The Ryder Cup, held this year September 24-26th at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, is one of the most prestigious events in golf and also one of the most intense strategy challenges for the captains of each team. During competition, players are forced to play in team formats they don’t experience often.
Not unlike Olympic athletes, golfers are representing their country instead of just themselves in this international competition. This added pressure can be difficult for some to adapt to while others seem to thrive in this atmosphere.
For the 2021 competition coming up, half of the 12-man U.S. team is already selected based on points. The other six players are selected by the captain based on a number of factors. This year, captain Steve Stricker is emphasizing communication and youth over experience with six members of his team competing in their first Ryder Cup. This new blood was selected not just because many are arguably at the top of their games, but also to bring energy and excitement to the U.S. team.
Back in 2008, captain Paul Azinger borrowed a Navy Seal concept of creating pods of players based on personality types. His approach proved successful as the U.S. rolled to a 16 1/2 to 11 1/2 victory. Azinger was aware that the Europeans are naturally in groups based on the nationality of the players. The Ryder Cup records of Jose Maria Olazabal (18-8-5), Sergio Garcia (16-8-4) and Seve Ballesteros (20-12-5) from Spain, who were often paired together, speak for themselves.
In creating his groups, Azinger also allowed each pod to decide who would play in the alternate shot and best ball matches. This gave each team a bigger stake in the process. “They were able to really get comfortable with each other,” Azinger said. “And each man in the four-man group wanted each other to succeed.”
The rules of the matches and the formats can be confusing, so to help out those that could use a refresher course visit https://www.rydercup.com/what-is-the-rydercup