Pictured: Steve Stricker, captain of U.S. for Ryder Cup
Let’s just cut to the chase. We’re frustrated by our national golf teams. On paper, they represent tour greatness; yet when they come together, they have a less than stellar collective record. The US Solheim Cup team has only won two of the last six matches. Considering that the Ryder Cup team has only won three times in the last twenty-five years, the ladies are doing great.
This feature is not meant to be negative, so pushing past the records, what can we say or do to help our countrymen and women? Based upon the amazing theatre the US and European teams gave us this weekend, I have a couple of ideas. So, I present, “Keith’s 5 Keys to Capturing the Cup!”
- Make the Golf Course Really Hard. Sounds a little crazy, but we will have 8 of the top 10 ranked players in the world on our team. The easier you make the course, the more it allows the European team to compete. We have the best players; test the two teams and our talent will win out. Here’s the good news: Whistling Straits is a Pete Dye nightmare. Pull the tees back, tuck the pins and cut our boys loose. After watching the ladies this weekend play Inverness, great design rewards great play. Since we have the greatest players week in and week out, give them an opportunity to prove it.
- Don’t Rely on the Fans. The European team won last weekend with minimal fan support. You must expect the same ratio of fan support at Whistling Straits. The Euros love being the underdog. Watch as they use the travel restrictions and limited fan support opportunities to their mental advantage. When they do, don’t be surprised. Rather, treat the situation as a level playing field. Prepare as if you’re playing last summer and there were no fans. Work as a team to support one another and make sure they provide moral support. With multiple Vice Captains and players sitting out, you can put a motivator with each match the first two days. This will be Europe’s biggest mental edge. Accept it, embrace it and then use the same fuel to carry us to victory.
- Speak Softly and Carry… It’s tough listening to Paul Azinger every week of NBC golf coverage, but Ryder Cup week gives me that mentality all day. The best coaches in all of sports share a common communication characteristic- they don’t talk much, and when they do, it counts. Don’t give in to the media Captain Steve, give the best candor to your team. Style filters down, and when a coach or leader exemplifies a certain “walk,” their players follow their lead. Stricker is a fantastic human being. He should take that wonderful human nature instinct he has and use it to drive performance. His ability to be approachable for two decades on tour proves he can read others and react. Take that respect he’s earned and motivate them past the pressure of the moment.
- No Excuses, No Buts, Just Putt. Putts aren’t made on emotion alone. I bet Ian Poulter has moved every Ferrari out of his garage and created a secret practice putting chamber. That’s the mentality we need when it comes to rolling the rock. Our players are very well-rounded. The most skilled in the world at playing golf. From now until the matches begin, they need to start sleeping with their putters. Not kidding. If putting is what wins team matches, then our players need to break down some barriers and work together to putt their best. Steve Stricker was Tiger’s first go-to for putting questions. Morikawa: call Cantlay. Work together and make each other better. This moment is bigger than any ONE player. Putting is the perfect opportunity to bring the team together and practice a skill that will directly lead to winning.
- Be A Goldfish. Pop-culture teaches us so many lessons. Jon Rahm recently quoted the show Ted Lasso in a press conference. He conveyed Coach Lasso’s comment to a player about becoming a goldfish. Why a goldfish? A goldfish is the happiest animal on the planet because it only has a ten second memory. Our team needs a short memory. There will be a million reminders about past Ryder Cup performances mentioned. Our greatest asset in these matches might just be that we have six rookies! They haven’t been scarred before. Mind you, they aren’t rookies either. They are multiple major winners, FedEx Cup champions, and gold medalists. Rahm must know what he’s saying; his performance has led him to being #1 in the world. Based upon the rollercoaster season he has had, that guy’s ability to put things behind him would make a goldfish jealous.
None of this is exactly earth-shattering news, and in fact, each point carries weight. One or two of them would really help our cause, but if you combine all five, our team will win. The world has been waiting three years since the last Ryder Cup and five since it was contested on American soil. The pent-up emotion is percolating worldwide like a viral TikTok video.
Captain Stricker: We all wish you and your team the best of luck. Above all else, in the team clubhouse, throw out the ping pong table and replace it with a putting course. Let’s get the Cup by filling the cup. Go Team USA!!
Catch Keith and Adam talk more about the Ryder Cup, and more about these five key points on this week’s Stick & Hack Reacts!
Keith Stewart is a PGA Professional and storyteller. He has built a unique marketplace perspective through two decades in the golf industry. As a professional, he has worked at many prestigious clubs on the east coast, most notably, Isleworth Country Club from 1998 to 2003, home to Tiger Woods at the time. Currently, Keith uses his talent as the host of the ProShow on ESPN radio across the New York City market. His expertise in the industry blended with a comedic pop-culture filter entertains his listeners. He's a 5-time award winning PGA Professional who brings credibility to any discussion covering the world of sports. Keith resides in Hopewell, NJ with his wife Laurie and their two kids Owen and Abbey. He's a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA and an avid golfer.