Tadhg Harrington reflects on the weekend’s Ryder Cup action as Team Europe defeated Team US 17 1/2 to 10 1/2 at Le Golf National, Paris.
That “enfant terrible” of the chess world, Bobby Fischer, put it best when he was quoted as saying, “I like the moment when I break a man’s ego.”
Patrick Reed would find the irony in this quote as he left the Team America locker room each morning in Paris with the inspirational quote on the wall of “leave your egos at the door, “ though I doubt now, that he would find it even slightly amusing.
I wrote in my Ryder Cup blog a couple of days ago that Captain America, Patrick Reed and the consummate pro’s pro, Justin Rose, would play a major part in this year’s Ryder Cup and so it came to pass. Not quite in the way I imagined in Reed’s case, as a petulant spat with his former partner, Jordan Spieth, set the tone for the week from hell for the American team.
Consider this, having been beaten 16 ½ to 11 ½ at Gleneagles in 2014, the Americans retreated to the trenches en masse, with special task forces being convened to address the shortcomings of that team.
This time around, the drubbing was 17½ to 10½, the second largest defeat for the Americans in the history of the event, which begs the question, what now for the team that, on paper, looked in bookmakers’ parlance, “nailed on at 8/11?”
So what went wrong for Team USA? The clue is in the headline, the word TEAM.
They say you can learn a lot about a player in how he reacts to winning and losing. Patrick Reed continued a disturbing trend on the American side for blaming others when things go wrong. His wife taking to social media to air his grievances with team selection was unedifying and is something you could never imagine the European players doing.
They say there are three certainties in life; death, taxes and s*** happens, (and if it’s not happening, something is wrong!) all teams have problems, keeping them in-house is the secret sauce to success.
A lot has been written about the tough set up, with narrow fairways to stop the bombers overpowering the course (and it worked, so hat tip again to Captain Bjorn.) But, the only American player to actually play the course in competition (French Open this year) was their highest points scorer, Justin Thomas.
Captain Bjorn v Captain Furyk. One area that the captains can control is the wildcard picks they make and how they handle the rookies on their respective teams.
Let’s start with the American side where the wildcards were Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Bryson Dechambeau and Tony Finau. This auspicious group scored a total of two points, and even worse, last man in, Tony, scored all of those two points.
As Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington both said in recent weeks when contending in European tournaments, the Ryder Cup is a young man’s game, how prophetic that looks now after two of America’s heroes looked shattered at the close of play.
The wildcards for Europe were Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey and the postman himself, Ian Poulter. Between them, they contributed 9½ points, the largest total ever by a European Ryder Cup team. Well played, Captain Bjorn!
So, on to the rookies, on the European side, five players made their debut, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren, Tyrrell Hatton and Thorbjorn Olesen. They all acquitted themselves well with Fleetwood returning the highest total of four points.
On the American side, three rookies teed it up, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas and Tony Finau. They combined to return a total of six points with Justin Thomas scoring four points, (a record for any USA team,) Tony Finau with two points and Bryson DeChambeau with zero. So, overall, the rookies on both sides acquitted themselves well, except for the mad professor!
Betting on the 2020 Ryder Cup, the American side has opened as heavy favourites to lift the trophy at Whistling Straits, being quoted at 8/13 while the Europeans are 6/4. A tie, which would retain the cup for Europe, comes in at 12/1.
The race for the captaincy looks to be a lock with Wisconsin native, Steve Stricker, being quoted at odds on, (10/11) with Fred Couples at (5/2), David Duval at (4/1) Phil Mickelson at (20/1) and Tiger Woods at (28/1).
On the European side, my brother, Padraig Harrington, is being knocked over at the prohibitive odds of (2/5). To put that into context, a penalty in a soccer match is generally close to that price.
His nearest challengers are Lee Westwood (3/1), Robert Karlsson (10/11), Luke Donald (20/1) and a return for this year’s hero, Bjorn, at (40/1). Bar talk, fodder really, as so much can change in two years!
In a lovely act of karma, Sergio Garcia became the all-time leading point scorer in Ryder Cup history, taking the record from Nick Faldo who infamously called Garcia, “useless“ when he was Captain in 2008 at Valhalla.
“I have passed some of my heroes today – and Nick Faldo,” said Garcia.
Phil Mickelson’s shot into the water to seal Europe’s victory was also a bit of karma from a previous Ryder Cup. His spat with Captain Tom Watson in 2014, in the aftermath of the loss to Paul McGinley’s team at Gleneagles, was widely perceived as “throwing Tom under the bus” in the post-match press conference. Mickelson was a picture of despair at this year’s Ryder Cup, finishing his singles match with a ball in the water and a handshake:
“Realistically, this could be my last Ryder Cup”, he said.
As I watched the hero of the European team, Francesco Molinari, the Champion Golfer for 2018, I thought back to May of this year. Frankie had just missed the cut at the Players Championship with a couple of 73s and was visibly distraught yet with a good team around him he can now do no wrong.
Why? Golf swings take a lot of work to change but subtle timing changes can alter the sequence of the swing, the firing order from the top of the backswing.
Remember this the next time you have multiple mechanical thoughts in your head as you play. You have to do your scales when learning golf, just like the piano! Don’t be that golfer who thinks they can just jump straight into the orchestra! If it was that easy we would all aspire to be on tour and I would be redundant!
Thanks for staying this long and we will talk some more golf soon!
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Tadhg Harrington is a professional golf coach who graduated from the Titleist Performance Institute. He
succeeds in employing empathy, passion and exceptional customer service. The Harrington Golf Academy provides long-term coaching programs designed to bring sensory processing to motor learning skills. We teach above the noise, the quick tips and the latest fads and are truly unique in the Irish golf industry.
Tadhg’s brother is three-time Major winner and Ryder Cup vice-captain, Padraig Harrington.