By Flint Wheeler
The 2018 Ryder Cup course will be different from Hazeltine.
It is Ryder Cup tradition for the home team to preside over a setup of their choosing. In that regard, the USA can claim “job done” in Minnesota. Professional golfer Justin Rose criticized it heavily, which tells us things will be very different in two years’ time.
“I thought the setup was incredibly weak,” said Rose of the singles. “I thought it was very much a pro-am feel in terms of the pin placements. They were all middle of the green.
“I don’t quite understand that to be honest with you, [we are] world-class players and we want to showcase our skills. We want to be tested. For example, the water holes out there, all the pins were as far away from the water as possible.
“The pin on 17 was an absolute joke. It’s a nine iron into the middle of the green and you stiff it. So with a match on the line, you kind of feel like you want to have something; you want a player to step up a little bit more than they have to.
1) The Tiger/Phil dynamic lingers on
Phil Mickelson’s prominence in the American Ryder Cup team has been justified by their success this year. There is an undercurrent, though, of historic indifference between Mickelson and Tiger Woods which resurfaced when the 14-time major winner joined Davis Love III’s contingent as a vice-captain. As Mickelson controls all before him, is Woods playing his own game?
When asked on Sunday evening whether or not captaincy appeals, Woods was reluctant to answer. That he did eventually, and positively, raises the suspicion that he either really is planning a post-competitive career or he rather enjoys making Mickelson sweat.
“Seeing what our captain went through? That’s hard,” said Woods. “Yeah, I would love to do it. I would be honored to do it in the future, if asked. But from the player standpoint of it, I like playing. I love these guys. I love being out there, in the fight with these guys. I was just in the fight a different way and had to do my role and had to my job in a different way, and it was pretty cool.”
2) Danny Willett has to reset his goals
Danny Willett defends brother’s comments on American Ryder Cup fans. When you have won the Masters, the world is your oyster. And yet, Danny Willett will harbor frustration as to what happened in the immediate aftermath.
“Shit,” was the Yorkshireman’s immediate reply when asked to assess his maiden Ryder Cup experience. “Really shit,” was the expanded answer. In black and white, this looks crass; in context, of both his brother’s needless jibes and Willett’s own smiling face, it was perfectly acceptable. He went on to defend his brother’s comments on Twitter, saying that he was, in fact, “correct” to criticize American golf fans.
3) Rory McIlroy is the new Ian Poulter
Europe has a new on-course leader. McIlroy’s performances in the Ryder Cup were stellar enough before his embodiment of the team. Still only 27, and perhaps charged by a partisan Hazeltine crowd, McIlroy took on a role that was completely disconnected from the time he labelled the Ryder Cup an “exhibition”. The Northern Irishman was a force of nature, to his team’s benefit but also to the point where he became emotionally exhausted.
4) Wildcards aren’t an exact science
The standard criticism of Darren Clarke will be that his captain’s picks were costly, on account of Lee Westwood’s poor performance. By contrast, the fact Ryan Moore sealed USA’s victory will suggest they had a perfect system. In truth, the wildcard process should be identical for both sides. It should also be done within the same timeframe. For those who criticize Westwood’s involvement, there is the antidote of Thomas Pieters’s brilliance. But if we assume Pieters was a sensible pick, then picking Russell Knox over Westwood would have taken the European rookie count to seven. That would not only have been a stick to whack Clarke with but an historical admission of defeat. The captain probably erred on the side of caution, but it would be tough to argue that it was that which contributed to the team’s loss against a vastly superior USA contingent.