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Plenty of blame for America's latest Ryder Cup loss

The First Call readers spared little in critiquing America's performance, ranging from captain Zach Johnson's picks and decision making to players taking a lengthy layoff prior to play

Ryder Cup
The Europeans have not lost on home soil since 1993 and they continued their winning streak with a commanding 16.5-11.5 victory at the 2023 Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Italy.

Question of the week [October 2-October 8]: What were your takeaways — on and off the course — from the 44th Ryder Cup, won by Europe, 16.5-11.5?

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— America needs to learn how to play alternate shot (foursomes).
— Younger, significantly more relevant, U.S. vice captains are essential. Why do the U.S. captains pick Senior Tour vice captains who have limited knowledge of their players? More of the old boys club that plagues the U.S. team. I think Web Simpson and Kevin Kisner would have a much greater impact than Fred Couples and Jim Furyk. — Six captain picks is too much. I believe three picks is sufficient.
— Qualifying points should be limited to one year. The other year is the qualifier for the Presidents Cup team.

Regardless of the convincing victory by Europe, I see America easily winning back the Ryder Cup in New York. The New York crowd will be hostile and it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the European Team. Nice to see the Europeans transition to a younger team. They are stocked with quality talent for years to come. I have no worries about the American team, their talent is truly impressive despite this defeat. Redemption will be swift and decisive at Bethpage Black. You heard it here first.

Reid Farrill
Toronto, Ontario

That: Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson would have been way better scoring captain’s picks for Zach than Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa and Sam Burns.  Yet, Zach conforms to the group-think that LIV players are bad moral people — and must be shunned as much as possible. So sad.

That: The 24 Ryder Cup players continue to act as gentlemen to each other despite the PGA Tour executives and media wanting to sow divisiveness among them, to benefit the executives themselves. Nothing new there.

Joel Suggs
Cincinnati, Ohio

I still can’t believe the players the United States picked and don’t understand why Keegan Bradley and Lucas Glover were not on the team.

Stephen Pratt
Ardmore, Pennsylvania

Very disappointed in the USA loss to the great playing European team. Friday, the European team had its way with the USA team. The way the European team played on Friday and Saturday, you would have had a hard time to find the right matchups to beat them. On Friday it appeared that the Europeans could not miss any shots.

My one gripe is the way the European team players did nothing to stop the crowd from getting out of hand with their constant harassment of the USA team players. I believe that when the next Cup is played at Bethpage, the noise will be explosive.

Brian Nelson
North Haven, Connecticut

If I see one more "playing thru" [split-screen commercial], then I will stop watching golf matches. Nothing is more aggravating than while watching a golfer hit the golf ball the TV screen viewing area shrinks to about 40%. It is next to impossible to follow the golf ball and even harder to see who is actually hitting the golf ball.

And it is impossible to see where the ball lands. Either do the whole commercial and don’t show the "playing thru" or just show the golf. Very, very aggravating.

Arthur Buonopane 
Winchester, Massachusetts

USA captains continue to make stupid captain's picks. The Europeans take chances on new faces, particularly the ones who are hot going into the Ryder Cup. Why not Lucas Glover and Keegan Bradley? They were hot going into the Ryder Cup. The Americans continue the same stodgy approach of the good ol' boy system that is not working. If sponsors put pressure on captains to pick certain players, then that must cease if America wants to change the results. Secondly, the captain selection process must change. Good Ryder Cup players oftentimes don’t make good captains 

Darrel Robertson
Marana, Arizona

In a nutshell? Zack Johnson. Wrong captain, poor captain's picks, poor planning and execution leading up to the competition (almost no competitive rounds by the Americans), poor pairings, apparently no leadership skills and telling an individual player what club to hit. Blasphemy.
Ron Ritchie 
Vernon, British Columbia 

My primary takeaway is that course setup should be by a third party. Not sure how you determine a neutral third party, but that should change and see if it creates a more level playing field — no pun intended.

Jay Rogers
St. Louis, Missouri

If the Europeans figured out setting the course to their advantage by taking certain clubs out of the American hands, then why couldn't the Americans figure out a way to lay back with 3-woods and take advantage of their wedge play? It's not always the longest players, but the smartest players who come out on top. This team should have been able to use their advantage to make the play and event more competitive.

Bill Fishbane
Beverly, Massachusetts

Will always wonder if Keegan Bradley instead of Rickie Fowler would have made some kind of a difference.

Ed Randolph
Plymouth, Michigan

The European captain and team totally outplanned, out-prepared and outplayed the USA team. This was a perfect example of how great management and great leadership will always outperform average management and average leadership.

