SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Team Europe needs to re-organise and regenerate

SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: Team Europe needs to totally re-organise and regenerate, the Americans are only going to get better… the captain has to pick all 12 players from now on!

  • Team Europe captains should be able to pick all 12 players in the future 
  • There needs to be reorganisation like when Tony Jacklin took over a losing squad
  • Europe needs to make changes because the Americans will only get better 

The three incredible days of golf we witnessed from the USA at Whistling Straits represents a seismic shift in the dynamic of the Ryder Cup.

Europe have to make radical changes to stay competitive because the Americans are only going to get better. You really felt that this was payback time plus for the Americans.

I spent the weekend at St Andrews with seven friends — golf all morning then supporting Europe all afternoon and evening — and we were unanimous. Europe needs to totally re-organise and regenerate, start taking the lead again as they did when Tony Jacklin first took over a losing squad and shook it up.

Europe have to make radical changes to stay competitive because the Americans are only going to get better

This was rather emphasised at the bar on Saturday evening at the beautiful Kingsbarns course when I got talking to an American golfer who was trying very hard to be magnanimous and not gloat — and this even before the singles.

‘What can Europe do?’ I asked.

‘Stop picking on nostalgia and sentiment, pick the best 12 matchplay golfers in Europe,’ came his quickfire reply.

Ouch! But how right he was. From the outside looking in there are four things I would immediately do to improve our chances and that should only be the start.

Firstly, stop this Buggins’ turn scenario over who captains the team. Ridiculous. Find the best captain of any given era and stick with him until his reign runs a natural course or that individual can’t make such a commitment any more.

Europe needs to totally re-organise and regenerate, as they did when Tony Jacklin first took over a losing squad and shook it up

Jacklin served as captain four times but now we have a queue of vice captains jostling for position behind the incumbent every two years. I would imagine that as a player it could be unsettling and it also smacks of an old boys’ club mentality which has no place in professional sport.

Until it all came crashing down at the weekend Europe could argue that the system had served them well but that would be to ignore the fact that the Ryder Cup that we all love shifted on its axis at Whistling Straits. It will never be the same again. We have to react now, not a few years down the line.

Listening to Paul McGinley’s punditry and authority on Sky Sports over the years makes me question why we can’t employ him as captain again, while I am sure Bernard Langer would do an equally smart and clever job.

That is not to criticise Padraig Harrington, who got a bit of a hospital pass with this delayed Ryder Cup away to possibly the best ever American team.

It is the system that needs overhauling.

If I was serious about finding a way to beat this USA team I would be banging very hard on McGinley’s door .

Former Europe captain Paul McGinley would do a good job if he was employed again

Secondly, talking of the system, why does Europe continue to base its selection on the top nine rated players in stroke play and three captain’s picks?

Stroke play shows you are an accomplished golfer over a given period of time but has little relation to your ability as a matchplay golfer. Some will obviously cross over but some struggle badly.

I note that US captain Steve Stricker demanded six picks when he accepted the job, quoting the Covid disruption as making it necessary but actually I would allow future European captains to pick all 12 players, just as the boss of any sports team in the world does.

You can have pecking orders, player rankings and player stats until the cows come home but nothing changes the importance of selecting the correct 12 players who are right mentally and physically for the job in hand on a given weekend. Current form does count as the Americans showed us over the weekend.

US captain Steve Stricker demanded six picks when he accepted the job but I would allow future European captains to pick all 12 players

Thirdly, as part of the above I would start paying a little less attention to the notion that certain players are still great for team spirit and morale, huge influences in the team room, etc, if they don’t produce the goods.

I have no doubt there was a great spirit among the Europe team, but they got thrashed nonetheless.

The best thing for Ryder Cup morale is a player who regularly chips in with his share of points, with various partners and on his own. 

It is said that Bryson DeChambeau is not the flavour of the month among some American players — well what does it matter if he delivers as he did last weekend? That is the ultimate way of showing you are a team man.

Bryson DeChambeau is not the flavour of the month among some American players but that does not matter when he plays as well as he did

My fourth and final point: we need slightly less focus on wives and partners. Now I say that as somebody who argued successfully with the RFU for those behind us coaches and players to be recognised, appreciated and included in travel plans. Players need to be treated as adults at all times… but it also needs to be handled correctly.

It needs to be quiet and unseen, behind the scenes, and with the next Ryder Cup in glamorous Rome somebody needs to keep an eye on this. 

It is a golf competition — the greatest of all in my book — and all the focus and efforts for a week need to be on golf.

No distractions whatsoever.




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