Ryder Cup Opinion: Jimmy

Golfer lines up iron shot

Damien Kayat looks back at the USA's disastrous Ryder Cup and how Jim Furyk's captaincy ultimately left the door ajar for the unfancied Europeans. 

The Ryder Cup’s history is littered with tales memorable and actions bold. Whether it be the Miracle of Medinah or Justin Leonard’s putting histrionics at Brookline, moments of brilliance abound in the cup’s fabled history. However, I am of the opinion that Le Golf National’s legacy will not be one of a battle won, but one of a battle lost. The European side no doubt deserved their victory and the herculean feats of Francisco Molinari have been justifiably lauded. I’m just left with the lingering feeling that Jim Furyk’s team were perhaps the single most disappointing side in Ryder Cup history. And the tragic thing is this: much of the damage could have been averted.

Jim Furyk- despite holding the PGA Tour record low score of 58- is a name that generates images of stoic pragmatism and meticulousness. It just seems amazing that he would choose this moment to seemingly abandon reason. Let’s first examine the Captain’s Picks, which will always be the first port of call when things go awry. It was almost predetermined that Furyk would select both Mickelson and Woods. Why? Historically speaking, both have repeatedly demonstrated that their unique abilities are often ill-suited to maintaining the precarious balance of Ryder Cup side.

Mickelson, in particular, has built his mystique on an almost Seve-esque ability to offset his often errant driving with a magical short game that could leave David Blaine bamboozled. But the tight fairways and punishing rough of Le Golf National were simply too punitive for Mickelson. The decision to play him in the foursomes on Friday afternoon’s horrorshow of a session will surely be one that haunts Furyk, particularly considering the fact that he was paired with debutant Bryson DeChambeau. It just lacked the kind of common sense that defined Furyk’s entire career.

Tiger’s four losses may have shocked some, but it really continued a pattern that has dogged Tiger for years. Despite his victory at East Lake, it was clear that Tiger looked exhausted towards the end of claiming his 80th title. And his penchant for missing the fairway once again reared its ugly head. Furthermore, his return to form became an overarching thematic template for the event. Thus Furyk ran the risk of an underperforming Woods undermining the entire project. Back to selection, Finau and DeChambeau both demonstrated their lack of experience throughout the first two days, despite Finau’s demolition of Fleetwood on Sunday. It seems as if Furyk took no heed of conditions and was overly focused on PGA Tour form. The problem with that criterion is that most PGA Tour events take place on courses with wide fairways and nondescript rough, ideally suited to the agricultural, driving-based game so beloved in the States.

Surely a player such as Zach Johnson or Kevin Kisner would have added more value to the side. Just look at Molinari. The Italian’s annoying penchant for finding just about every fairway and green was ultimately what sealed his Ryder Cup immortality this weekend. Furyk’s side seemed intent on applying an American set of golfing values to a course that was clearly Eurocentric, which frankly came off as arrogant. Furthermore, the choice to rest Koepka for Friday afternoon’s foursomes seemed strange to me. Recently minted as the PGA Tour Player of the year, Koepka seems to be one of those players who perpetually needs to prove himself, despite winning three of six Majors played. Already expressing displeasure at being virtually ignored in the current media ramble in light of Tiger’s resurgence that surely wouldn’t have made him much happier.

And now for perhaps some slightly pointed criticism. I know that all of the blame can’t lie at the feet of Furyk. With as many vice-captains these days as there are members of The Avengers- not to mention the players themselves- there are multiple spheres of influence within the side. But one aspect of the American side that was certainly missing was that taste of the jingoistic that sometimes animates the side. While many like to scoff at the chants of USA and ritualistic fist pumping, it animates the side. In fact, in between Poulter hulking out and Rahm gleefully egging on the crowd, there was a hint of Freaky Friday about the sides this week. It would seem that the mild-mannered Furyk was not quite the guy to galvanize this side. Just look at the placid figure of Patrick Reed.

All in all, the European side just seemed to have the answers to most questions posed. One just wishes that the Americans had more questions to ask. One thing's for certain, I don’t think that many of the USA players will be looking to play on a course with this much water for some time.

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Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.net

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