It’s Not Just The Ryder Cup That’s Broken It’s Team USA’s Give-A-Damn

And who can blame them.

I read, listened and watched with interest as players (current and former), captains (former), fans and so called experts, bloviated and opined about the disastrous effects and far-reaching consequences of America losing the Ryder Cup this year. I am both intrigued and a little saddened by it all.

Yes Team USA lost and the reaction and race to blame was both swift and intense… but wait, weren’t they predicted to lose by many of the same people leading the hue and cry after the inevitable? Team Europe was stronger in spirit and on paper even before the stripes lost its stars Tiger, DJ and Duf. The surprise to me was that the Americans got out of the gate looking like they were going to put up one heck of a fight.

On the very first morning Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth were surprisingly spectacular and Ian Poulter was positively ineffective. Still, had Jimmy Walker not chipped in late during his and Rickie Fowler’s halved match with Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer AND Keegan Bradley not hit the shot of his weekend on the par 5 16th leading to a 1 up upset over Garcia and McIlroy, all of those eyes, bleary from watching commercial after commercial with a few golf shots mixed in, could have moved on with their lives secure in the knowledge that this was going to be the blowout everyone, save for family members and die hards, expected. Instead good ol’ Team USA gave them all false hope, in the form of a 2.5 to 1.5 four balls lead, that this year might be different. The fact is it was never going to be.

Should Captain Tom Watson have played Spieth and Reed again that afternoon? Probably. Should he have benched Keegan and Phil on Saturday? Maybe not in the morning four balls matches but certainly in the afternoon foursomes, (a discipline in which the two got shellacked on Friday afternoon). But no matter the machinations, this team was not going to win the Ryder Cup. So let’s stop blaming the “curmudgeonly” captain or the “petulant” prima donna. Let’s stop talking “pods” and “resets” and “task forces” and “overhauls to the system”. In my opinion what’s wrong with Team USA in the Ryder Cup is that to many American players the year-after-year burden of being involved in “us against them”, made for TV, arm wrestling tussles has drained them of their “give a damn”.

The Ryder Cup was established in 1927 as a golf match between the United States and Great Britain and Ireland. Fifty years later Jack Nicklaus suggested that GB & I invite the rest of Europe to join its team to make the matches more competitive. At the time, Team USA’s record was 18-3-1. The U.S won again in 1979, ’81 and ’83 but since then Europe has gone 9-4-1. Bottom line is THIS THING MATTERS to Team Europe. If the International Team could ever win another President’s Cup (1998 was the last and only outright International win) that competition would matter to them too. The simple fact is that it has all become too much for the American players who rightly put their passion, focus and attention toward winning things that DO MATTER to them, namely MAJORS.

There is not only too much golf on the schedule every year, there is simply too much golf trying to compete, in importance, with the major championships. And in 2016, for good measure, we add golf in the Olympic Games every four years. In addition to glut, many European players live and most play in America. In addition to that “opponents” every year or two in international “pillow fights” are teammates corporately. It all adds up to very little, if any, animosity in the game anymore.

What all of the pundits, experts, and opinion givers are not mentioning in this equation is the adverse affect the PGA TOUR created President’s Cup, which is played in Ryder Cup off years, plays. I think it matters because it means that almost all of the guys who make up Team USA playing Europe in the even years now have to manufacture the enthusiasm to play against something called “The International Team” in the odd ones. Odd indeed. By the way, they’ve played 10 President’s Cups and the USA is 8-1-1.

So all the talk post 2014 Ryder Cup is “How do we fix it?” and my contention is, in the current climate, we can’t. Why does it always have to be “US” against “THEM”? In one competition we seem to be outsmarted, outmanned, outmatched and outmaneuvered. In that exhausted state “our” team has to turn around and play in another head to “heads” competition and as Adam Scott stays great, Jason Day, Graham DeLaet and Hideki Matsuyama get great and Camillo Villegas, Geoff Ogilvy and Tim Clark get completely back to form, how long before the U.S. dominance in that one is also a thing of the past? Tennis saw top players decide not to play for their country in the Davis Cup and it’s my contention that that phenomenon is right around the corner in golf. It’s just too much too ask.

Before those things happen, let’s do this… Let’s stop getting our undies in a bunch about this past Ryder Cup or the next one. Dismantle the “task force” while there is still time and put an end to The President’s Cup altogether. The solution is to make the bold move and include the entire golf world in the Ryder Cup starting in 2016. You pick the two teams. Give Europe Africa and Asia and the USA can add Canada, Mexico, South America, Australia and New Zealand. Like I said mix and match them any way you want but have two international teams and play the thing every other year. Try that for a few years and so what happens, in the meantime LET IT GO!

And another thing… shouldn’t the penalty in football be “catch interference” instead of “pass interference”?

About Keith Hirshland

My name is Keith Hirshland and I am a four decades television veteran who has spent time both in front of and behind the camera. During nearly forty years in broadcasting my path has crossed in front of, behind and alongside some of the best in the business... And some of the worst. Many of those people I count as friends while others wouldn't make the effort to spit on me if I was on fire. This television life started early watching my Mom and Dad found, fund and run a local affiliate TV station in Reno, Nevada. As a teenager approaching adulthood I worked for them, first as an on-air sports reporter/anchor and later as a director and producer. Jobs in the industry took me across the country and then to many places around the world. Sports is my passion and putting it on TV has been my business. Production credits include auto racing, baseball, basketball, bowling, college football, field hockey, soccer, volleyball and water polo but the majority of my time "in the chair" since 1990 has been invested in the game of golf with both ESPN and The Golf. Channel ( I was one of the first forty people hired by TGC in 1994 ). I am a fan and I watch TV sports as a fan but I also have hundreds of thousands of hours watching from inside a production truck. I think that makes me qualified to comment, my hope is you agree. I have written four books, Cover Me Boys, I'm Going In (Tales of the Tube from a Broadcast Brat), a memoir that is a tribute to my parents, the hard working, creative people who started ESPN2 and The Golf Channel and a look back at my life in television. Cover Me Boys was awarded the “Memoir of the Year” in 2017 by Book Talk Radio Club. In February of 2019 it was released anew by Beacon Publishing Group. My second book is a novel, Big Flies, and is a mystery that tells the story of a father and a son with four of the world's most notorious unsolved robberies as a backdrop. Big Flies was named “Solo Medalist” in the True Crime category by New Apple Awards. My third book, another mystery titled The Flower Girl Murder, was published in 2018. Book number four might be the most fun I ever had on a writing project. Murphy Murphy and the Case of Serious Crisis is a mystery, a love story, and an homage to good grammar. It is both the Book Talk Radio Club BOOK OF THE YEAR for 202 and a TopShelf Awards first prize winner in the mystery category. All four are available at Amazon. Book five is in the capable hands of the good people at Beacon Publishing Group and should be available soon. I look forward to sharing new thoughts about golf, golf television, sports in general and the broadcast industry with you. The views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They are not connected to nor endorsed by any other person, association, company or organization.
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