After getting waxed in Whistling Straits, Europe went back to the drawing board. Despite the U.S. having superior and more talented golfers, the Europeans put together a solid plan under the leadership of Luke Donald. The U.S. selected six players using the buddy system. They relied on how well all the players got a long with their buddies, not on who could perform and execute on the golf course.

The European captain led by the heart versus the USA captain who led by the head.

While the USA gave it their best shot on Sunday, it was not enough.

Also, as Jordan Spieth so honestly pointed out in the post-match press conference, he would have preferred to have only a one- to two-week break between the end of the regular season and the start of the Ryder Cup — not the five-week break the USA team had. Also, he pointed out that the entire European team played in the BMW PGA Championship only two weeks in advance of the Ryder Cup, and they did extremely well with 10 of the European players finishing in the top 15. As he said, the European players were in good form and "match ready" going into the Ryder Cup.

Let's see what happens in Bethpage Black in 2025.

Patrick Below
Madison, Wisconsin

The action was hard to follow with all those commercials, and the graphics showing the standings and individual player positions were confusing. All in all, it wasn't a very good telecast compared to past years.

Larry Ashe
Chicago, Illinois

So, allow me to top dress what’s already been said elsewhere — the Euros played better to start with, the U.S. team was flat/anxious (likely due to rust and inaction, and the U.S. team got bogged down in petty sh*t that continues to be friction for them. The Americans obviously responded Saturday afternoon to being beaten like a drum on and came very close to snatching victory on Sunday with some very strong play. I believe the end result was a bit misleading.

Having said that, if monetary concerns are still an issue for these U.S. players, maybe they need to look in the mirror as they reap benefits that the Euros don’t — as was clearly outlined by Brandel Chamblee and Paul McGinley on Golf Channel. It reinforces why the Euros believe in the team concept of the Ryder Cup.

It’s time to suck it up prima donnas or stay home and play marbles while the Euros dominate at home.
Peter Croppo
Bayfield, Ontario

In Tuesday’s press conference, Zach Johnson revealed that this year’s picks were "crowd sourced,” meaning the six guys making the team on points figured huge in the selection of his picks, if not making the picks completely. This is nuts. So, the winning solution is simple. 

Problem: the captain gets too many picks now, and the good ol' boy system is not the way to build a winning team. 
Solution: Go back to eight guys making the team on points and four picks, like in 2018, and remove the requirement, if any, by the PGA of America that the players get a say in the picks — rumored to be the case to promote locker room ambiance after the 2018 Ryder Cup’s disaster. Then pick a captain that is a leader, like Luke Donald, and not a manager, like Zack Johnson, and let him build a winning team without any outside influence.

Bert J. McCauley
Cheyenne, Wyoming

So Europe won again on home turf. Nothing to get worked up over. The Europeans have created and nurtured a culture of working together in this event, and it works well. It doesn't mean they are better people or anything else monumental or worth getting upset about. And the death of Seve Ballesteros provides them an emotional tragedy to rally round.

So what if the home team wins more often? That is what happens in sports a lot. And it just so happens that in golf this team format does that too. World Cup football often gives the host country an extra boost worth a game or a goal or two. I wonder, is the home side advantage stronger in the team matches than it is in the Sunday singles? I bet it is. 

The Sunday singles is mostly about individuals, with the team aspect only in the background, not up front. My guess is the U.S. golfers do better over there on Sundays than on Friday or Saturday teams. And when played here to, I bet the Europeans play better teams and not as good Sunday singles. 

Europeans are more used to match play and team play, so that gives them better mental preparation or strategy — probably worth a stroke or two or a hole or two.

Another two points that I did not hear on TV: 
1. Europe has a bigger population pool so it is natural for a slightly large group of great players to emerge. 
2. The Euros come here for our superior college coaching, training, and competition, and they often choose to compete here too, against our best, whereas very few Yanks go there or other overseas venues beyond the Opens in Britain, Scotland, Ireland and Spain. If a group of maybe six or eight top Yanks went to Europe to play the DP World Tour for six or eight weeks, it would be interesting.

Sunday was very entertaining. The U.S. guys played better.

Compare the Ryder Cup — U.S. vs. Europe — to other sports. There is no equivalent in pro or college baseball, football, basketball pro or hockey. Only in tennis and futbol is there much U.S. participation in overseas competitions, unless I am overlooking a sport. We don't do cricket, rugby, badminton, field hockey or pro volleyball. 

Should players be paid? Nope. They make tons of money on endorsements and merely being on the team is a big boost. I am fine with letting the current owners of the event distribute profits as they currently do in their own sport, to promote golf.

