What determines the success of a Ryder Cup golf Captaincy? The answer is easy, you have to win. It may not be the fairest metric because the captain can only do so much, but the influence of the position is certainly enough to make a difference between success and failure. A lot has been made of the decision to choose the correct captain over the last few weeks as both the US and European teams picked their fearless leader for the 2014 competition. Both Tom Watson and Paul Mcginley will have their fair share of pressure leading up to the event but only one of these captains will have his every decision questioned the day after the match is over. Looking back on the 2012 debacle for the US team, we can see where things went wrong.
The first point that should be made is that I am in no way blaming Davis Love III for the unbelievable collapse on that awful Sunday afternoon as he was let down on a massive level by his entire team, however, a look at his picks going into the tournament leave us all wanting a little more. It should also be noted that Love had four captain’s picks in 2012, while European Captain Jose Maria Olazabal only had two.
Eight players automatically qualified for the US Ryder Cup team, and the last four were left up to the captain of the team. Love chose to bring Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedecker and Dustin Johnson.
Johnson turned out to be a good pick for the US team, winning in fourball matches on Friday and Saturday afternoon with Matt Kuchar and taking a full point in the Sunday afternoon singles match.
Stricker was thought to be chosen because he would partner well with Tiger Woods. Stricker and Woods lost both matches on Friday and lost the afternoon fourball on Saturday. Stricker also lost what ended up being the most important match on Sunday to European Martin Kaymer. That’s a tough weekend.
Furyk had made every Ryder Cup team since 1997, and though he did not qualify for the 2012 team, he was basically an automatic captain’s pick because of his experience and leadership. Furyk played with Snedecker in morning foursomes on Friday and Saturday, which they split with one win and one loss. Both players lost in their singles matches on Sunday, with Snedecker getting rolled by Paul Lawrie in what was the US team’s fifth straight loss to start the day. Furyk lost a close match with Sergio Garcia in a season where he saw a few tournaments slip away in clutch moments.
Just looking at Sunday, the captain’s picks lost three of four matches. That is three of four points in a match that the US team lost by one point overall. Not exactly a grand showing by the players Love picked to help lead this team to Ryder Cup Glory.
It is very hard to know how players are going to perform in the clutch moment of an event as big as the Ryder Cup. It is very easy for me to judge the picks because we are months removed from the event and hindsight is always 20/20. However, part of the pressure of being a captain is taking responsibility for the choices made such as what players are participating, who they are playing with, and whether they performed up to the expected standard. If Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley or Phil Mickleson come out victorious in one the first four matches on Sunday, we aren’t having this conversation. They didn’t, and we are left with second guessing; trying to forget what happened and hoping that Watson makes the right decisions leading up to the 2014 Ryder Cup.