After watching Team Europe run a clinic on how to play team golf at the Ryder Cup, it wouldn’t hurt for Team USA to take a few pointers from the Lincoln Park Golf Club.
The Leader Has To Inspire The Team
Jim Furyk never seemed convincing enough to make you believe that he had a winning strategy. Through many interviews and press conferences, it never appeared that Furyk had any tricks up his sleeve.
Our leader, Naoto De Silva, knows how to get the most out his team and his membership. At the NCGA Team Zone Championships, we knew there was a plan. We trusted the plan. We knew that our potential outcome was optimized from the start. Whether we won or not, we knew we were set up to potentially maximize the production of our components. On a weekly basis, our leader displays control, organization, and authenticity. Captain Furyk could have done a better job at optimizing pairings, and making us all believe in his strategy.
Keep The Ball In Play (Often At All Costs)
It was no secret that the host golf course was “USA-proofed”, by creating severe penalties for misfired tee shots. Team USA was neutralized. The Par 5’s were reachable for the entire field, which took away from the USA distance advantage. The Par 4’s would not yield birdies unless the tee shot found the fairway. And the Par 3’s required precision.
Here at Lincoln Park, there is a premium on keeping your tee shot in strategically advantageous positions. Holes 1, 4 and 14 at Lincoln are great examples of strategic play from the tee. On Day 2 of Four-Ball play, we watched a number of Americans hit long irons and fairway woods into the water hazard left, or deep rough right. Playing from behind early caused ill-advised play for the Americans, and they paid the price for it.
It’s no surprise that the Saturday morning atmosphere at Lincoln Park is friendly and easy-going. I rarely saw two American players communicating with one another during the Ryder Cup on the driving range or putting green. The player I saw most involved with off course communication was David Duval. At the amateur level, golf for most, is a social experience with competitive aspects. At the professional level, golf is a competitive experience with social aspects. At the Ryder Cup, trust, belief, and admiration for one another is nothing short of a recipe for success. I bet Tommy and Frankie would agree. I witnessed Bubba Watson hand the ball to Webb Simpson as he walked off a putting green in alternate shot, thinking it was Webb’s tee shot. It was Bubba’s tee shot. Do you think Webb had any belief in Bubba from that point on? At Lincoln Park, at the social level, at least our head’s are in the game. Ask Jeff Park, or Rick Walczak, or Mike Han. Their head’s are in the game. Communication is the foundation of any club or team that’s worth their weight in ball markers.
Risky Pairings are Risky for a Reason
Let’s be honest, people enjoy playing with certain people more than others. At the end of the day, we know who brings out the best in us. We know who causes us to feel unnecessary stress. There’s nothing wrong with a safe bet. A player wants to feel mentally happy, stress-free, and unburdened at the beginning of every round. Playing with Phil Mickelson in Foursomes could not have been a peaceful place to start a Ryder Cup round. At Lincoln Park, there isn’t enough credit in the world to give to the effort that goes into “keeping everyone happy”. Captain Furyk played the numbers. Captain Bjorn played the personalities. Team Europe mixed and matched based on universal chemistry. Lincoln Park is able to accomplish that same level of universal chemistry.
Slow Greens Aren’t Bad Greens
In European fashion, additional strategy was used with green speeds. The Europeans looked far more comfortable on the slower greens (see: any lag putt by Molinari) than Dustin Johnson, and Patrick Reed and most of the Americans. Our greens at Lincoln are slow, but they are exciting, challenging, and are tameable. The Americans looked consistently frustrated and never truly embraced the greens in Paris. The greens at Lincoln Park have been embraced by the membership. We are proud of our knowledge, of our authenticity, and of our terrain. Team USA was never in the right frame of mind, for the most part, to bounce back with any sort of tenacity. It’s how you roll with the punches that determines your next step.
See you at Whistling Straits, Team USA.