Very few are giving the American side much of a chance this week in Wisconsin. Many of the pundit’s prose resembles that of an obituary rather than a prediction. Based upon the relevant record, who can blame them? As a PGA Professional I’d like to offer up another opinion. . .
The United States will win the Ryder Cup.
This isn’t a contrarian or homer perspective, rather an argument based solely upon life rather than paper.
Ryder Cup recent history favors the fortune of Team Europe. Countless times this week in coverage we are reminded about their winning record. Nine of the last twelve and four of the last five matches have been won by the European squad. If the trend is your friend, all signs point toward a European victory once again with continued second guessing and criticism from the American side.
What if recent history didn’t dictate the outcome? The Ryder Cup is not played on paper. Forget the world rankings and PGA Tour wins because this isn’t a trophy won through stroke play. Ian Poulter’s insane look isn’t embedded into the American psyche from his major victories. The athletes did not gain their world ranking through match play and although the fans will be memorable, they certainly don’t sink the winning putt.
Every member of the United States Ryder Cup team was born between the years of 1984 and 1997. Coincidentally, most experts believe these same years define the age parameters of the millennial generation. For the US to make a paradigm shift in performance, it is going to take a generational shift in thinking. Thankfully, our secret weapon at Whistling Straits this year isn’t a world ranking, but rather a new-age athlete. One whose mindset is built from the better parts of previous generations.
Every group is defined by certain characteristics. Thankfully, the most impactful instincts of the under 40 crowd positively affect their ability to perform and succeed. Here’s a quick look at the qualities exemplified by our American squad.
There’s no doubt analytics drive performance. From Trackman to on course statistics, the modern golfer uses numbers to create wins. When Captain Stricker presents the Foursomes pairings based upon sound data driven decision making, they get it.
How will 12 individuals come together and form a team? Have you ever watched JT and Jordan on spring break?! Ten of these guys all traveled through junior golf with one another and played in school together.
They have teamed up for the Walker Cup, AJGA team events and previous professional cups. It’s tough to connect with your childhood hero in the locker room, but great to reconnect with your childhood friends.
The Ryder Cup brings about an unsettling amount of attention. These athletes have experienced this type of attention most of their lives. They are better conditioned for it than anyone else.
Even though they are extremely driven, they strongly believe in sharing in each other’s success. Remember when Rickie stood next to JT when he won the PGA Championship? Funny, I can’t recall Tiger and Phil ever standing together for that photo opportunity…
As each generation matures, they challenge the status quo. In this case that’s a necessary quality needed on our team. Combine that with a willingness to shift roles and it’s even better. The Ryder Cup uses multiple formats and none of which they practice on a routine basis. Patrick or Xander would you like to try something new? Yes, and it’s proven daily by the largest collection of professionals in the workforce.
Over 70 million Americans make up the millennial generation. Our 12 exemplify their best behaviors and that’s our secret weapon. They can completely embrace who they are, and win.
Tiger Woods only played on one winning Ryder Cup team. For 20 years he and Phil tried to lead the US side to victory. Ironically, as these two step aside our team is defined by them more than ever. From Dustin to Collin each one of them grew up with one of these two as their idol. As they tried to mirror their game, their lives developed differently.
There is no statistic that can explain why Team Europe has been so successful over the last 17 Ryder Cup matches. Therefore, I have stolen a page out of their book. Our team has come to this event with a new way of living life and that’s primarily why they’ll have the champagne bottles on Sunday.
Keith Stewart is a 5-time award-winning PGA Professional with 25 years of experience in the golf industry. His network of players, coaches and insiders provide him with a unique perspective on the game. He's a writer on PGA.com and host of the ProShow on ESPN 920 AM Friday afternoons at 3:00pm EDT. Check out his PGA Coaching articles archived here or his conversations on air with this link to his website The ProShow.