The Pummeling in Paris: 14 observations from the 2018 Ryder Cup
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The Pummeling in Paris: 14 observations from the 2018 Ryder Cup

The 17.5-10.5 final tally from Paris was frankly a generous reading of how it went at Le Golf National for the Jim Furyk-led American side. Despite a 12-man roster featuring nearly half of the world top 25 heading into the week, the US team was unable to break a quarter-century-long winless skid playing on European soil.

Unlike the road games in recent memory, the Americans seem to lack an extra-golf excuse for the loss. (In 2006, it was for Darren Clarke. In 2010, the US side could blame the rain, the leaky rainsuits and all kinds of other interpersonal issues. In 2014, the blame, fairly or not, was laid at the supposedly dictatorial captain Tom Watson, charged with becoming the guy to end a skid that began after his 1993 run.)

They US was flat outplayed.

However, there's so much more under the surface of a blowout result. Here are 14 takeaways (14 points are required for the defending champions to retain their trophy) from this 2018 Ryder Cup.

  1. Jim Furyk wasn't a genius, but this can't be laid at his feet. Furyk did his best with a lineup of highly-ranked but mostly out-of-form players, while trying to cater to the desires of his best players and limiting the exposure of his weakest charges. By midweek, it was clear Furyk was struggling to find foursomes that could keep the US' collective heads above water in a format they simply don't process well. Breaking up Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed may have made Spieth happy to play with US all-star Justin Thomas, but it appeared to leave Reed wandering and without an obvious partner.
  2. Webb Simpson was a star this week. Webb Simpson played three matches this week, and he got two points, including beating recent world No. 1 Justin Rose in a Sunday smasher. Simpson should have seen more action, especially considering Simpson's only two-man experience came with an under-the-weather Bubba Watson in foursomes. Simpson and Watson are world-class players, but they're strung together like they're twins. Simpson deserved a chance to play fourball as a safer bet on his own ball to balance out the likes of Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler. Simpson was a huge hit on American-biased social media, and he's officially out of the doghouse for whatever texting voodoo he performed in 2014 to bewilderingly land one of Tom Watson's three captain's picks.
  3. Tony Finau probably should have played more. Finau was 6 under in his 14 holes played against Tommy Fleetwood on Sunday. Fleetwood wasn't at his best, and he appeared somewhat out of gas after going 4-0 with Francesco Molinari in this first two days. However, Finau would have won his match even if Fleetwood, who played 14 holes in even par on Sunday, had scored better. Furyk clearly saw Finau was ranked 180th this season on the PGA Tour in fairways hit and figured the rookie wouldn't handle the tighter Le Golf National setup well. But remember, PGA Tour golf -- where bomb and gouge is not only accepted but encouraged -- is not the Ryder Cup.
  4. Tiger Woods stinks in the Ryder Cup. In 84 combined career Ryder Cup matches, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have earned 36 points, going 31-43-10. That's horrible. Woods hasn't scored a whole point in his last two Ryder Cup appearances, ceding a win-clinching half-point to Molinari in the anchor match at Medinah in 2012. Otherwise, he'd have 0 points in his last two appearances.
  5. Phil Mickelson, who also stinks in the Ryder Cup, is built for one Ryder Cup format. For Mickelson, the only format where he's not, at-best, a 50-50 proposition is in fourballs. What did Jim Furyk choose to do with Mickelson in the first two days? One match of foursomes, where he is a disaster. It's unlikely we see Mickelson on the road again in 2022 unless he gets a transfusion of some Raymond Floyd blood. Woods could make the 2020 team on points, and he could deservedly get the Phil treatment at Whistling Straits.
  6. Le Golf National is an architectural nightmare. Le Golf National is not a good golf course. It is an abomination for playability. However, it worked as a perfect antidote to American power. The course was set up with modest fairway widths, all drawing attention to the aqua lurking at seemingly every dogleg and blind turn. The greens were country-club speed so as to magnify poor approach play on the deep putting surfaces. It was basically your typical European Tour setup, with longer-than-usual rough. There's a reason many Europeans struggle to adjust to American pro golf, and it goes both ways.
