- Donald and Johnson were keen to make the Ryder Cup all about their players
- The leaders of Europe and the United States have talked a lot without saying much
- Their leadership is less about emotion and more about the “obsessed herd” of analysts
Luke Donald and Zach Johnson, the Ryder Cup captains in Europe and the USA, talked a lot this week without saying much. This is not a criticism. In fact, it’s meant as a compliment.
It’s just their style. Johnson seems like a man terrified that he might say something interesting in public. Donald shows the satisfaction of a man who knows that will never happen.
They are determined that the Ryder Cup will not be about them but about their players. Center stage is not their natural habitat. “I don’t think you need loud voices,” Donald said Tuesday morning. “Sometimes, words don’t need to be said.”
In a competition where the preamble is reserved for displays of conspicuous consumption and extravagant wealth and where the slogan should be “more is more,” Donald’s dedication to minimal expression makes a welcome contrast.
Amid this excess, Johnson’s relentless modesty in Iowa seems like a nice antidote to the loudness everywhere.
“I’ve never even heard of it,” Johnson said after winning the Masters in 2007. “My boring, mundane, studious approach to golf sometimes works. Boring works. I like to play what I call action golf. Emotion doesn’t get the best of me.”
So this will be the Ryder Cup with the quiet American and his English counterpart taking over. Their captaincy, their distrust of the limelight, their obsessive attention to detail and their shared reticence would be a great alternative to the forced abandon that has become a feature of this event.
There have been previous editions of the Ryder Cup dominated by character leaders, but this won’t be another one. In some Ryder Cups, captains were the leading men, not necessarily for their teams.
At the 2004 event in the Oakland Hills, outside Detroit, many were convinced that the United States was headed toward disaster even before the ball was hit, just by hearing Hal Sutton Jr.’s speech at the opening ceremony.
The American Captain thanked his fourth wife, Ashley, who was sitting near him because she had given him three children. Ashley managed to make Rictus smile and held up four fingers to remind him of how many children he already had. Sutton’s leadership went downhill from there.
Sutton — nicknamed Halimoni — spent the weekend cruising around in his golf cart wearing a cowboy hat. His decision to pair Tiger Woods with Phil Mickelson, in the morning and afternoon sessions on Day 1, marked one of the worst moves in Ryder Cup history. Europe achieved a record victory outside its homeland.
Four years later, Nick Faldo has proven that great players don’t necessarily make great leaders. Once again, it seemed as if the dice had been cast at the opening ceremony when Faldo delivered a speech that revealed a lack of thought and preparation.
He referred to Søren Hansen as Søren Stenson, was confused as to whether Graeme McDowell had come from Northern Ireland or the Republic and made a series of awkward jokes that fell flat.
When a photographer captured his expected pairings on his notepad, earlier in the prep, Faldo claimed it was a sandwich order.
There is more. If Faldo got Søren Hansen’s name wrong, Corey Pavin did better by completely forgetting to introduce Stuart Cink before the US’ defeat to Celtic Manor in 2010. Tom Watson, the US captain in 2014, was torn to shreds by Mickelson at some point after the match. A competition press conference at Gleneagles where they sat on the same podium.
And if there is one captain who inspires by the force of his personality, it is Seve Ballesteros, who micromanaged Europe’s famous win at Valderrama to an insane degree and gave the impression that he was on the verge of taking over a club of his players at any moment. moment and shoots himself.
Interestingly, the image of Ballesteros, the epitome of passion and charisma, is ubiquitous in the European team room at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club. His image will be the last thing players see before going out to play, next to a banner that says “Forever in our hearts.”
“Seve is our ultimate symbol of what makes a great European player,” Donald said in his video tour of the squad room posted on social media earlier in the week. His spirit, enthusiasm and spirit will be with us all the way. In our hearts forever.’
But if Donald Ballesteros is so highly respected as a player, he and Johnson will take a very different approach to the Spaniard as captains. Their leadership will be less tied to emotion and more tied to the “obsessed herd” of analysts who help make their decisions.
Their style will be less Ballesteros’, and more Bernhard Langer’s, Hal Sutton’s exacting enemy in the Oakland Hills. It was no surprise that both Johnson, who has spoken often about how his religious faith has strengthened him, and Donald, both delivered humble, thoughtful and intelligent speeches at Thursday’s opening ceremony. There are no missteps and no premonitions of the impending doom of one side or the other.
Johnson even briefly deviated from this non-kinetic approach when he looked like he was on the verge of tears as he paid tribute to his childhood golf coach, right here in Italy.
Donald scored an early win for diplomacy by delivering the opening lines of his speech in Italian and thanking his comrades.
Now, at least, the talk can stop, the action can start and the two quiet men of the 44th Ryder Cup can vacate the pole position.
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