Plan in place, U.S. tries to build new Ryder Cup legacy


PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – This much is certain, the PGA of America and its 11-member Ryder Cup task force leaned into the talking points on Tuesday afternoon.

Building continuity.

Creating a blueprint.

A fresh start.

A new culture.

And, most importantly, forging a Ryder Cup family.

To be clear, Tuesday’s announcement – a sprawling outline that included a new captain (Davis Love III), a new points structure and a new outlook – is less about what happens in 2016 at Hazeltine National than it is what happens over the next 16 odd years.

“It’s not about one Ryder Cup,” said PGA chief executive Pete Bevacqua, echoing a long-view theme that was born from two task force meetings and countless phone calls and text messages over the last three months.

The concept, at least partially, explains why the PGA and the task force went with Love – who was, at least initially, described as very much a reluctant captain – instead of a Fred Couples or a Steve Stricker.

In Love, the task force found what it believes is a conduit to a new standard and a way forward out of a 2-for-10 slide in the matches.

In Love the collective saw a leader capable of building a team of captains, both past and present, and begin a legacy the red, white and blue hopes can wrest the U.S. side out of the biennial basement. As one source familiar with the proceedings explained, Love will be the captain’s captain.

“I know there’s some things that I need to be better at,” an emotional Love said. “But we really need to define the role of the assistant captains going forward. We need to divide the responsibilities a little bit better.”

In retrospect, maybe the PGA needed the autocrat Tom Watson running the show at last year’s Ryder Cup, otherwise what else could have driven the PGA to the brink of a bona fide overhaul?

Under the new “blueprint,” assistant captains will be groomed to lead future teams, past captains will be welcomed into an oligarchy of decision making and, perhaps most importantly, the PGA has yielded at least a portion of power.

The newly created, six-member Ryder Cup committee will include two active players along with the most recent captain and will essentially decide everything from practice schedules to who is named the next captain.

Sound familiar? It should, it’s a system the European side has used to perfection for over a decade to alarmingly impressive results.

If imitation is the greatest form of flattery the likes of Bernhard Langer, Jose Maria Olazabal and Paul McGinley must be blushing with pride right now. Or, maybe they’re sitting around wondering why it took the U.S. so long to arrive at its competitive crossroads.

“Look, Europe is a very talented team and they are very well structured and they have great leadership. Some of those guys play better in the Ryder Cup than they’ve ever played individually,” Phil Mickelson said. “They were beating us when we were a better team, and now they are arguably a better team.

“For us to compete we have to bring out our best golf. We have to play together as a team, we have to be put in positions to succeed. We can’t have challenges to overcome and expect us to beat such a good team.”

While the task force was a single voice on Tuesday, Mickelson will be remembered as the spark, if not the architect, behind the new-look Ryder Cup.

When Lefty took to the microphone on that cold Scottish night last September his motivation went well beyond being benched by Watson. For Mickelson, the U.S. had lost its way in the matches and something needed to change.

“The two greatest frustrations I’ve had is having zero input into the process and having zero continuity from year to year,” Mickelson said. “Both of those things the Ryder Cup task force has solved. We’ve never had input like this, from Ray Floyd to Rickie Fowler and everyone in between.”

The U.S. players now have a loud voice at the Ryder Cup table, which essentially translates to ownership. For its part, the PGA has ceded at least a portion of its hold on the matches and paved the way to building continuity, a blueprint, a fresh start, a new culture, a Ryder Cup family.

From here it’s not about the captains or the PGA, it’s up to the players.