Jimmy Walker’s victory at Baltusrol wrapped up a season of four consecutive first-time Major Championship winners. To see none of the “Big Four” with a major title makes the Ryder even more interesting. Traditionally the biannual tournament is a haven for the “nearly” type of golfer. The success of Ian Poulter, Lanny Wadkins, Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood highlights the sort of player who will lift their game for this unique team event. To see Danny Willet, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Jimmy Walker all win for the first time tells you that this Ryder cup is going to be full of “influencers.”
Patrick Reed is one such influencer. Considered to be one of the more divisive figures in the world of golf, he made our list of Tour douchebags earlier this year. Like him or loathe him, there is no doubt he is America’s greatest competitor at this year’s Ryder Cup.
Last year Pat split his time between the PGA and European Tours, an exceptionally rare move for an American with the traffic almost exclusively flowing in the opposite direction.
“Fun is an adjective that dominates Reed’s description of his first season as a globe-trotting European Tour player, and listening to his tales it is no wonder he has decided to again split his year between there and the US PGA Tour in 2016,” wrote the European Tour’s official website.
Pat is notorious for his competitive and socially uncompromising style of play, making him few friends on the PGA TOUR. What’s interesting about Pat’s story is how this all changed during his short spell on the European Tour.
“The guys over here on the European Tour are awesome,” he said. “It’s very different from the US because there [PGA Tour] everyone has their families. Over here the guys are always hanging out together and having a good time, going for dinner together. There’s a real sense of camaraderie and a great vibe.”“It’s easy to see where that team spirit comes from in the Ryder Cup,” the American added.
Team USA have won just 2 Ryder Cups in the last 20 years, and when you consider the statistical weakness of the teams that have beaten them, it’s obvious where the problem lies.
The European Tour harvests a sense of sociability you won’t find on the PGA TOUR. Many of these guys in Europe are single, modestly wealthy and most importantly, eager to interact away from golf.
27 countries will put on 51 tournaments on the European Tour in 2016, and each event will provide a distinctive experience for the players. For example, Sweden will host their one and only competition of the year and you can be damn sure they’re going to socially milk every player dry because this is their only chance. The Tour would then move to Germany and later Turkey, each keen to showcase their country and create a unique social scene. This type of non-corporate prestige is probably missing when you move from South Carolina to Texas and then on to Florida.
I’m not disparaging these tournaments or suggesting that American states don’t present diversity, and hell the purse is 4 times bigger at the Valero Texas Open compared with Sweden’s Nordea Masters, but there is undoubtedly a social ingredient missing which provides the glue for camaraderie.
The PGA TOUR is more competitive – as Rory showed last year – when a big boy comes to Europe they usually leave with something, but what the European Tour lacks in competitiveness it makes up for in diversity.
In Europe the players have jammed packed social schedules in every tournament they play and are put through hilarious cultural shit shows of uncomfortableness which can only solidify friendships.
America will keep producing Major winning golfers but a systemic absence of genuine team spirit is starting to show itself in Ryder Cups. There are a series of obvious cliques on the PGA TOUR which inadvertently marginalise certain players; if it’s not the bible reading crew it’s the SB2k16 crew and if it’s nots them look for the private jet-sharing crew.
There are no amount of awesome Ryder Cup ‘chill zones’ or prestigious vice-captains that can compensate for the entrenched hierarchical structure that exists within the American locker room.
“In China I hung out with a few of the South African guys and they taught me how to play snooker. It was awesome,” Reed Reflected. I struggle to see this sort of thing happening on the PGA Tour. The irony of competitive environments is that they will produce better tournament golfers at the expense of successful Ryder Cup teams.
Sure, it’s only one week every two years, but if you want to be serious about winning you have to start imitating Europe’s successful social formula, especially when you keep getting beaten by statistically weaker teams.