Golf Australia

CLAYTON: Ryder rebels without a cause

Tiger Woods

So the Europeans won the Ryder Cup on home soil again.

It ought not be a surprise since the most recent time they lost at home was in 1993 at the Belfry – and even then it was only barely.

This was supposed to be a great American team (an oxymoron perhaps?) but, aside from Justin Thomas, they barely turned up.

Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson contributed a single point between them and Masters champion Patrick Reed just another.

On paper they looked almost unbeatable, but amidst the narrow fairways, high rough and a course not conducive to being overwhelmed by power, they were helpless.

In contrast, the brilliant pairing of Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood won all four of their team matches and Molinari cleaned up Mickelson in the singles.

The American’s likely final shot in the Ryder Cup was a pulled-hooked six-iron into the water right of the par-three 16th green. It was a sad shot reminiscent of Greg Norman’s fateful six-iron into the pond left of the 16th green at Augusta in the 1996 Masters.

The revival of the Ryder Cup, a moribund event for decades, was led by Severiano Ballesteros, an uncommonly proud man, a brilliant player and one committed to proving his European Tour was much more than a second-rate imitation of its American counterpart.

The Spaniard understood how to make his men feel like the best players in the world and each time he rallied them around his cause. Before long it was their cause and it remains so almost four decades after he first played at The Greenbrier in 1979.

In stark contrast is the great Tiger Woods. America with Woods and Mickelson in the team have won one and lost seven Ryder Cups and that is surely more than coincidence.

It seems while Seve inspired his partners to the heights, all Woods does is to intimidate his. Patrick Reed was truly awful in the two matches they played together and when Tiger switched to Bryson DeChambeau for the Saturday foursomes, Molinari and Fleetwood cleaned them up on the 14th green.

Tiger, unlike Ballesteros, has no cause at the Ryder Cup and it mostly looks like it. America has no cause because their players assume the tour they represent is the best in the world. It is – but the Europeans love kicking sand in their faces and showing off just how they have caught up. No longer are the Americans universally accepted as being the best players in the world as they were in 1979 when Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Lee Trevino still ruled golf.

Much has been made of the course and how its extraordinarily penal arrangement of narrow fairways, high rough and fake water-lined holes based on the horrible precedent set by American 1970s golf architecture aided the home players.

It’s true it blunted the power advantage of men like Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Thomas and Tony Finau and it inspired comment from many including David Leadbetter and Sam Torrance that here was the way to address the problem of the modern ball flying too far and obsoleting so many of the world’s great courses. Obsoleting them if the measure is how their architects saw them playing both in terms of clubs hit into greens and width of fairways.

It is purely penal golf and the ‘penal school’ was a phase of golf replaced by the ‘strategic’ in the 1920s when Alister MacKenzie and his brilliant contemporaries articulated the argument the idea of simply punishing the bad shot was one leading golf down the road of irrelevance because the supporters of the penal arrangement failed to understand the game as played for fun and the setting of interesting and perplexing questions was important if it was to become an enduringly popular game.

MacKenzie, better than anyone, understood the importance of space, width and options from the tee – and the proof of his wisdom is his courses at Augusta, Cypress Point, Crystal Downs and Royal Melbourne are still recognised as being among the greatest dozen or so in the game.

The course in Paris was set to test, but it would be a huge mistake for golf to assume this is the answer to the problem of the ball flying too far at the top level of the game.

In little more than a year from now we will watch the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne. The golf this course will ask for will be in stark contrast to Paris. The fairways are wide and narrowing them is a ridiculous notion ruining the time-proven concept of MacKenzie. The greens will be hard, hopefully sensibly fast but not preposterously so and the Americans will again be the clear favourites.

It’s now Ernie Els’ job to rally his team to the cause, just as Ballesteros did all those years ago.


