Punch Shot: One fix for the Ryder Cup


The U.S. Ryder Cup team after losing the 2014 matches. (Getty)

Everytime the U.S. team loses a Ryder Cup (especially when it loses big), panic ensues. Does the Ryder Cup need fixing? GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with what, if any, change is required to make the competition more competitive.


The Ryder Cup doesn’t need fixing. It’s the American team that needs fixing. American players expected captain Tom Watson to put them in position to look good at Gleneagles this past week. Watson expected the players to make him look good. It's embarrassing how awful they made each other look in the aftermath.

Yes, the PGA of America needs to re-examine how it chooses its captains, needs some kind of summit to come up with a system for preparing the U.S. team for Ryder Cups, some model that gives continuity to the succession of captaincy. Still, hot players hold trump cards in golf. The Americans can help themselves in that department moving the selection of captain’s picks back until the Tour Championship is complete. The FedEx Cup playoffs are a great barometer of who’s hot. It’s such a waste that the picks are made halfway through them. Really, if the Americans flipped three matches this past week, they win the cup. Billy Horschel and Chris Kirk would have brought something vital to the Ryder Cup if picked after the Tour Championship. They would have brought momentum.


The Ryder Cup isn't "broken" and doesn't need "fixing" just because one team always wins and the other, well, doesn't.

That doesn't mean, though, that after 40 editions of the event, it's totally infallible.

If I was pronounced King of the Ryder Cup (which admittedly might not happen anytime soon), I'd add a little more intrigue to the festivities - and I would steal it straight from the Presidents Cup.

The idea of random pairings based on how the captains separately order their lineups is outdated. I'd get 'em into a room before each session and match up players, fantasy draft-style. And just because I'm a benevolent king, I'd put the entire thing on live TV so everyone could watch them squirm through the decision-making process.

Unlike other potential changes, this one doesn't need a major fix in policy. But it would definitely add a new dynamic to the proceedings.


For a week Paul McGinley talked about Europe’s winning Ryder Cup template, the mystical format that produced yet another victory for the Continent in the biennial matches. When pressed for the magical “template” on Sunday, however, it was the players, not the diminutive captain, who answered.

“Wave after wave,” smiled Graeme McDowell.

“When the storm comes, we'll be the rock,” offered Justin Rose.

“Have fun,” laughed Lee Westwood.

Europe’s secret, at least the core of it, is in its captains’ ability to make the players buy into the master plan. For McGinley those concepts included avoiding complacency and not letting up, even when the team took a 10-to-6 lead into Sunday singles. For Jose Maria Olazabal in 2012 that blueprint was slightly different, but the constant is the European players’ commitment to the plan.

If the U.S. team is going to end a slide that has now been run to eight losses in its last 10 matches it will need to find a way to duplicate that concept and it starts and ends with the captain. Like the Europeans, the U.S. needs to include the players in the captain’s selection process. It is the most obvious way to get them fully invested in the process and the plan.


My one fix for the Ryder Cup? Simple – don’t hire another Tom Watson.

Seriously, the over-the-top, blow-the-system-up reaction to another American loss was entirely too predictable. Lest you forget, the 2010 Ryder Cup was decided by the final two men on the course. The U.S. would have won the 2012 matches if not for a 45-footer on 17 by Justin Rose and Ian Poulter draining, well, just about everything. More often than not, the Ryder Cup is an evenly matched, fiercely competitive event.

That Europe won this year shouldn’t have been surprising– it was playing on home soil (where it hasn’t lost since 1993) and boasted arguably its strongest team ever, with four of the top 5 players in the world. Throw in the fact that the Americans had an out-of-touch, irrational and impulsive captain in Watson, and the U.S. had virtually no chance in Scotland.

Such stinging (and public) criticism by Phil Mickelson will undoubtedly prompt change – perhaps giving players more input on future captains – but we should hope it’s not a complete overhaul of the system. In a Watson-less Ryder Cup, it’s almost always a fair fight. 


I have no issue with the format or minutiae of the event, but if the U.S. is going to restore the Ryder Cup to anything resembling a competitive contest, the powers that be must divorce from the notion that future American captains must be former major champions. Every U.S. leader dating back to 1927 has had a major victory on his resume, which makes introductory press conferences easier but does not necessarily translate into that individual’s ability to lead a squad of 12 men in a team competition.

Paul McGinley never won a major, but Sunday he became the fourth such European captain in the last 20 years to hoist the cup, joining Bernard Gallacher (1995), Sam Torrance (2002) and Colin Montgomerie (2010). While a captain’s decisions on picks and pairings can be second-guessed regardless of his credentials, there is something to be said for hiring someone for whom a victorious captaincy would serve as a career highlight.