As Phil Mickelson, the most experienced member of the USA Ryder Cup Team, launched his thinly veiled criticism of captain Tom Watson while sat just a few seats away from him, he laid bare the failings of the American side in golf’s number one team competition.
Mickelson’s decision to vent his frustrations at the way Watson had captained the side in the most public of forums demonstrated a lack of respect for his skipper and for the entire team ethos that Ryder Cup successes are built upon.
After clinching their fairly comfortable victory at Gleneagles, every member of the European team to a man lavished praise on their captain Paul McGinley. In contrast, Tom Watson barely received a mention from his USA charges as they trudged dejectedly away from another Ryder Cup disappointment.
Watson had his issues as captain. He made a number of major errors of judgement. To leave out the flying rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed from the Friday afternoon foursomes was a huge oversight. Similarly his decision to omit both Mickelson and Keegan Bradley from the whole of Saturday seemed a little strange. He is certainly not blameless.
However, while Mickelson was quick to deflect attention away from his own performance and that of his teammates, the simple reason why the USA lost is they didn’t play as well as Team Europe.
Mickelson believes Watson didn’t create the best environment for them to flourish, but perhaps if the five-time major winner had hit the ball anywhere near a fairway on the opening day they may have fared better too.
Who to blame?
The immediate need for a blame game is precisely why Europe are dominant in the Ryder Cup at present and is the reason why they have won seven of the last ten tournaments. While the European Team are close knit and bond together as a real group, the American side always resembles a group of individuals who get on but never seem to pull together in the same way.
Perhaps it is as a result of the vast amount of money that is available on the PGA Tour that the American players simply have bigger fish to fry and the Ryder Cup is not a major issue for them. You certainly don’t feel that too many of their side will be devastated by the loss.
Maybe it is too simplistic to say but if there was a significant cash prize to play for, perhaps we would see a bit more commitment and passion from some of the USA side.
That said, the rookies performed exceptionally and the likes of Reed and Spieth really bought into the passion and team spirit of the Ryder Cup. Sadly for Team USA it is the more experienced players and the bigger names who do not commit in the same way.
While Mickelson would have us all believe it is Tom Watson’s fault why the USA fell short once again, in reality it is the individual nature of the American side and the lack of effort and endeavour from the big names, especially Mickelson, that is seeing the European team dominate the Ryder Cup.