Who will lead the U.S. Ryder Cup team at Hazeltine?

While U.S. golf fans continue to debate and lament the American Ryder Cup team’s Sunday collapse at Medinah, that’s already old news to the PGA of America, which has turned its attention to the 2014 Ryder Cup matches at Gleneagles in Scotland. Early word is that David Toms is the front-runner to be the U.S. team captain two years from now.
Who, then would be the likeliest choice in 2016 when the Ryder Cup comes to Hazeltine? If past form holds, there are two equally likely possibilities: Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk. Every American captain since the turn of the century has ranged between 46 and 50 years old. Mickelson and Furyk will both be 46, with no other likely candidates in the same age range. U.S. Ryder Cup captains have won an average of 13.8 PGA Tour events; Mickelson has won 40, while Furyk has won 16.
Major championships help a player become a Ryder Cup captain, but multiple majors don’t appear to be necessary. The last five U.S. captains have one major each, as does Toms. Furyk also has one (the 2003 U.S. Open), while Mickelson has four (2004, 2006 and 2010 Masters, and 2005 PGA).
As competitive resumes go, Furyk’s is good, but Mickelson’s is superb. That might not make the difference, however; the PGA of America will be looking for someone who embraces the two years of planning, promotion and hard work that comes with captaincy, demonstrates a passion for the event and commands the respect and affection of the players. No one can predict right now how the PGA of America will sift all these factors to select its Hazeltine captain, but from a fan’s perspective, the choice is clear: Lefty by a mile.
The bad taste that will linger the longest from the debacle at Medinah was Furyk bogeying the final two holes of his match with Sergio Garcia to gift-wrap the Cup to the Euros. Others faltered, as well, but no American golf fan will forget watching Furyk endlessly line up, back off, re-read, over-analyze and ultimately miss potential hole-halving putts on the 17th and 18th holes on Sunday. Watching him slowly deliberate is excruciating, and frankly bad for the game of golf. If anything good can come of the U.S. loss, it might be that young players will decide that the glacial Jim Furyk pre-putt routine should never be imitated.
Mickelson, on the other hand, played exceptional golf with great enthusiasm all weekend, losing his final match to a succession of unlikely putts by Justin Rose, and graciously congratulating his opponent on his stellar play. Unlike Furyk, Mickelson played the way the Euros did — eager to hit his next shot, rather than appearing to dread it. A Mickelson captaincy, if nothing else, would be a lot more fun, take a more upbeat tone, and come a lot closer to the original spirit of the event that Samuel Ryder had in mind.
It might not be too early for Minnesota golf fans to begin lobbying the PGA of America to select Phil Mickelson in 2016. The alternative is too grim to consider.

2 thoughts on “Who will lead the U.S. Ryder Cup team at Hazeltine?

  1. Could not agree more, would love for Mickelson to Captain the 2016 Ryder Cup team.

  2. Phil Mickelson would be my captain…. Asst. Tom Lehman, John Harris and Brad Faxon…. I would tell Phil never decide an afternoon pair until the morning round is finished…. If he played late saturday we are not digging out of this mess….thank you

The owner of this blog reserves the right to edit or delete any comments submitted to this blog without notice for reasons due to, but not limited to: spam, profane or offensive language, personal attacks, or commentary contrary to the mission of the MGA and its member clubs. Commentary does not necessarily reflect the opinion or views of the Minnesota Golf Association.