Well, that’s it then. After all the hype, the hysteria, the hoopla, the syrupy motivational videos and schmaltzy promotional claptrap, Team Europe got absolutely horsed. The Ryder Cup is over for another two years and we can all get on with more pressing issues like embroiling ourselves in a fight to the death with our next door neighbour over a jerry can of unleaded petrol.
The post-mortem surrounding Europe’s record 19-9 reversal at Whistling Straits will no doubt be prolonged. Even the Procurator Fiscal will probably send a letter to Padraig Harrington asking why he benched Sergio Garcia for Friday’s fourballs and didn’t play Shane Lowry more? And given the way things are going in this country, you wouldn’t be surprised if the Armed Forces get involved at some point of the coal-raking exercise.
You’ve got to hand it to the Americans, though. They were simply superb throughout the bag, from dominating the par-5s to holing just about everything on the greens. In recent years, a Disunited States had a habit of flinging a star spangled spanner in their own works as team unity went flying out the window while the egos landed.
Over three days in Wisconsin, however, Steve Stricker’s formidable side were the epitome of the American dream. Even the feuding Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka embraced each other with a big cuddle amid jubilant scenes of popping champagne corks and gleaming tooth enamel.
The dominance of the USA was so overwhelming, there were times when a glimpse at the scoreboard conjured up shuddering images of those backs-to-the-wall GB&I days when the likes of Maurice Bembridge and Eddie Polland were getting trounced 6&5 by the star-studded might of Nicklaus and Palmer.
It was a sobering weekend for Harrington. I don’t know about you, but I genuinely thought the Irishman aged a little over the three days. He just looked a trifle greyer, a bit haunted and, at times, a tad doddery. A sair fecht, indeed.
By all accounts, this youthful American pool of players will dominate the Ryder Cup for years to come. They have certainly flung down a fearsome gauntlet and they are a group who genuinely seem to love the contest. The malaise that enveloped previous teams was wiped away and the US have been reinvigorated by this wave of fresh blood. That’s great for the Ryder Cup.
There will be a changing of the guard as far as Europe is concerned and the challenge needs to be embraced. There are some talented young ‘uns on the European scene – Robert MacIntyre, Guido Migliozzi, the Hojgaard brothers, Nicolai and Rasmus, to name a few – and they need to keep progressing to bolster European strength in depth.
One area which we have touched on before, and a point raised again by Paul McGinley as things petered out the other night, is the sore lack of another team contest for potential European Ryder Cup players to be blooded in.
When, for instance, the EurAsia Cup – a match in non-Ryder Cup years between European and Asian players – was quietly discontinued back in 2019, another important cog in Europe’s Ryder Cup preparation was lost.
Prior to the EurAsia Cup, the Seve Trophy and the Royal Trophy both provided worthwhile platforms but they would eventually wither on the vine. In many ways, these events all served a valuable purpose in terms of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal and were viewed as part of the successful formula that helped create cohesion and continuity.
They all offered potential Ryder Cup players a flavour of the team room environment, of playing in the foursomes and fourballs format and gelling with team-mates.
As a breeding ground for potential European captains, meanwhile, the dry run of a Seve Trophy or a EurAsia Cup was hugely beneficial. McGinley has never under-estimated its worth.
“I wouldn’t have been (Ryder Cup) captain without the ability to prove myself in the Seve Trophy,” he said of those successful stints leading GB&I in 2009 and 2011.
Harrington didn’t get such a trial. Perhaps he would’ve benefitted from a less-pressurised outing to get further insight into a captain’s job? We’ll never know. Harrington didn’t hit any shots over the weekend but he called plenty of them.
We can debate until the cows come home about why he should’ve done this, shouldn’t have done that and maybe should’ve done a bit of the other. In the end, though, his team were simply outplayed by a side which raised the Ryder Cup bar to a daunting new level.
That, in itself, should provide plenty of European motivation for Rome in 2023.
AND ANOTHER THING . . .
Booing, jeering, heckling? And that’s just the sport desk’s sub-editors when they see the Tuesday column. US Ryder Cup fans are even worse. As usual, there was a fairly boisterous, boorish element in the vast galleries at Whistling Straits which had golfy folk clutching their pearls and making prissy pontifications about history, traditions and core values.
Back in 1870, when Young Tom Morris was in his pomp, The Open attracted a vociferous gathering of spectators who were, according to the newspapers of ye day, “clearly completely new to the sport” and “decidedly unruly in most part.”
Sound familiar? The loud-mouthed idiot is not a new phenomenon it seems…