Unhappy fallout continues as chastened USA lick their wounds
McGinley says Americans would be wiser to keep the recriminations in-house
Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Brooke Koepka attend the press conference of the losing USA team after Europe won the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines, outside Paris. Photograph: Alastair Grant/AP
When the USA hit the ground on a final day of falling to earth after trailing 10-6 into the singles, the impact was hard and the debris scattered far beyond captain Jim Furyk.
Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, warm friends in less heated moments, proved the closer the enemy the sharper the tongue and another flare-up that screamed disharmony rather than a tight knit US team.
Only to the most patriotic American fans could the fire in Reed, Spieth, Johnson or Koepka be construed as US players who actually cared too much. It was so obviously missing elsewhere.
Paul McGinley was in Paris. He did not see the altercation between Johnson and Koepka at Sunday night’s European Team celebrations. But he knows Ryder Cup terrain as a captain and a player.
“I didn’t go to the team party. I didn’t think it was my place to be there,” he says. “I read what was said alright. Part of the task I understood was to keep things in house. That they win together and they lose together. If you are going to have a template you can’t have leakages like this.
“This is not how you lose. There is a way of losing. You close ranks. You say things in house and move forward. They are hurting and maybe some of the backlash is because they are hurting as much as they are but...
“You don’t want to see your team, just because they lost, breaking ranks. Things didn’t go well for us in 2008. But we kept it in house. America seems to come out in a different way.”
Big names buckled, captain’s picks flatlined and Major winners were brought to their knees, Spieth losing 5&4 to rookie Thorbjorn Olesen in the Sunday singles.
Now chances are Tiger Woods, for much of the weekend radiating emptiness, and the misfiring Phil Mickelson may continue into the twilight of their careers with the Parisian debacle their last contribution to Ryder Cup golf.
McGinley agrees Le Golf National might prove part of the epitaph for golf’s two biggest names with Wisconsin’s Whistling Straits in two years’ time too far away.
“I think it could be the last time because of their age. Tiger is 42 he’ll be 44 in two years time,” says McGinley. “Not many guys make Ryder Cup teams at 44. Phil is 47 now. He’s going to be 49. Highly unlikely at 49 he’s going to make it.
“What went against both of them this week and more Phil . . . when we looked at our team in Hazeltine two years ago, it wasn’t the fact that we’d five rookies. We had players off form, who had played well early in the qualification. When we got closer to the Ryder Cup they’d lost form. Players are like stock markets they come in and out of form.
“Thomas Bjorn recognised that so he changed the qualification to give 50 per cent more bonus points for the last three months. He wanted to see guys coming with a run for the end. This was the best European team we ever put out.”
It’s cold comfort to the USA’s ‘unmatched’ quality as they pick over the bones and go back to the lab to petri dish the missing genome that codes for the Europeans every two years.
McGinley believes in leaders. They are not necessarily the best players. But they exude a passion and attach a fearful imperative to winning that’s essentially different to the week to week drive for success on the PGA tour.
Inhabiting a more selfless world, leaders understand the boundaries and common interests of personal and team success, a package that’s more important than the principal names.
“One of the best leaders we ever had was Colin Montgomerie. He never won a Major championship,” explains McGinley.
“Sergio Garcia has always been a great leader. This is the first Ryder Cup that he played as a Major champion but before that he has been a leader. Lee Westwood has never won a Major. A huge presence in the team room. Leaders come in different forms.”
In that, Tiger’s luminosity was jaded and visibly dulled, feels McGinley. An intense figure normally, even his competitive spirit was largely muted, arriving only in short flashes and very rarely the type of flashing brilliance that was once common place.
“I’ve played with him, I’ve played against him in Ryder Cups on two occasions,” says McGinley. “He has an aura about him. He has huge charisma. I didn’t see it last week. He didn’t look energised.
“The Sky commentators, who were on the ground walking with Tiger’s match last week were coming in and saying ‘man Tiger and his partner [Bryson Dechambeau and Reed] have hardly spoken.’”
Now, how to fix ignominy. The US have done it by tapping into jingoism and the military. The snarl of patriotism and the stars and stripes have rebooted American passions before.
The Corey Pavin ‘Desert Storm’ baseball cap in Kiawa Island, the Battle of Brookline, effective and ugly. America doesn’t like losers and in Trump’s binary world losing any way is losing big.
But there is a simplicity and you have to believe it’s universally known.
“The dynamics of winning a Ryder Cup are quite simple,” says McGinley. “Your leading players win 60 per cent of your points. Your less leading lights win 40 per cent. That’s basically it.
“When your leaders win 40 per cent or 30 per cent, the other guys are not going to take up that slack. It’s very unusual, highly unlikely and it’s never happened that slack being taken up. You win Ryder Cups with your top players.”
A home truth, perhaps finding its way to the USA.