Ryder Cup task force shows U.S. serious about winning

Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson at the 2010 Ryder Cup. (Getty)


The idea of a task force originated with the first militaries, becoming more popularized in an official capacity with the United States Navy and its process of increasing operational flexibility during World War II. In April of 1941, the U.S. Pacific Fleet was reorganized into task forces; by October of that year, additional changes were made in order to streamline these task forces to maintain readiness for war.

Since then, task forces have not only served as a standard part of military terminology; the phrasing has permeated any manner of society where a hotly contested issue has given reason to take up a cause. There’s a task force to solve the potential effects of climate change. There’s one to tackle preventative measures against the deadly Ebola virus. There are several to protect the rights of children in cases of abuse.

By those comparisons, the PGA of America’s recently established task force, created with the goal of finding a more effective way of preparing for and eventually winning the next Ryder Cup, appears somewhere on the spectrum between overly self-indulgent and insufficiently self-aware.

That notion, though, may only underscore the prevailing rationale here: Desperate times call for desperate measures.

If there needed be another definitive line of demarcation for when this biennial competition elevated yet another level in its degrees of seriousness, here it is. It would be naïve to suggest that until recently this event was a mere whimsical exhibition, but instituting a blue-ribbon task force in an attempt to ensure the next result is different raises the stakes again.

Call it a task force or an ad hoc committee or a just bunch of guys who are trying to reclaim old glory for Old Glory, the message still rings true. Status quo wasn’t good enough, so the PGA of America is changing the game. The organization is taking a more specialized approach toward that stated end goal.

Of course, as those attempting to solve the effects of climate change have probably found out, there’s a difference between creating a task force and creating a successful one.

The panel consists of Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Raymond Floyd – the four most losing players in U.S. team history, with a combined 68 match losses among them. Throw in Rickie Fowler, who has yet to win a Ryder Cup match in eight career opportunities, and multiple PGA officials who didn’t preside in their current roles the last time this team prevailed in 2008, and you’re left with a task force charged with finding a way to win that hasn’t often accomplished that feat.

That isn’t to suggest that any of these task force members are ill-equipped to help steer the U.S. squad toward its second triumph of this century two years from now at Hazeltine. Just putting them in the same room – or at least on the same conference call – represents a step in the right direction.

Placing an increased emphasis on victory should have figurative impact, if not literal. Even if this task force doesn’t magically uncover the perfect captain to lead the team, even if it doesn’t find the secret formula to balancing qualification points and wildcard selections, even if it doesn’t mean the team will be favored on home turf, it will prove to officials and competitors alike that priorities have been ratcheted up a few notches.

This is the “personal investment” that Mickelson famously (or infamously, depending on your point of view) spoke about following the recent loss at Gleneagles. It can be argued that European players have treated their tenures on the roster as a series of continuous two-year stints, while their American counterparts see it as more of a one-week assignment.

Just placing an increased onus on the importance of the Ryder Cup should serve as a wakeup call to everyone involved that collective focus on the event needs to begin sooner and run deeper.

Therein lies the greatest role of the newly formed task force. The main focal points from outsiders will be literal alterations – the next captain, the number of wildcard picks, the ordering of team sessions. Purely centralizing on those measures, however, would be missing the point.

This is about getting players more heavily involved; it’s about letting them make decisions to forge that personal investment. The happy byproduct will be an increased importance on the Ryder Cup, not just during that week but for the next two years, and not just on making the team but helping the team to victory.

Sure, the idea of a task force to win an international golf competition sounds overly self-indulgent compared with most task forces, but that underscores the major theme of what’s taking place right now. It’s time for the U.S. to start getting more serious about the Ryder Cup.