#AskAlan, Vol. 70
With thoughts about a lifetime ban for Rickie, Cantlay’s brand-building, beer sales at Bethpage, Tiger’s (and Phil’s) future as captains, the softness of American pros, Zach’s place in the pantheon and much more
By Alan Shipnuck
October 2, 2023
Is this the death of the idea of a U.S. dynasty? They will never have a depth advantage greater than the last three Cups…they won one. @martinayersgolf
It’s not about depth as much as the guys at the top. The best Americans have rarely delivered over the last three decades. Tiger, Phil and Jim Furyk were the backbone of numerous U.S. teams; Woods’s Ryder Cup record is disappointing and Mickelson’s and Furyk’s are downright abysmal. Meanwhile, Europe’s keynote players have a long history of dominating: Seve, Ollie, Faldo, Sergio, Westy, etc. Coming out of the 2021 Ryder Cup, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth were expected to be U.S. cornerstones, but they all looked woebegone in Italy, while world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler appeared to be overwhelmed. Meanwhile, Europe’s big three of Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland delivered copious amounts of points, leadership and duende. They were so dominant all the other Euros just had to contribute here and there and that was enough. The U.S. did indeed have a big demographic advantage over the last three Cups, with tons of young talent coming up just as many of Europe’s key players were getting long in the tooth. But now Europe has reloaded (Ludvig Aberg!). Unless the top Americans can go back to the future and play like their old selves, it’s hard to imagine the U.S. winning an overseas Ryder Cup anytime soon.
Should Rickie be banned for life for giving a three-foot birdie putt to concede the Cup? @VeryAvgDad
I’d say longer! Charitably, you could call Fowler’s concession an act of sportsmanship. The more I think about it, it feels like capitulation, or maybe self-preservation. If Tommy Fleetwood missed that putt and Rickie made his, Fowler and the U.S. team were still alive. Barely. Everything would have had to break their way for the Americans to pull off a miracle, but the point is, up until the concession they still had a chance. I think in Fowler’s heart of hearts he didn’t want to hand the Europeans the Ryder Cup by missing his six-footer, so better to take what could be considered the the high road. But, man, I feel like to win the Ryder Cup a dude should have to hole a putt.
Did Cantlay build his brand this week as a (somewhat) more likable Patrick Reed? @OTownPauly
I don’t know, Reed was wildly entertaining at the Ryder Cup, with his on-course antics and short-game mastery. Patrick Cantlay is still hard to watch, with his constipated expression and numbingly efficient game. But, yes, this Ryder Cup did wonders for his brand, because prior to Rome, few golf fans had given him much thought. And Cantlay still has another role to play, as the most activist member of the PGA Tour’s board of directors. If the framework agreement blows up, Cantlay’s fingerprints will be all over that, furthering his new position as one of golf’s most polarizing figures.
During regular tournaments, golfers are taught not to get too high or too low. But we see tremendous emotion during the Ryder Cup and this seems to result in strong performance. Why the difference? @SheSchro
Playing 25 to 30 tournaments around the world in a calendar year is an almighty grind, especially in a sport as fickle as golf. No player could maintain the level of emotion we saw in Rome every time he teed it up. But maybe the golfers should let it all hang out at the major championships and a few other big-time events. If passion equals performance, they are doing themselves a disservice by being so flatlined in between Cups.
Watching these matches in Europe the past 30 years, is it just me, or are these Americans the softest group of pros you’ve ever seen? Things get tough, it’s over. I imagine Ray Floyd telling these guys, a la the Saturday Night Live Sinatra, “Toughen up—I’ve got chunks of guys like you in my stool!” @fakePOULTER
Have you ever been to an AJGA event? They make the Masters look underfunded. College golf teams have palatial practice facilities and travel by private jet. Many/most Tour player grew up at private country clubs. They’ve been coddled since an early age, so how tough can these guys be expected to be?
