Prior to 1979, the Ryder Cup was not a competitive event and the public had little interest in it, save for some die-hard golf fans in Great Britain and Ireland. All of that changed that year, when Jack Nicklaus’ suggestion to Lord Darby for GB & I to include all of continental Europe was put into action.
The first three editions of the USA vs. Europe did not pay immediate dividends, as the US squad triumphed. In 1985, Europe won on home soil for the first time, and in 1987 the unthinkable happened – the US lost at home. Far from being catastrophic, at the time it was seen as a healthy development for the matches, because it created interest in 1989 that the matches had never before seen.
Fast-forward to the year 2012, and the Europeans’ record since 1985 is 9-4-1, including an astounding 6-1 since 2001. The Europeans have turned the tables, and how!
The problem is that the Cup matches are threatening to return to the pre-1979 days when they simply weren’t competitive. You may ask, how can this be? The United States still produces the best golfers in the world in terms of depth. While this is true when considering individual countries, it is not true if you combine all of Europe. Yes, I know the Official World Ranking says otherwise, but that system is very flawed in my opinion (and is another issue for another time).
This will probably sound like sour grapes to some, but consider this: It took eight…yes, eight…countries to beat the US this year. Now, one might argue, “Well, of course! It’s Europe vs. the USA!” But consider this: In what other sport does Europe gang up against the USA by forming a continental team? None that I can think of.
The best basketball players in the world are from the USA, and no other country can beat us when we put our minds to it. You don’t see Europe forming a team with Germany’s Dirk Nowitzki, France’s Tony Parker, England’s Luol Deng, etc., to compete against us. World Cup Soccer? It’s country vs. country. Yet, in golf, it’s somehow okay for Europe to gang up on us.
I’m not necessarily arguing for a return of the USA vs. GB & I, but if you think about it, the golfing world is far away from where it was in 1979. Back then, GB & I simply had no depth. Today, that can’t be argued. A potential squad could be Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke, and Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland); Padraig Harrington (Ireland); Luke Donald, Justin Rose, Paul Casey, Simon Dyson, Ian Poulter, and Lee Westwood (England); Paul Lawrie and Martin Laird (Scotland).
Those 12 are extremely formidable and would give the USA a huge tussle, and which team would be favored would be very much up in the air.
The downside, of course, is interest in continental Europe would be destroyed. That downside is too much to overcome in returning to USA vs. GB & I. A potential solution might be to limit Europe to two continental players.
The other solution would be for the USA to simply play better and produce better players. Since changing the composition of the European squad will probably not happen, playing better remains the only solution for the USA at this time.
But let’s be honest – we’ve tried everything and it’s not working. Europe is simply producing better players as time goes on, and I’m going to boldly say unless Europe’s team composition is somehow weakened, Team USA will be consistent losers for years to come. Such dominance is bound to diminish interest in the USA – once unthinkable – and perhaps in Europe as well.
Something needs to be done eventually, but the question is, will it? Time will tell.