I often get asked why the Americans can’t win the Ryder Cup anymore. The simple truth is that the U.S. team is not getting outplayed from tee to green, they just have failed to make the putts that you need in order to win. The old saying is still true: you drive for show but you putt for dough. Putting is a game within a game, and this is where the U.S. Ryder Cup team has lost its matches.
The Ryder Cup is a pressure cooker and the dials are turned all the way up when you are behind. Putting in this environment is like shooting two free throws at the end of a basketball game. If you’re down by two with eight seconds left in the game the pressure is enormous. But if your team is up by two with eight seconds to go, you need to make the shots, but the pressure is different. Most players don’t tense up as much in this second situation, and they have much better feel of the basketball when they shoot it.
When the U.S. Ryder Cup team gets behind, the players often start trying too hard, which produces tension, tightening and loss of touch of feel. This tension is going to show up the most in putting. Cranking a drive 280 yards in play under pressure is a lot easier than making an 8-foot breaking putt that requires touch, feel and trust in your intuition.
The U.S. Team made putts left and right at Brookline on the final day, and the result was the biggest come-from-behind victory in Ryder Cup history. If our guys can start having some fun on the greens and make some putts like the Europeans have the last few times, this could be a great Ryder Cup to watch. If you truly want to see how well a pro can handle the pressure, just watch how they roll the ball when the heat is on. Two of the greatest putters I have watched under pressure are Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods; maybe that’s why they have so many majors. Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Glenn Deck is director of instruction at the Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Coast, Calif.