Where does ZJ fall on the scale of best-to-worst U.S. Ryder Cup skippers and why is it “worst ever”? @WillotheGlen
The 2014 Tom Watson would like a word. So would Corey Pavin, Hal Sutton and Jim Furyk. It says a lot about the U.S.’s ineptitude that there is so much stiff competition! Zach Johnson might have done OK on U.S. soil, during a less overheated moment than the first Ryder Cup of the LIV era. But on the road, the U.S. team needs a commanding, leader-of-men type. Tiger Woods was the obvious choice but deferred. Put him down for 2027…and ’25 if he wants it. If not, the choice has to be Phil Mickelson. Time to bring in the alphas.
What time will they cut off beer sales at Bethpage in 2025? @wcyoungIII
Honestly, I hope they don’t sell beer at all, as Bethpage has always promised to be messy. Now that the Ryder Cup trend has become more clear—with five straight blowouts by the home team—I fear the Noo Yawkers will try to unduly affect the outcome by being even more over-the-top than usual. I can already hear the tsk-tsk’ing of the British press and we’re still two years out.
Alan, Zach is getting blasted for his picks. Don’t you think the assistant captains were quite influential with the picks. using the buddy system and, let’s face it, they were very anti-LIV. Zach fell in line. @Marie11581
Yes, Johnson’s kitchen cabinet was basically Davis Love, Freddy Couples and Tiger Woods. They all hate LIV, and are much bigger presences in the game than Zach. And then you had the not-so-subtle pressure from above, from Jay Monahan and PGA of America czar Seth Waugh, who has openly disparaged LIV. Was Johnson, a nice, God-fearing Iowa boy, really going to stand up to all of big personalities and put his neck on the chopping block by picking LIV guys? Of course not. The pressures were too great, and almost anybody else in Johnson’s position would have done the same thing.
Seeing the corporate structures surround Marco Simone, I thought, surely the players should get a cut of the largesse? @OTownPauly
And don’t forget the oppressive commercial load of the telecasts! Everyone makes money hand over fist at the Ryder Cup—the TV networks, PGA of America, European Tour, ticket brokers, the vendors and hotels and tour guides. Incredibly, the only folks who aren’t getting a slice of the pie are the players. Of course they’re bothered by this, and have been going back at least as far as the O’Meara-Duval-Woods rebellion of 1999. It is a perfectly understandable position, but there are 104 weeks between Ryder Cups to address it. Once you don the red, white and blue, it is tacky to be talking about or thinking about the money.
Can we please get rid of the boys club and pick players that actually want to be there?! We need guys with heart and passion. Europe has that and consistently beats our higher-ranked players.@MoggerMM
Yeah, for all the talk about points lists and strokes gained stats, there is far too little attention paid to the players’ personalities. You know who would be awesome Ryder Cuppers, stats be damned? Billy Horschel, Talor Gooch, Kevin Kisner, Keegan Bradley, Sahith Theegala…dawgs. Or a passionate character like Bryson DeChambeau. Instead of a two-year qualifying criteria, maybe the U.S. team should be picked strictly by Meyers-Briggs results. Having lost 10 of the last 14 Ryder Cups, the Americans need to ditch analytics and start making picks based on anatomical parts that don’t necessarily translate to a launch monitor: heart, guts, balls.
Can we now go back to talking about LIV/PIF, the framework agreement, money, etc.? @MichaelSFuchs
Honestly, that stuff is more interesting than yet another Ryder Cup blowout! Watch this space, as the first excerpt from LIV and Let Die is dropping imminently…
In 1994, Alan wrote his first cover story for Sports Illustrated as a 21 year-old intern, and in the ensuing quarter-century he typed two dozen more. He is the author of eight books, including best-sellers Bud, Sweat & Tees; The Swinger (with Michael Bamberger); and Phil. Shipnuck has won 13 first-place awards in the annual Golf Writers Association of America writing contest, breaking the record of Dan Jenkins, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Alan lives in Carmel, Cal.