One other difference of golf from other pro sports: charity.  I don't know about Europre, but here golf builds hospitals and distributes lots of unpaid outreach to youth. I don't see MLB or NFL or NBA charity work anywhere near the amount of golf.

I was also surprised, like almost all spectators, when Rickie Fowler gave the putt to Tommy Fleetwood — a very gentlemanly act on the playing field. Hats off to him. That's the difference between watching versus being the competitor. 

Donn Rutkoff
Oceanside, California

  1. Max Homa is my hero. He led the American charge on Saturday to give hope for our wounded pride. His play on 18 Sunday was legendary.
  2. My first thought when the U.S. team was named was that Brian Harman was going to dominate. The Marco Simone course was similar to the course at the British Open, narrow fairways and nasty rough. However, it seemed to me that Brian lost his mojo somewhere and every time I looked he was hacking his way out of the rough or missing what should have been easy putts for him. 
  3. I have never been a Patrick Cantlay fan. But his stony demeanor hides a fierce competitor, and he shoved the (invented) controversy down the throats of those who believed it. He earned my respect.
  4. Jordan Speith is a great American golfer and when he is on, he is untouchable. He was off all week and it was torture watching him. I believe Spieth reflected the lack of preparation which was on display Friday.
  5. The American team clawed its way back on Sunday to give us a smidgeon of hope, which was no better demonstrated than the first pairing out of the gate. Scottie Scheffler had been a disappointment, not only to his fans but also to himself. That he went mano-y-mano with Jon Rahm showed his true character, determination and ability. I lay at the feet of Zach Johnson the loss of Friday's opening session (4-0), and the team never recovered. So back to the drawing board for the next Ryder Cup.

John Brewton
Johns Island, South Carolina

I think the main takeaway is that the American buddy system has failed miserably.  It doesn't do any good for the team to have likable players like Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas thrash the ball around the course and lose most of their matches. Their good fellowship in the lockerroom isn't worth much if they can't put points on the board. The U.S. left good players at home in order to bring all their buddies. 

Another takeaway is that the Americans just don't take these matches as seriously as the Europeans do.  It means more to the Europeans and they put more serious planning into the effort. The Americans essentially took a five-week vacation [prior to the Ryder Cup], and we saw the results of that. The Americans show up and suddenly, when they are six points behind, come to the realization that they are in a competition, and they would actually like to win. Then they start putting out some genuine effort when it's far too late. 

The buddy system also applies to choosing captains. What exactly qualified Zach Johnson to be the Ryder Cup captain? He obviously didn't do an effective job, so was he just a comfortable pick for the "good old boys" committee? We have seen this same scenario play out over and over, and until the buddy system is laid to rest, the losing will continue, at least in Europe. Maybe they should just just take the top 12 qualifiers and skip the captain's picks. Let the chips fall where they may.

John Abercrombie
Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Outcoached, outplayed, unmotivated, outsmarted and over confident. A pathetic excuse  for a team representing our country. Playing in an event like this having taken off for five weeks? Really?

Congratulations to the European team. The Europeans demonstrated professionalism and how to properly combine good sportsmanship and teamwork. We need to revamp our plan from the ground up. Blow it up and start with a fresh set of eyes. Rid ourselves of assistants who have been there far too long. No more Mr. Nice Guy. Admit you got spanked and learn from it. We were beaten before our plane touched down in Italy. 

Paul Vicary
The Villages, Florida

Take away No. 1: Leadership, build a winning team. As noted in the Luke Donald (and team) interview, he chose competitive players who had been winning and had competitive stats, then he worked on the team development/camaraderie aspect. Conversely, the poor choice of the U.S. team was the reverse — let's get guys together who like each other, then lets work on playing good golf. The U.S. demonstrated poor leadership decision-making.

If you want to win a golf team competition, then you build your team around players who are hot now, and are continually playing prior to the Ryder Cup. You don’t take five weeks off, but instead have your team play and sharpen their skills like playing in the BMW PGA Championship. 

Speaking of skills, how about the selection of Justin Thomas, who is rated 55th in the scoring average category. But, Russell Henley is 14th, Tony Finau is 19th and has two wins, and Keegan Bradley is 24th with two wins. You get the point. If you are trying to win a championship, then you pick the best players. If you want to do a buddies trip, then you recruit your buddies. 

Take away No. 2: Make the competition work for the win. Conceding a putt, as pointed out in a Golf Digest article, during a tournament you are trying to win, you don't concede a 2-foot-8-inch putt. You make your opponent make it or choke under pressure. 

Ralph Brown
Sacramento, California

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