Boulders, AZ (Sports Network) --
That statement being made, one must ponder why the top twelve European players compete on a higher level individually and as a team when they see the red, white and blue...stars and strips, adorning the shirts, hats, towels and all else of their counterparts from, in this case, across the pond?
The United States workplace for golfers, the Colonies that bring all from around the globe such grand rishes, aka the PGA Tour, is based upon, and rewarded for, the individual effort and performance of every participant on any of the many tours available to them. While one of those is the European Tour, open to all but overflowing with Europeans, it is also an individual effort that brings home the big paydays). True enough but the Europeans grow up playing a lot more team games - four ball best ball and foursomes...which means playing alternate shots. Then there is also modified foursomes, which used to be called greensomes (do not ask me why although the "green" seems a reasonable enough explanation in and of itself), whereby a team of two hit their own tee shots, choose the best, then play alternate shots, and is still quite popular at traditional private golf clubs in Britain.
Indulge me for a moment to expound upon my theory relative to why the Europeans have dominated in recent years at the Ryder Cup.
|Tiger Woods & Jim Furyk recorded two of a possible four points in the opening two days of the Ryder Cup. |
On a recent trip to England, I was playing golf with my mentor, Mr. John Jacobs OBE (Order of the British Empire, for those who thought he was a dentist or gynecologist of some sort. We played golf at Brockenhurst Golf Club, two hours south of London. Depending on the time of day you played, your format was restricted in typical British fashion. At the time we were on the course we had to play the greensome format for the front nine. On the back nine we could play the fourball format, where we all played our own ball but continued to play as two man teams, team against team. Got that? Good. I am not 100% sure but these restrictions must have been in place to create more of a social team atmosphere and likely determine an acceptable pace of play. Less than four hours per round for four players is expected and sometimes demanded.
My point is our social game was a team game. In the States I can barley organize a team game as everyone is only concerned with their own score, own ball and how well they do. Okay but I can honestly state that I personally enjoy the team game on many occasions. You don?t lose the competitive edge as the teams play ferociously for a pint at the end of the round.
If all the Europeans had experienced something similar, which they must have, then the Ryder Cup format would not have felt too alien to them. Being comfortable and relaxed in the team format must help as two thirds, two days, of the Cup is team game play counting for 16 points. This is not what Americans are accustomed to outside of baseball, football, basketball, hockey, etc. The singles games on the third day count for 12 points. The States were already behind black ball at the start of the singles matches. Admittedly, it was then that the Europeans played out of their skins and over their heads but the wind was already knocked out of the Americans' sails, clubs and balls over the first two days. Bear in mind, that the last US victory was Brookline in 1999 when they made a miraculous comeback on the singles day.
The other theory that is well noted is that the Europeans travel as a group and stay in a closer proximity, spending more time together, being more familiar with each other. discussing their respective games and strategies well before the first tee times are announced and right up to the start of the competition. So, even though they play for individual reward each week, they ?hang out? together for most of the year, unlike the Americans, except for a sparse few close friendships. Therefore, every two years, when these individuals come together, the Europeans gel together, establish a closer knit camaraderie and ties. I will give a great deal of credit to Tom Lehman, US Captain this year, who tried very hard to create, plan and prepare the best team atmosphere that he could but it has to be put in perspective when you think in terms of the top U.S. players, egos, et al. It is like catching the wind in a bottle.
My third theory, having nothing to do with friendships, is that the greens are usually a little slower in Europe. I know Sam Torrance ordered that at the Belfry two years ago. I am not sure if Woosie did that too. When it comes to the Ryder Cup every advantage the home team can establish is accepted. Not endorsed or favored...just accepted as part of the game.
On the PGA Tour the greens are of a consistent, rapid speed and, therefore, the Americans may have a harder time adjusting to greens of slower pace. Once again, the Europeans seemed to make ?everything? - putts of all length, every day. That might be attributable, in great measure, to the fact that the majority of the European team play most of their golf in Europe with a few US appearances from time to time. Sergio is the singular exception. The States team rarely play in Europe, and don?t experience the possibly slower pace greens.
If this is all true then why did the Europeans win so handsomely in Michigan two years ago? Well the first two parts of my theory may account for that -team atmosphere and team players familiarity, would still apply.
The last part of the theory is printed in history. Until the Ryder Cup opened up in 1979 to a European team, from a British team, they had no chance. Enlarging the ?bench?, the total team and choosing players from all European countries, and not just England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, made the playing field more even. It is, once again, the U.S. against the whole of Europe.
The bottom line and conclusion is that, for the foreseeable future, golf will remain an individual sport, particularly in the States, and the Europeans will continue to be tough to beat, especially in Europe. That can change with cheerleaders, team song, more time spent together and egos left in the locker room. We'll see next time around.
Donald Crawley, Director of Instruction at the Boulders Golf Academy at the Boulders Resort & Golden Door? Spa in Carefree, AZ, and the President of GolfSimplified. Crawley, a veteran of 29 years of teaching experience, is a regular features contributor to The Sports Network that range from tips on improving your game to etiquette at the course. He has established 40 golf school sites in the United States since 1980, previously as vice president and director of instruction at John Jacobs? Golf Schools, consultant to the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, and presently at the Boulders Golf Resort in Arizona.
Crawley is recognized among the "Top 100 Teachers in America" by Golf Magazine and one of the "Best Teachers in Arizona" by Golf Digest. As both a Class A U.S. PGA member and a British PGA member, Crawley has been recognized for his outstanding teaching abilities. In 2002 and 2005, he won the Southwest Section PGA?s Teacher of the Year Award. He also received the Horton Smith Award for education in 2000. In addition to teaching over 60,000 students, Crawley has co-authored video instruction tapes with John Jacobs and BBC/ABC golf telecaster Peter Alliss.