Another Ryder Cup has come and gone. It is difficult to quantify the reasons for the devastating defeat the American squad endured. There is no doubt fingers are being pointed in a variety of directions. Media pundits have countless theories, but the answer lies at the heart of matters.
When I first met Geoff Bryant, he spoke of his “modus operandi,” which was to have fun, and to this day he has never wavered from this philosophy. Having fun is a pure concept, but it is the most basic fundamental and one that encompasses in its entirety why we play golf. This holds especially true for players who compete at the pinnacle of the sport, the Ryder Cup. Not one of these men picked up a club in their respective youth without falling in love with the game. They didn’t work at the game; they practiced hard because they loved it and it was fun, as was the challenge, the competiveness, the camaraderie, the golf course environment, etc. They loved it.
The Ryder Cup embraces all of this, but its history – and more importantly its recent history – has had an impact on recent results. When continental Europe was included in the matches in 1979 as a means to even out the results (the U.S. would seldom lose and would most often win the matches in a lopsided manner), little did anyone know at the time how the tide would turn. Little did anyone know that one figure that embraced these matches as his own would catapult future generations of European golfers to play with the same passion and heart, that regardless of the opposing team’s skill level, they would not be overcome.
Seve Ballesteros lives in Ryder Cup lore. Yes, we all know of his fiery competitive nature and passion, which he took to another level during the matches. However, he rounded up the Europeans as a family and took a loss by Europe as a personal attack to his family. After three consecutive losses in 1979, 1981, and 1983, Seve and the Europeans broke through in 1985 as well as 1987 in Jack Nicklaus’ backyard, Muirfield Village – the latter, of course, being the first time the U.S. lost on home soil. The Ryder Cup would never be the same. Europe has now won
10 of the last 14 matches and 7 of the last 9.
Europe hates losing this event and loves winning it. They take it personally, and this comes from Seve. They love everything about it, but most of all they love the camaraderie, and Seve’s influences are never stronger than here. More than anything, though, the Europeans remember watching Seve and his family celebrate, and is there anything more fun than celebrating with those closest to your heart? There was no way the Europeans were not going to win for Jose-Maria Olazabal, Seve’s surrogate younger brother.
A surrogate older brother on the American squad, someone the players want to win for and celebrate with, would help turn the tide – someone who knows how to have fun and make it fun, but more importantly, someone who can turn the American squad into a family, a family where the heart is.
Can anyone say Freddie Couples?