Hat’s off to Phil Mickelson! The knock on pro golf is that everyone is cruising along and scooping up big buckets of cash from this amazing Amazon River of riches, and no one dares say anything that might rock the boat. So it’s refreshing when Phil Mickelson strayed from the corporate line and let it rip yesterday at the press conference following a sorry Sunday performance by the U.S. team, which resulted in a 16-1/2 to 11-1/2 loss to the Euros.
Mickelson, in so many words, threw U.S. captain Tom Watson under the bus, blaming Watson for bypassing the players on key decisions and for straying from the formula successfully used in the 2008 Ryder Cup by then-captain Paul Azinger. Not sure I agree with all that Mickelson said or that Watson is the scapegoat; the Euros are better on paper and played better on the course. You have to make great shots to win the Ryder Cup; they did and we didn’t, at least not often enough.
But it’s too simple just to shrug our shoulders, say they’re better and resign ourselves to weathering this decades-long storm of losing Ryder Cups until 25-year-old Rory McIlroy runs out of gas. Here are four ways to win back the Ryder Cup in 2016:
- Pay them. The Ryder Cup brings in lots of money, but I’m not sure where it goes. The players do this week pro bono because they like to represent their country. But you don’t have a Ryder Cup without the players, so spread the wealth to and show appreciation for those who create it. Perhaps give them a base amount for making the team, and then pay them per point earned.
- Drop the Presidents Cup. The Presidents Cup is between a U.S. team and an International Team representing the rest of the world minus Europe. It’s played the year between each Ryder Cup, and it means that every year the U.S. is ending the season with a thrilling-but-draining team competition. Let the Euros play both the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup. They’ve proven they’re the best, so they can take over. As is, the Euros rest and scheme for two years between Ryder Cups while the U.S. team plays “us against the world” every year. Let our players rest and go into each Ryder Cup fresh. And yes, this means moving the FedExCup up into August.
- Have a training camp. Pick the captain and keep the captain; make his position similar in tenure to any other pro sport coach. He and his staff would pick players much earlier; perhaps even have a standing Ryder Cup team that can change now and then as a Billy Horschel emerges. But building a team takes time, so make the time. Take a page from football, basketball, baseball and hockey and have a Ryder Cup training camp. Try different partnerships, learn to really play foursomes (the U.S. got hammered in this format this year), fix swing flaws, heal aching bodies, work with sports psychologists, rest, rest, rest — I’m sure there’d be no problem filling up a training camp with good things. Institutionalize the Ryder Cup. As is, it sure seems like it’s show up and start swinging.
- Wear white pants on Sunday. Don’t ever wear red pants on Sunday again. It didn’t work for the U.S. team in 1985 (that team got beat by the same score, 16-1/2 to 11-1/2), and it didn’t work this year. Horschel can get by with wearing red pants on Sunday and winning, but not the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Keep this in mind: 13 of the last 24 major champions wore white pants on Sunday, and future U.S. Ryder Cup teams should do the same.