Punch Shot: Who should be on Ryder Cup task force?


From L to R: Jerry Colangelo, Johnny Miller and Steve Spurrier. (Getty Images)

The PGA of America announced its Ryder Cup task force Tuesday. Paul Azinger, the most recent victorious U.S. captain, was noticiably missing. GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with other names who should have been part of the panel.


Johnny Miller.

Few have seen the Americans’ futility up close quite like the NBC Sports analyst. With NBC first televising the event in 1991, Miller has been in the booth for eight of the 10 U.S. losses. (Phil Mickelson, for instance, has been on every team since ’95.) In a setting that might be uncomfortable for current players to criticize their contemporaries, Miller would have no qualms analyzing, critiquing and providing insight – after all, it’s his job.

Though he occasionally will swing and miss, at least give Miller credit that he’s not afraid to speak his mind. With virtually everything on the table – captains, picks, event-week activities – this is the time to bring in a constructive, critical, authoritative voice in an effort to initiate change.


One problem with this newly formed task force is that it's trying to procure a culture of winning by gathering a group of players and officials who haven't won.

There's a certain chicken-or-the-egg conundrum going on here. Like the recent college grad who can't get a job because he doesn't have experience, the U.S. team is trying to learn how to win without having done so.

The answer is that the task force shouldn't be comprised solely of individuals who have been involved in past Ryder Cups. It should include a business leader, a proven winner from another sport, even a military strategist, if the PGA wants to get this serious.

I'll steal a page from ESPN's Jay Bilas, who tweeted after the U.S. loss at Gleneagles that Jerry Colangelo, the man responsible for the swift comeback of USA Basketball, should be part of this committee.

The team has looked inward for too long. It's time for an outsider's perspective. Someone who has already returned a winning tradition would evoke the right message.


When the PGA of America’s task force to reinvent the U.S. Ryder Cup team assembles to address the American side’s issues there will be a broad cross section of experiences to pull from.

From former captains to current and future players the PGA has covered almost every contingency. Almost.

Kerry Haigh has been with the PGA since 1989 in various roles from golf course set-up man to his current designation as chief championships officer. Only Mickelson, who played in his 10th Ryder Cup last month, comes close to Haigh’s longevity and institutional insight.

Long considered one of the best at setting up championship caliber golf courses, Haigh has also become a team room staple.

The mandate for the task force is to examine the entire Ryder Cup process, including the schedule of events during the week of the matches. Few, if any, understand the nuances of Ryder Cup week as well as Haigh.

And if all that wasn’t enough, consider that the task force’s mission is to essentially figure out what the Europeans do so well. Haigh, an Englishman, might be a good place to start asking.


Paul Azinger is obvious. How is it possible he isn’t on this task force?

He’s such a glaring absence it almost discredits the whole task force venture. His absence seems symptomatic of the PGA’s larger Ryder Cup problem. Whatever is actually behind the disconnect between Azinger and the PGA of America on this issue should trouble other task force members. Whatever kept Azinger off this task force ought to be something addressed as potentially a larger problem in the entire organizational failure that is the American Ryder Cup effort. If Azinger simply declined, why? Something’s not right there and just might be something that needs to be fixed.

And then there’s Fred Couples.

When did he officially become the PGA’s red-headed step child? Yes, obviously, there is politics at play with Couples taking a Presidents Cup captaincy before the Ryder Cup was offered, but he just as obviously has something important to offer the task force after leading the last three American teams to victories at the Presidents Cup. And what about Ben Crenshaw? Leaders who have actually won international team events might have something important to offer.


If I’m adding to the PGA of America’s newfound task force, the first call I make is to the Ol' Ball Coach.

Steve Spurrier may be busy coaching South Carolina’s football team, but he knows plenty about winning and as a single-digit handicap (not to mention Augusta National member), he knows enough golf to be a productive addition to the group.

More importantly, Spurrier knows how to coach a team, and he is an expert at the mental side of things – both motivating his squad and rattling his opponent. He has even reportedly taken the mind games to the course himself, where he has yet to lose a match to a Gamecock player, former or current.

With the creation of the task force the Euros smell blood in the water, and the Americans are admitting at least a bit of vulnerability in the biennial affair. A jolt to the system may be needed, and a fresh perspective from outside the game could provide it. If nothing else, Spurrier’s presence would liven up the proceedings at any task force presser.