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Woods Absence Helped US at Ryder?; Faldo Gets Dumped On

Let’s start right here: I don’t actually see how the team captain of one of the Ryder Cup squads can possibly really change the outcome of the event. Sure Nick Faldo sat some of his big hitters — Robert Karlsson, and Paul Casey, for example — but did that actually change the outcome of the matches overall more than say, the fact Sergio Garcia couldn’t figure out how to hit a 5-iron and Lee Westwood someone forgot how to win?

I guess it doesn’t matter — Garcia is a hero in the Ryder Cup who will play in it again and is to be forgiven. Nick Faldo, on the other hand, was a remarkable player, though not one much loved, and now the British press have sensed blood in the water. Nick hasn’t been this battered since former girlfriend, Brenna Cepelak, beat on his Porsche 959 with his 7-iron.

“Bungling Faldo to Blame..” read the headline in the Scotsman, while the Times said “Faldo Must Carry Can For Lack of Order.” Carry can? Must be Euro speak for something, but I haven’t a clue what. The Times takes Faldo to task for letting his players pick the singles order:

There we were marking Faldo down as a man who wanted to micro-manage this team to victory when the reality was that he sat in the Brown Hotel in Louisville allowing his players to dictate strategy, like Sven-Göran Eriksson in his last days as England head coach. How old-fashioned of us to think that selection was the captain’s business.

But let’s be honest — what is the captain’s role? Cheerleader? Strategist? Some of both? Neither?

The Times says the players were willing to “take the bullets” for Faldo, but I wonder if these comments are more accurate than most are willing to admit:

From Lee Westwood: We hold the golf clubs and we hit the shots, not the captain. Sergio García: If I would have played better and won my match, maybe we would be talking and writing a different story. It has nothing to do with Nick.

Is Faldo a dislikeable guy? I think that much is clear. Is he smarmy with an uneasy sense of humor? Clearly. But is he to blame for blowing the Ryder Cup? I don’t see it. I mean Tom Lehman had strong plans for Ireland two years ago, but his players floundered and the US disappeared. I think the Irish Times has it correct in saying that Europe’s three best players — Harrington, Westwood and Garcia — “turned up, but didn’t show up.”

And remember Faldo was widely criticized for picking Ian Poulter (myself included in this). But where would the UK have been without him?

I’m not sure Faldo is blameless, and he can be a self-interested ass, but I don’t think he’s to blame for the failure of the European team.

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I love the ridiculous comments from pundits that suggest the US is better off without Tiger on the Ryder Cup team and that the win on the weekend proves that. Huh? I mean Phil Mickelson doesn’t have a great record in the event, so he should go as well? Even if Tiger plays in five matches and wins all five — including four of which are partner events — he can only win or lose five points. Last I looked you needed 14.5 to win.

Don’t tell that to the columnist at the Bleacher Report who says:

Hopefully in two years, Team USA can go overseas and defend their Ryder Cup with or without Mr. Woods (Personally, I say scratch Eldrick from the roster).

This one, from a San Diego columnist, goes one further — the Ryder Cup is apparently better without the world’s best golfer. Really?

But the Ryder Cup may be better without him. The American team is more likely better without him.

Crazy to say, maybe, but look at the result Sunday. Look at how much fun the Americans had. Look at the camaraderie they shared. Compare that with the dour grinding they’d done over most of the past decade of Ryder Cup play, when Woods couldn’t overpower Europe alone in three straight terrible losses.

I guess this makes good column copy, but it doesn’t make much sense. Think about it — the argument goes like this: Woods wasn’t there and the U.S. team won. If Woods had been there, maybe the US wouldn’t have won. So Woods shouldn’t be allowed to come to the Ryder Cup. Of course, the US won the Presidents Cup with him, so I’m sure it is okay if he continues to play that one.

Now that makes a lot of sense.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • RT:

    You make the point that Woods can only contribute 5 pts of the 14.5 required for a win but that contribution is only ON the golf course. The unknown factor is what happens off the golf course. How good a player leader is Woods?…players seem to like him but that does not make him a good leader.

    One common theory is that players relax when Woods is on the team because they think “5 pts are in the bag” and there is less reliance on their efforts. Well, Woods has not produced the 5 pts…and their efforts are required yet they are not geared up to deliver.

    There is another theory that Woods intimidates players, even on his own team, thereby limiting their potential. Again, hard to believe given that Woods is well liked but…

    When Woods is not on the team, everyone knows they need to step up to the plate and produce. There is a common feeling among the players and they may come together more as a team whether intentionally or unintentionally.

    It is hard to argue that a team without the best player in the world is better than a team with the best player in the world. Yet, while golf is an individual sport, there is enough team dynamics in the Ryder Cup to question the influence of Woods on other players and that influence may not be a good one, regardless of the best intentions from all concerned.

  • I think the controversy over the last days pairings could be solved in an interesting way. I’d put all 12 names in two hats and draw them out so that the pairings and their hit off times are a matter of luck or one might call it “rub of the green.”

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