It was two years ago at Medinah when many were questioning decisions, or lack thereof, of Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III. Being in the media center that week in Chicago I was among the group of people who felt like United States players had too much say in the pairings and influence making key decisions on who played and when.
This week in Scotland the United States Captain is once again under fire as Team USA finds itself trailing 10-6 heading into the 12 singles matches. Tom Watson took a risk and it paid off on Friday, sending out two Ryder Cup Rookies in Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed in the morning four-ball session. Spieth and Reed answered the call winning in dominant fashion.
Many were surprised to see Watson not ride the wave with Spieth and Reed in the afternoon foursomes, sitting the two Rookies as the United States struggled to earn a meager 1/2 point on Friday afternoon. I was among the group who thought Watson made the right decision in resting Spieth and Reed on Friday afternoon.
The last thing Captain Watson wanted to see was for the two Rookies who were riding high hit an immediate low should they not have success on Friday afternoon. Spieth and Reed expended a lot of energy as they embraced the stress, anticipation and anxiety of teeing it up in their first Ryder Cup. The odds of the dynamic duo being able to offer a repeat performance in the afternoon was slim. In resting Spieth and Reed, Watson had a hungry and energetic team to roll out on Saturday morning in a format in which they had already proven to excel.
Now the decision I question is the treatment of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. After winning their four ball match on Friday morning, Mickelson apparently lobbied Captain Watson to stay out for the alternate shot match on Friday afternoon. Mickelson and Bradley would lose to Dubuisson and McDowell, marking their first loss as partners in the Ryder Cup. Claiming Mickelson looked tired on Friday at dinner, Watson elected to sit Mickelson and Bradley on Saturday morning in the four ball format. After Spieth and Reed dominated again in four ball, Watson elected to stick with the young guns which meant Mickelson and Bradley would sit in consecutive sessions.
Watson defended his decision claiming that Mickelson wasn’t playing well. Either he was tired or possibly the golf course set up didn’t favor Mickelson’s game. Either way, one of the United States lightning rods was put in bona fide cheerleader mode.
Watching the action on Saturday afternoon, the commentators noticed the lack of energy coming from the United States side. The looked tired, frustrated or both. Most importantly, they weren’t getting it done for the second consecutive day in foursomes competition and were in risk of letting the Ryder Cup get out of hand once again. One has to wonder what impact not having the team of Bradley and Mickelson on the golf course truly had.
Despite their struggles at times, Mickelson and Bradley always had the potential to go on a run. Their opponents knew it and so did their teammates. It’s hard to give a knock out punch when you don’t have your punching gloves on.
Instead of rolling out the pairing of Fowler and Walker, who went 18-holes for the third consecutive session, Mickelson and Bradley should have been given the opportunity to ignite Team USA.