Cup Captains: Stay Out Of The Way

DUBLIN, OHIO | It’s an old story, maybe even apocryphal by now. The frustrated coach says to the selfish superstar, “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team.’ ” To which the petulant player replies, “Ain’t no ‘we’ in ‘team,’ either.” Could be that we are outthinking ourselves with this captaining business in team competitions. As selfish as professional players are inside the ropes, trying to turn a group of strong-willed individuals into a cohesive team in one week’s time is way too hard, impractically impossible. Paul Azinger seemed to have done it at Valhalla in 2008, but he didn’t create a single, unified front. Instead, he formed the players into three military-style “pods” of four players each. As the beer commercial says, it’s not stupid if it works, but you haven’t seen any subsequent captain apply the same metrics, for whatever that’s worth. Fred Couples has been ultra-successful as the U.S. Presidents Cup captain mostly because he keeps himself so relaxed that the players almost fall asleep. Oh, and he’s had the best team by far in each of the last three matches, which makes captaining that much easier. So, when the U.S. team sallies forth to Gleneagles a year from now, maybe a different way of thinking would help the Americans wrest the Ryder Cup away from the dominant Europeans for a change. It’s said that the Americans play for their country and the Europeans play for each other. There’s a lot of truth in that, which could also mean that playing for your country comes with considerable baggage.
Stacy Lewis said at the Solheim Cup, “Playing for your country and for all the people you have to play for in this, it can be overwhelming.”


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