After a few days of digesting yet another Ryder Cup loss for the U.S. it is very apparent that the time for major change has come, and Phil Mickelson just might be the person to make it happen.
I was one of the Tom Watson supporters when he was first announced as captain two years ago, and felt he would bring firm leadership and figure out a model to take the cup back home. But after a series of mishaps beginning with picking Webb Simpson, then not putting the rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed back out on Friday afternoon after they whipped a set of Euros in best-ball and finally climaxing when he benched one of the teams best players, its leader, and one of the greatest players in history for the entire day on Saturday, I quickly realized that Watson was way out of his league and not ready for the Ryder Cup in the 21st century.
The bottom line – I’m not sure even if Watson had made the proper decisions that the U.S. could have beaten this European team, which was a combined 110-under-par for the three days compared to just 78-under for the U.S. team. It could have been closer though.
The question remains: What does the PGA of America do moving forward to developing the model to compete with the Europeans? Phil Mickelson made it clear that Paul Azinger’s Pod formula was a successful model to get the job done, which he expressed in the post round news conference by basically tossing his captain under the bus. While I did not agree with the platform Phil used to express his displeasure, he wasn’t wrong. I also can’t say Watson did not deserve Phil’s criticism after he benched him on Saturday. I know Phil is aging, but would Phil Jackson sit Koby Bryant or Michael Jordan out for the first half of an NBA finals game because they might be tired or their shot was off? I think not.
The days of the PGA of America selecting a captain as an honorary entitled position is long over. We need a consistent and successful model moving forward. The U.S. is never going to win every Ryder Cup. The Europeans are great players, but so are we and winning the Ryder Cup more than twice since 1999 needs to change.
I think the formula moving forward is simple, and I think Phil might have been putting himself out there to take over the reigns. The PGA of America needs to have a meeting with Phil, Paul Azinger and Tiger Woods and make Phil the captain for the next five Ryder Cups, along with having Paul Azinger as the co-captain in 2016 and Tiger Woods a vice-captain. Phil and Paul could further develop the pod system that can be carried on for the next twenty years and also implement that Pod system for the Walker Cup and the Junior Ryder Cup.
Tiger Woods would serve as a Vice-Captain, who would still be playing. But he could take the reigns in 2026 after Bethpage and other Vice Captains could include Fred Couples, Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley and David Toms. They are all players who can relate to the current players.
Phil could still play in the Ryder Cup, possibly through 2020 at Whistling Straits, but his presence, along with Azinger’s pod system, would develop a Ryder Cup culture for the U.S. that is much needed when competing against the Europeans. Adding in Tiger Woods to that captaincy team for the next ten years and then having him transition into the captain position for another five Ryder Cups beyond that would put the Ryder Cup in great hands and certainly bring the cup back to the U.S. on a more consistent basis.