So much for the widely-acclaimed United States task force set up on the back of Phil Mickelson throwing Tom Watson, the captain on that occasion, under the bus following a heavy defeat at Gleneagles four years ago.
Sure, a series of steps put in place by the PGA of America as part of a process that involved numerous Ryder Cup players and captains, past and present, stopped a rot of three losses in a row at Hazeltine in 2016, but it seems that was just a case of papering over the cracks.
In their post-event press conference after the heavy 17½-10½ defeat at Le Golf National, the American players said all the right things in terms of trying to put on a show of being a united team, but that clearly wasn’t the case.
Shortly after that came to a close, Patrick Reed, the man, of course, dubbed Captain America, though he clearly left that cape at home this time, was effectively doing a Mickelson, admitting, in fact, that he had been close to doing so on that same public platform as the five-time major winner.
Apparently, Reed wasn’t happy about the fact he didn’t get to partner Jordan Spieth in France despite the pair having formed a successful partnership in last year’s Presidents Cup. On this occasion, Reed played twice with Tiger Woods while Spieth went out four times with Justin Thomas.
“The issue’s obviously with Jordan not wanting to play with me,” said Reed in an interview with Karen Crouse of the New York Times. “I don’t have any issue with Jordan. When it comes right down to it, I don’t care if I like the person I’m paired with or if the person likes me as long as it works and it sets up the team for success. He and I know how to make each other better. We know how to get the job done.”
How typical that is of some of these Americans. In short, Reed, pictured, was, as he would probably say, “pissed” that he had been in a pairing that was twice put to the sword by the Europeans. At the same time, the Masters champion didn’t seem to be bothered in the slightest that Spieth and Thomas proved to be the most successful US partnership of the week.
They just don’t get it, do they? They just don’t get that when a player walks into the team room at a Ryder Cup, part of the secret of success is that egos need to be left at the door. They may have managed to tick that box two years ago, but not on this occasion.
Hazeltine, it seems, was just a hiccup for the Europeans. As Thomas Bjorn observed, that was a “transitional” match for the boys in blue. That team spirit we’ve heard a lot about over the past couple of decades certainly hadn’t suddenly been lost overnight.
From the moment they turned up at Le Golf National, the European players believed they could upset the odds against the strongest US team in Ryder Cup history and, aided by a master plan put in place by Bjorn, they did just that.
As good as Paul McGinley, the winning captain at Gleneagles. That’s the highest compliment this correspondent can pay Bjorn. He went about things differently to the Irishman. For instance, he didn’t ask a Sir Alex Ferguson-type person to deliver a pre-event motivational speech in the home team room.
However, Bjorn had prepared his players every bit as thoroughly as McGinley in the build-up, even getting four different videos made to show the rookies, in particular, the various situations they might find themselves in the last-day singles.
It was a lot different on that first tee on Sunday, for example, when Alex Noren headed out in the anchor match compared to Rory McIlroy in the top tussle, but each match could have been just as important and the European captain had all the bases covered all right.
Roll on the next one at Whistling Straits in 2020. That’s likely to see Steve Stricker in the red corner and Padraig Harrington in the blue corner. One team will be pulling for one another, that’s for sure, but I’m still not convinced about the other. Only time will tell.