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Opinion

USA must lose the egos for Ryder Cup success

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Roar Rookie
15th September, 2021
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When Steve Stricker announced his Captain’s picks on Tuesday, it seemed like there had finally been a changing of the guard for Team USA.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, who both boasted personal brands that are bigger than the Ryder Cup itself, had been replaced with youthful and mild-mannered rookies like Harris English, Scottie Scheffler and Daniel Berger.

The controversial Patrick Reed was left out by Stricker in favour of likeable team men such as Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, and Xander Schauffele.

It was a nod to mistakes of the past when the enormity of the USA’s star power had become a black hole sucking in anything near its gravitational pull.

The Americans haven’t faired well in recent Ryder Cups – losing seven out of their last nine meetings despite being heavy favourites on paper. The notion has always been that the USA has the better individual players while Europe has the better team.

However, despite the Ryder Cup being a team event, golf is still a sport that is decided by an individual striking his own golf ball (with foursomes being the slight exception), raising questions over why these star-studded U.S teams have struggled to get the job done.

Elite individual players such as Tiger and Phil never quite translated results into the team setting, while European heroes such as Colin Montgomerie and Ian Poulter built their legacies as legendary Ryder Cup players despite a lack of success in Major Championships.

And although Stricker’s picks represent a vote of confidence in youth over the old guard, it is within his core group of players where the black holes are still alive.

Bryson DeChambeau, who is perhaps the most maligned player in the history of golf, has had the most Bryson preparation ever, wrecking his hands practising for long drive competitions in a Ryder Cup week.

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Bryson DeChambeau at the US Open

Bryson DeChambeau (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Dechambeau has famously clashed with many other professional golfers throughout his career – most recently teammate Patrick Cantlay at the BMW Championship. And his unorthodox way of viewing both the game of golf and the world have made him a polarising figure.

His antagonist, Brooks Koepka, has raised red flags in a recent interview with Golf Digest, quoting his indifference towards team golf.

“It’s different. It’s hectic. It’s a bit odd, if I’m honest. I don’t want to say it’s a bad week. We’re just so individualised, and everybody has their routine and a different way of doing things, and now, it’s like, OK, we have to have a meeting at this time or go do this or go do that.

“It’s the opposite of what happens during a major week.

“It’s tough. There are times where I’m like, I won my match. I did my job. What do you want from me? I know how to take responsibility for the shots I hit every week. Now, somebody else hit a bad shot and left me in a bad spot, and I know this hole is a loss.”

These are truly troubling comments if you are a teammate of Koepka heading into Whistling Straits this week, who already had question marks over his value as a team man.

After the 2018 Ryder Cup in France, Koepka famously had a physical altercation with USA stalwart Dustin Johnson at an after-party. Days earlier, French newspapers reported the two had a fiery exchange on a team plane. Hardly ideal for team harmony.

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There is no doubt that both DeChambeau and Koepka are two of the greatest golfers of the modern era. But their personalities are both extreme and polar opposite.

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The madness that comes with the Bryson circus is distracting to those who have to play with him. And the too-cool-for-school stoicism of Brooks makes him come across as cold and indifferent. Both are potentially toxic in a team environment.

There is also the injury cloud hanging over Koepka, who pulled out of the Tour Championship two weeks ago with a knee injury. If he is unable to compete, it would open the door for Patrick Reed as an alternate selection, potentially giving us the greatest villain fourball pairing of all time between Reed and DeChambeau. Fireworks.

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The USA teams have always had to deal with these big personalities; and regardless, they will still start as favourites, as they have in most Ryder Cups.

However, if they are to overcome a European team that is united in the cause of slaying the golfing juggernaut of the USA, they must first slay their egos.

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