HAVEN, WISCONSIN | Whether it is more real or imagined, there has been a sense that Europe’s sustained success in the Ryder Cup stems not just from its players but from its captains and the culture that has been cultivated over the years.
Paul McGinley, who played on three European Ryder Cup teams, served as vice captain twice and was the man in charge when the Europeans routed the Americans at Gleneagles in 2014, knows all about it.
On the inside for parts of two decades and remaining in touch as a past captain who has helped choose future European captains, McGinley has also paid close attention to how the American approach has evolved, particularly in the aftermath of 2014 when a U.S. task force was created with the goal of adding structure to what had been a haphazard approach.
Listening to U.S. captain Steve Stricker early in the week, McGinley was struck by two themes – picking a team that best suits Whistling Straits and being heavily reliant on preparation.
“There were huge, big shifts in America, they hadn’t done it before. The first one was horses for courses. (Stricker) mentioned the golf course, the golf course, he referenced the golf course a number of times,” said McGinley, who now does golf commentary for Sky Sports.
“It’s quite clear that in 2018, they picked the best four players who weren’t on the team, but they didn’t pick the best four players who were most suited to that golf course.”
(Jim Furyk picked big hitters Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau for Le Golf National.)
“Certainly (European captain) Thomas Bjørn did, he picked (Sergio) García, he picked (Henrik) Stenson. Anybody who’s played the French Open can see, this is a golf course you don’t shoot 20-under on, I don’t care how good you are. It’s a golf course that you win generally in single figures and I don’t think America were ready for that.
“The second thing (Stricker said) was, ‘I’m not going to be out-prepared for this Ryder Cup.’ You know it’s no doubt that we were better prepared for the golf course in Paris, and it worked.”
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