Column: US has European way figured out except for winning
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France (AP) — This is no time for the Americans to panic about the Ryder Cup.
The goal that came out of the Ryder Cup Task Force in late 2014 was to have a winning record over the next 10 matches. So even after another thorough beating by Europe at Le Golf National, the Americans still have 16 years before deciding if they’re on the right path.
One week in the suburbs of Paris felt like they were going in circles around the Arc de Triomphe.
They had the strongest team based on the nine players who had experience winning major championships. They had the strongest team considering all 12 were among the top 25 players in the world ranking.
They didn’t stand a chance against Europe, which registered a 17½-10½ victory. Only four times since 1979 has the Ryder Cup been decided by seven points or more, and Europe won three of them.
Starting with the Friday afternoon sweep of the foursomes sessions, Europe won eight consecutive matches at one point and built a 10-6 lead that was too much for the Americans to overcome on a golf course with tight fairways and thick rough, and before more than 50,000 people ready to celebrate any shot that hit the green.
Europe dominated the singles, just like they did nearly every session. Even the lone session the Americans won required a little luck when Tony Finau’s tee shot hit the wooden plank on the edge of the water at the 16th hole and plopped down 3 feet away.
It’s easy to criticize the Americans after another loss.
Tiger Woods went 0-4, shut out for the first time in his eight appearances in the Ryder Cup.
“That’s four points to the European team,” Woods said. “And I’m one of the contributing factors to why we lost the cup. And it’s not a lot of fun.”
He now has a 13-21-3 record in the Ryder Cup and briefly tied the record for most losses in Ryder Cup history. The good news for Woods is that Phil Mickelson was still on the golf course. Mickelson also got shut out, playing only two matches at Le Golf National and losing them both, giving him a record of 18-22-7.
The second one stung the most because it was the official cup-clincher for Europe.
Francesco Molinari, the star of these matches, capped off his 5-0 week by beating Mickelson in singles. Mickelson had to win the last three holes to earn a halve, and instead hit his tee shot into the water on the 16th and immediately removed his cap.
The celebration was on, and it sounded familiar.
“It’s difficult to talk about it because it means so much to me over the years, and I did not play well this year,” said Mickelson, who built his year around winning the U.S. Open to complete the career Grand Slam and winning the Ryder Cup on European soil, neither of which he had ever accomplished.”
That remains the case.
In the U.S. Open, he is remembered for whacking a moving ball with his putter out of frustration at Shinnecock Hills. In the Ryder Cup, he is remembered losing the match that officially gave Europe the points it needed to win.
“This could very well, realistically, be my last one,” he said.
Mickelson is an easy target, but some of his words are worth heeding. He gave credit to Europe, and how could he not?
Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood were unbeatable, becoming only the second tandem since this format began in 1979 to win all their team matches. European captain Thomas Bjorn used his wild-card selections on Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia, neither of whom had won a tournament this year. They combined to go 6-1. The other two picks were for Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, who went 3-3-1.
Three of U.S. captain Jim Furyk’s picks didn’t win a match. Woods, Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau were a combined 0-9. Tony Finau was the last pick, and he did the job Sunday morning with a convincing win over Fleetwood in a bid to put American red scores on the board.
Was it Furyk’s fault?
“The brunt of it is going to be on my plate,” Furyk said. “I accepted that when I took this role.”
No golf tournament gets more second-guessing than this one, which is why it should be called the Hindsight Cup. In a half-dozen interviews as the European celebration was ringing in his ears, there was little he could say.
“Thomas was a better captain, and their team outplayed us,” Furyk said. “And there’s nothing else more you can say. They deserved to win. They played well.”
And the Americans didn’t.
Furyk didn’t say that. He didn’t have to.
He said he would meet with the PGA of America and the Ryder Cup committee and “we’ll keep going.” There will be more suggestions than solutions. Europe understands how to take a team and give 12 players a singular purpose of winning the Ryder Cup. The task force gave players more input in how to build the team and pick a captain, and that was a start toward doing it the European way.
Winning? The players, whoever they are, have to figure that out themselves.