APTOPIX Italy Ryder Cup Golf

Europe’s Rory McIlroy lifts the Ryder Cup after Europe won the trophy, defeating the United States at the Marco Simone Golf Club in Guidonia Montecelio, Italy, on Sunday. AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

As is always the case after a United States Ryder Cup loss, all sorts of reasons for the defeat — this one in Italy, by a 16 ½-11 ½ margin — are being floated.

Some are even true. Playing at home clearly makes a difference, not just because of the crowds, but because the home team captain controls the setup of the golf course.

Then there was preparation: Nine of the 12 American players made a mistake by not playing at all after stuffing their pockets with cash at the season-ending Tour Championship, which ended five weeks before the conclusion of the Ryder Cup

American captain Zach Johnson did not do a great job with his six captain’s picks. They combined to go 4-12-4. “I’d take my 12 in any cup,” Johnson said when it was over. The results would seem to undermine that statement.

The U.S. last won in Europe in 1993, when Tom Watson was the captain at The Belfry in England and John Cook and Chip Beck began the U.S. rally on Saturday afternoon by stunning Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie.

Consider those names for a moment: Faldo and Montgomerie are both in the World Golf Hall of Fame; Cook and Beck very much are not. But they had something to prove after Watson didn’t play them in the first three sessions, and they proved it.


Which gets to the heart of the real problem: most American golfers don’t believe they have anything to prove. Look at their world ranking; look at their bank accounts; look at the “teams” that surround them, taking care of their every need.

The American arrogance actually dates to 1967, when Ben Hogan captained the U.S. and introduced his team as “the 12 best golfers in the world.”

That was back when the Americans took on Great Britain and Ireland in the Ryder Cup, and the weekend was often a mismatch. After another American rout in 1977, Jack Nicklaus changed golf history when he suggested that all of Europe take on the U.S., in large part because he thought a brilliant young Spaniard named Seve Ballesteros needed to be part of the Ryder Cup.

The rest, as they say, is history.

History like this: Since 1985, Europe is 12-6-1, and it retained the Cup in 1989 with the draw. In this century, the Europeans are now 8-3. Since the U.S. win in ’93, Europe is 7-0 playing at home. The U.S. is 4-3 at home, better than 0-7 but nothing to jump up and down about.

And yet, every time the Americans win, they do start jumping up and down — and acting like all those European victories were some kind of fluke. After captaining the U.S. to victory in 2008 — breaking a three-match losing streak — Paul Azinger wrote a book on how he changed the American mentality and approach in leading his team to the win.


Europe then won the next three matches.

After the third of those losses, the 2014 debacle at Gleneagles in Scotland, the American players insisted on a new system to select the next captain and to change the rules for the week to make life easier for the players.

Led by captain Davis Love III and a course setup that made Hazeltine — a previous major tournament site — play like the desert courses in California where everyone shoots under par, the U.S. won going away.

Italy Ryder Cup Golf

United States’ team captain Zach Johnson, center, speaks to Justin Thomas, as United States vice captain Stewart Cink looks on after Thomas lost his morning foursomes match at the Ryder Cup in Guidonia Montecelio, Italy, on Saturday. AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino

“We’ve figured it out,” Phil Mickelson, who had led the player revolt, said a few weeks after those matches. “We figured out what they’d been doing and applied it to our team, and look at the results. I knew before the opening ceremonies that we were winning. Now that we’ve figured it out, we should keep winning for a long time.”

Only they didn’t. Two years later in Paris, with Mickelson and Tiger Woods combining to go 0-6, Europe won again — comfortably.

The U.S. won easily in 2021 at Whistling Straits with Rory McIlroy, the heart and soul of the European team, in the middle of a terrible slump. Once again, it seemed the European dominance was over. Many so-called “experts” predicted the U.S., with its bevy of outstanding young players, would win the next five cups.


On Sunday, those predictions came up five wins short. The Europeans had to change captains midstream when Henrik Stenson went to the LIV tour and they settled on Luke Donald, a brilliant choice. Donald is one of the brightest people in golf and when he began his opening ceremony speech by speaking in Italian, it felt as Europe was up 1-0 without a ball being struck. McIroy was back to being McIlroy, and players like Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland were outstanding.

The Europeans jumped to a 4-0 lead and never really looked back, and the Americans were outplayed from start to finish. As always, the better team won.

The difference between the American and European outlook is perhaps best summed up by some U.S. players believing they should be paid to play. Such complaints actually date to 1999, when a number of American players — noting (correctly) that the PGA of America makes huge money when it hosts the Ryder Cup — talked about perhaps not playing until the PGA agreed to pay them.

A compromise was reached: the PGA would pay $100,000 to each player’s charity of choice. That number has since been increased to $200,000, but most players’ charity of choice would be their own pockets. This will be an issue going forward.

Meanwhile, European players would pay to play in the Ryder Cup. When McIlroy made the team for the first time in 2010 at age 21, he said he was glad to make the team, but that the Ryder Cup was an exhibition and his goal was to win majors.

When he got to Wales for the matches, McIlroy realized he was wrong.


“Took me about 15 minutes to figure out this was a big deal,” he said. “I’m a golfer, my instinct is to be selfish.”

McIlroy’s Ryder Cup teams are now 5-2, and if you saw him after Sunday’s ending in Rome, you know what a big deal the event is to him.

Now there will be all sorts of campaigning to make Woods the captain at Long Island’s Bethpage Black when the Ryder Cup returns to the U.S. Once, Mickelson was a lock to captain the U.S. in 2025, but that all changed when he went to LIV. Woods would no doubt be a good captain and, playing at home, the U.S. should be favored — if the Americans can get a hold of their greed and their egos.

The great Dean Smith once told his players: “The other team gives scholarships too.”

It’s way past time for the U.S. to understand that the other side also has great golfers — and they don’t need compensation to prove that point.

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