  7. Whistling Straits feels like it could be a quagmire. Le Golf National felt like a Pete Dye course on steroids, and these Americans don't typically barnstorm The Players every year. Guess who designed the 2020 Ryder Cup host, Whistling Straits? That's right. While the Straits course features much less water than Le Golf National, it's a Dye original and has all the trappings of his courses: visual intimidation, small targets and a tricky finish. The good news is it will play much wider than LGN, and it'll play much longer, giving Americans room to pound driver.
  8. Europe has trusted hands; the US is still searching for theirs. Among American Ryder Cup players to made their debut in 1993 (the last US road win) or later, only four of them (Mickelson, Woods, Furyk, Love III) have more than 10 career points. Europe has nine, and only Padraig Harrington has an overall losing record. The four leading Americans have losing records, going a combined 50-75-19. The US has gone more than a generation without a true stopper. Europe resurrected two this week in Sergio Garcia, who became the all-time Ryder Cup points leader, and Ian Poulter, who was basically dead to the world in 2016. Henrik Stenson went 3-0. And they may have found two new ones in Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari.
  9. There are real nerves in the Ryder Cup. Brooks Koepka won two majors this year, and he showed almost no emotion in securing his spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame. However, with a wedge in hand on the 18th hole against Paul Casey on Sunday, Koepka pulled his approach shot into a bunker. Koepka saved the halve, but it's hard to imagine Koepka didn't feel a pressure he didn't quite feel at Shinnecock Hills or Bellerive.
  10. Justin Thomas is the new Captain America. If this week was any indication, Justin Thomas could be the foundation of the American team for 20 years. He went 4-1-0 this week, including often carrying Spieth to a 3-1 record in the first two days. Like Koepka, Thomas doesn't quite get the respect he deserves from broader golf. Hopefully this week opened some eyes.
  11. Jordan Spieth just cannot figure out singles matches. Spieth was smoked by Thorbjorn Olesen -- who played one match until Sunday -- in their singles match by a 5-and-4 count. He remains winless in singles in the Ryder and Presidents Cups. For a guy who is a generational talent at grinding out difficult situations, Spieth can't seem to solve the puzzle in the final day of team matches. Perhaps the answer is not playing Spieth all five matches. He's played 14 of a possible 15 sessions in three Ryder Cup appearances, and 14 of a possible 15 in three Presidents Cup appearances. Maybe let him have a breather.
  12. Dustin Johnson didn't have it this week. The world No. 1, who took over from Justin Rose after the Tour Championship, went 1-4 this week. He went 1-2 with Rickie Fowler, and then he lost in Saturday foursomes when Jim Furyk tried to resurrect the Bash Brothers with Brooks Koepka. Looking at a point against Ian Poulter and the prospect of keeping the very remote US comeback hopes alive, he fell apart, losing four of the final six holes.
  13. The whole European Tour is behind the Ryder Cup. From top to bottom, the European Tour, its players and it staff support the Ryder Cup whole-heartedly. That's in part because it funds a large portion of their operations. A number of European Tour players -- winners, in fact -- came as guests of the tour to experience the scene first-hand in the event they'll make future teams. Romain Langasque, who won on the Challenge Tour last week, was inside the ropes helping out this week.
  14. Thomas Bjorn nailed it with his captain's picks. For the first time in my lifetime, I thought the American captain had perfectly nailed the captain's picks. How could Jim Furyk not pick Woods, DeChambeau and Finau? They were playing great. Mickelson got a legend pick; and a legend is entitled to one. But Bjorn seemed like he was whiffing when he favored experience with Paul Casey (though the Euro Tour changed their membership rules to convince him to try to qualify again), Henrik Stenson (who has been injured on and off this year), Ian Poulter (who should be picked until he dies) and Sergio Garcia (who missed the cut in all four majors this year). Bjorn's picks earned 9.5 total points. Furyk's? Two.
  15. The Ryder Cup is the best event in sports. The Ryder Cup has it all down pat. It's three days, and each day isn't a 16-hour experience. It's every other year, with the Presidents Cup most pointedly reminding fans the Ryder Cup is the next year. The three formats allow both sides to flex their talents. The captains are meaningful, but the players decide the winners. The only thing to work on? Shortening up that opening ceremony. Woof.

About the author


Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]

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