Posted by Ian McKenzie at
29/10/2018 08:48 PM
As I keep saying to people who bother to listen, it is only the professional game that has the problem of courses being "obsolete". For the other 99.9% of golfers, the courses are just fine. If the courses are not suitable for the pros, well perhaps they should build their own. I just don't understand why golf clubs should chop up their courses for that professional tournament that comes around once every blue moon. Really, it is not an issue.
Posted by Martin Gallagher at
25/10/2018 03:59 PM
Perhaps if "The Spirit of St. Andrews" written by the good Doctor McKenzie was read more widely by course designers and players we might just stand a chance of saving our game from the "Bombers". Recommended reading to all Golfers.
Posted by Paul Brennan at
18/10/2018 04:01 AM
Hi...bit late to chat..but looking at recent appearances on the European tour.. or is that the lack of appearances, of the top golfers from europe... as they continually migrate to the US $$ and more ranking points.. .. which btw who have a poor strike rate.. except Rose.. so is a tight golf course that significant.. prob not. Even when europeans mainly played in europe they said it was the closeness of the players week -to-week ..hotel-to-hotel .. etc ..made them bond .. but i think its down to just wanting to beat the yanks... but its forgot about almost immediately in the 2 weeks after... the course was excellent for matchplay eg a par 3 halved in 6 by these top golfers... also with 15 16 17 v testing helped... the 18th never really came into all week .. no surprise in matchplay. .
Posted by Trevor Duus at
05/10/2018 08:59 AM
Great too see Phil Michelson back in his comfort Zone on one of those resort courses with inch high rough and bunkers better than the average fairway.Hit Two out of eight fairways and makes five straight birdies!What a joke!!!👎
Posted by Paul Russell at
03/10/2018 08:21 PM
It was refreshing to see irons hit off tight par 4 holes and manufacturing birdies the USA ran out of ideas of playing this type of course too used to drive and pitch courses
Posted by Alex at
03/10/2018 07:14 PM
Good summary Mr Clayton. There is also the issue that many US players seem to struggle with a team match and rarely play a safe option when a partner is in trouble. I think many people miss the point of the golden-era wide fairways approach, where there is still an easier line into the green and a penal line if you're in a poor position off the tee. But the modern ball (mostly) means drives so close to the green that high wedges can eliminate most of the green's defences. The R&A and USGA are going to continue to provide 'science' and 'data' to prove there is no issue with the ball. But I'm late 40's and can hit past the back of the practice range with an old steel-shaft persimmon 1 wood. I couldn't do that with the same club in 1990.. if it isn't the ball, maybe it's my new shoes?
Posted by morris raphael at
03/10/2018 07:13 PM
Bob you are correct...I remember your golfing days.But will the PGA do anything?
Posted by Bob Brown at
03/10/2018 02:35 PM
Sorry Mike - but you are wrong about width and distance. But I understand as most ex-Pros these days have the same view - except for those from the 80s and before. The R&A is doing a survey about 'distance' and the response will be clear - it is ruining the game. That the number 1 player in the world changes his putter and putting grip so often, shows how bad it has become. DJ can smash it in USA and knows 9/10 times he can then use his wedge. But he cant putt and he cant chip (like an old Pro), but when you are on the green 9/10 you are going to make a few. Same for Rory, except his chipping is very good. No - there is a problem Mike - but rather than just redo the golf courses, I think they should also adress the ball that the Pros use. Set a design limit for use in Pro tournaments, so that if you smash it it wont go over 300 yards, and spin rate it so that if you slice/hook it the ball will be lost. Put the balance back in favour of the skillful guys who can 'work' a ball that will punish you if you hit it wrong. I have no sympathy for those bomber athletes that will be pushed out of the Pro game - they did the same starting back in the 90s. I once had a dinner with Billy Dunk (yes I am that old) and he predicted exctly what did happen, and that the Yanks were going to be the problem (he didnt like their bigger ball either). Golkf will become like Tennis unless it is changed - mainly boring dumb athletes who can drive it 400 and hit it 200 with a wedge. Bunkers were designed to be a penalty - modern Pros now use them. They do the same with most of the courses they play on - they dont play it - they abuse it.
Posted by John evans at
02/10/2018 08:08 PM
Going to be harder to convince club committees of the efficacy of width and strategy. Lets hope the spectacle does not derail the new golden age
Posted by Johnno at
02/10/2018 05:57 PM
I agree with the theory of 'wide' golf but this is really more suitable for club players. With wide courses, the big boys just belt driver knowing they have more room for error. There has to be some penalty for hitting 40m off line. I don't mind seeing the pros struggling because for most people, golf is a struggle. What I can't relate to is 24 under par. If the fairways were 50m wide, it means that you are just playing into the hands of the sloggers. Bomb and gouge just becomes Bomb and perfect lie. Tighter courses, (with rough and bunkers, not trees) reward the accurate.
Posted by Douglas Stewart at
02/10/2018 05:51 PM
Hi Mike, Yes totally agree the performance of the American players was a little bewildering.Yes golf is played for fun,it’s a leveller,it’s a test ,I thought the game was played against yourself and the course designer as to achieve par or better.I think the USA let themselves down and were out smarted by Europe in a tactical Sevey way . Doug
Posted by Alexander Simpson at
02/10/2018 03:57 PM
I have the book written by Stan Byrd on how Alister Mackenzie along with the legendary Bobby Jones designed Augusta National Golf Course. Jones hit drives, then 2nd shots to the designers planned greens. No bunkers just humps and hollows. Golf as it was meant to be.
Posted by Don Ryan at
02/10/2018 03:01 PM
serve their bloody right. Can't handle it without their loud mouth supporters like in America. you bloody beauty. Arsehole yanks.

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