NAPA, Calif. – With the loss at Gleneagles still fresh in his mind, Hunter Mahan believes the Ryder Cup captain controversy may prove to be a turning point for the U.S. as it looks to snap out of a nearly two-decade slump.
Mahan made his return to competition Thursday at the Frys.com Open, carding a 2-under 70 in the first round at Silverado Resort & Spa. Given two weeks to assess the fallout from the American performance in Scotland, Mahan is optimistic that the loss will lead to positive changes.
“I think it was the most important Ryder Cup for America, [or]I think it will end up being,” he said. “I just think this signaled change, a change that needs to happen, and I think it’s going to happen. It’s unfortunate some of the things that have come out, but in the end I think they’ll be good things.”
Gleneagles marked Mahan’s third Ryder Cup appearance, and his main takeaway from the loss – the eighth in the last 10 contests for the Americans – was the difference in how each team was run, and he took a not-so-subtle jab at outgoing U.S. captain Tom Watson in the process.
“How Europe does their business and how we do our business is very different, and we need to get more along their path because their success and their leadership is just fantastic,” Mahan said. “You can tell those guys really play hard for their captain and their captain is very, very well-prepared.”
As the PGA of America looks for a leader for 2016 and beyond, Mahan believes the U.S. should more closely emulate the European model that has future captains first gain leadership experience on the vice-captain level.
“Paul [McGinley]’s been an assistant numerous times before, and that’s incredible experience that you can only have by being there and being in a different perspective than just playing,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be a sealed secret, who the next captain is going to be. They should give them some experience and let them feel it, let them see it from a different side so he’s prepared next time, and figure out what works and what doesn’t work.”