The European captaincy of the 2010 Ryder Cup team might be the most controversial vacancy since the Del Boca Vista condo board presidency. Will it be Jose-Maria Olazabal or Colin Montgomerie?
Who does Sergio want? Why does Sandy Lyle keep getting snubbed? Does
the captain need to be under 50 so he can friend younger players on Facebook? If Monty is captain, will he use a captain's pick on himself?
Fascinating stuff, especially since the PGA
Tour season is three weeks old and we've yet to have a sighting of the
Top 4 players in the world. Here's the thing, though: it only matters to the
small group of wealthy middle-aged European men who are eligible to be
captain. Whoever gets the job will have no
impact on Europe's chances in Wales in 2010.
isn't the NFL, where coaches like Bill Belichick use players like chess pieces. It's the players who win Ryder Cups, and it's the
players that lose them. "The captain stuff gets overplayed a little
bit," Stewart Cink told me this past summer in a typical understatement. For all the praise heaped on Paul Azinger for leading the U.S. to victory last fall, not to mention the scorn directed at losing captain Nick Faldo, neither guy hit a single shot at Valhalla.
The captain's duties--course setup, pairings, captain's picks--are either obvious to
anyone who's spent his life in the game (like a baseball manager
knowing when to hit and run) or a matter of luck. You can't really know
who's going to play well in a tournament, so second-guessing a captain's
pick or a pairing is the worst sort of Monday-morning quarterbacking.
Poor Hal Sutton got roasted for putting Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson together in Oakland Hills in 2004, but shouldn't Tiger and Phil get the blame for losing their match?
The main argument for the captain's importance rests on the concept of team chemistry, like the fire Seve Ballesteros brought to Europe as captain in 1997 at Valderrama or the pods Azinger created at Valhalla. (Down-home Kentucky guys like J.B. Holmes and Kenny Perry were grouped with the similarly minded Jim Furyk and Boo Weekley, while big egos like Anthony Kim and Phil Mickelson hung together in a different group.) Both men definitely added drama to the event, but I'm sure they'd both
say that chemistry worked best when their guys were making putts.
Europe needs to get some perspective about its choice of captain. What makes
the Ryder Cup special is its sportsmanship. The captaincy should award
someone who contributed greatly to Ryder Cups in the past, and it should be one-and-done, no matter how well the captain's team played. Team USA got
it right by picking Corey Pavin because it was Pavin's turn. Team Europe's bizarre
palace intrigue is unworthy of the event. The way they're going about it now, they're probably going to ask Belichick next.
In short, pick a captain already. Please?