had a great period of success, exacerbated by broader success for it players. Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Danny Willett, and now Sergio Garcia have all Major glory. But it seems that somewhere in that period of success- torn between the financial glories of America and less enticing European commitments- the European players have become the very embodiment of that most trenchant European stereotype: aloof. There is no week-in, week-out camaraderie, seen so clearly in the current American game, and even the European players playing in the FedEx Cup seem disengaged.

Every week it seems as if either Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth or Ricky Fowler is picking up a trophy. And what you see is this community of players reveling in the other’s success. At its worst, it resembles a weekly outing for some privileged frat-boys- with Patrick Reed representing the one guy who perhaps goes overboard at the party from time to time- the Belushi if you will. But at its best it’s an intimately connected group that thrives on besting each other- which is exactly what America need. I don’t exactly know how the European side are willing to confront this dilemma, but they need to come up with a way or else this could be the beginning of another era of complete American domination.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets

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