Ex-U.S. Ryder Cup Golfers Want Input After Watson Rift

Former U.S. Ryder Cup captains and players said they would like to have more direct involvement in decision-making surrounding future matches as the Americans seek ways to end a three-event losing streak.

The U.S. team hasn’t won golf’s premier team competition since 2008 and has been under scrutiny since team member Phil Mickelson was critical of the leadership of captain Tom Watson during the most recent defeat last month in Scotland.

Mickelson said team members weren’t consulted on decisions, creating a rift in the locker room. Many U.S. players have since said that the PGA of America, which selects the team’s captain and players, needs to reach out more to past captains and players to create unity and an improved team environment.

“It can’t hurt,” said Kenny Perry, who played on the U.S.’s last winning team under Paul Azinger in 2008. “They didn’t call Paul. That was shocking. You need to not leave any stone unturned. The Europeans buy into their captain. They’re in love with their guy. They’ll jump over the wall for him if he tells them to do that.”

The U.S. has lost the past three Ryder Cups and eight of the past 10. The 2016 matches will be held in Minnesota at Hazeltine National Golf Club.

Two days ago, PGA of America President Pete Bevacqua said the Palm Beach Gardens, Florida-based organization is planning to create a task force to evaluate the U.S.’s struggles and develop a plan for the future.

“We all agree it’s time to step back and give it a look,” Bevacqua told the Palm Beach Post. “We feel this is the perfect time to do an analysis on all components of the Ryder Cup. It’s going to be an open process, a real inclusive process.”

Team Mindset

The U.S. squad, in contrast to the Europeans, tends to suffer from being made up of individuals instead of taking on a team mindset, said Germany’s Bernhard Langer, who captained the European team to a nine-point win over U.S. Captain Hal Sutton’s squad in 2004.

“It’s just a close-knit unit where players have closer friendships on the European side than over here,” Langer said in an interview at the Champions Tour’s SAS Championship in Cary, North Carolina. “Over here, it’s more individuals, I think, and maybe bigger egos as well.”

The European team, comprised of 12 players from different countries throughout the continent, comes together every two years unified in one goal, he said, and it’s more focused on beating America than it is about winning for Europe.

“The French don’t like the English and the Germans don’t like this and the Spanish don’t like that,” he said. “But we’re all thrown together and we all become one.”

Leadership Style

Before serving as captain, Langer said, he used his knowledge and input from previous captains he had played under to develop his leadership style.

“I saw what some of them did well and what some of them did not do so well,” he said. “Then I took the best out of every captain that I saw and then I brought my own stuff in, too.”

Two-time U.S. Open winner Lee Janzen, who played under Watson on the winning 1993 U.S. team and was on the losing 1997 team under Tom Kite, said he would be in favor of selecting six core players now and then adding the remaining six players closer to the event’s date. Under his plan, the first six players selected would then be asked to build unity among other potential U.S. players leading up to the 2016 matches.

Janzen, a Minnesota native, referenced the philosophy used by Herb Brooks, the former University of Minnesota hockey coach, when he selected members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. That team was made up entirely of U.S. college hockey players and went on to win the gold medal, defeating the Soviet Union in a semifinal meeting that became known as the “Miracle on Ice.”

“I don’t want to find the 12 best guys,” Janzen said. “I want to find the 12 right guys. That’s what Herb did.”

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