No task force needed this time.
In a near unanimous vote from the PGA of America, Jim Furyk was named the 2018 Ryder Cup captain Wednesday.
Although David Toms and Steve Stricker garnered some consideration (Stricker is a near shoe-in for the 2020 captaincy when they play at Whistling Straits in his home state of Wisconsin), Furyk was the odds-on favorite for the captaincy once the discussion heated up following the conclusion of the Ryder Cup in September.
Furyk, who has participated in eight Ryder Cups and hit the clinching putt in 2008, was an assistant captain under David Love this year. Furyk’s selection is a continuation of what the task force was trying to establish – a winning culture and a natural succession to the captaincy.
In year’s past, there was so formula for success on the U.S. side. A new captain would come in and do things completely different than his predecessor – there was no continuity. The lack of American success in the event only magnified the system’s shortcomings and exemplified the need for a complete overhaul.
If you look at the next 10 years and the next five Ryder Cups, there is a strong crop of Americans ready to take the helm. As mentioned earlier, Stricker is nearly guaranteed to be the captain in 2020 and after that Phil and Tiger, both integral parts of the task force, are primed for the captaincy and could very well captain on more than one occasion.
In years past, I had rolled my eyes at the importance of the captainship. At the end of the day, the players play – what effect can the captain have on whether Tiger makes a 10-footer to halve a hole?
While importance of the captaincy can be overstated at times, they have tremendous influence on preparation and what happens outside the ropes. The captain’s most important responsibility may very well be establishing a good team room. The morphing of 12 individuals into one team takes place through the bonding that occurs in the team room.
At its core, golf is an individual sport, so bringing a group of individuals together who are used to competing against one another is difficult. To establish a team culture for one week every two years and to have those individuals function as one unit can be an unnatural fit for golfers and very challenging.
When the captain doesn’t do his job, those challenges are very apparent, but when the captain is able to establish a culture and a comfortable routine (i.e. Paul Azinger’s pod system at the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla), the transition from individual to team is seamless.
A good captain doesn’t always win, but a bad captain always loses. All one has to do is look at the dysfunction of the captaincies of Hal Sutton (pairing Tiger and Phil together at the last minute), Corey Pavin (ordering the ineffective/leaky rain gear while the cup was played in soggy Wales), and Tom Watson (sitting Phil and Keegan Bradley when they were the hottest American group) to see how detrimental a stubborn or ill-prepared captain can be.
Furyk has been apart of enough Ryder Cups and has good relationships with most of the players who will comprise the 2018 squad. He knows what it takes to be a good captain, but being good captain does not necessarily guarantee success on the course.
The 2018 Ryder Cup will take place in France and a road game in the Ryder Cup presents a litany of new challenges, all of which Furyk will spend most of the next two years preparing for. Furyk is meticulous and oriented on the golf course and that is the type of captain he will be. No stone will go unturned leading up to the 2018 Ryder Cup and the U.S. will need all of the ammunition they can get if they are to win on European soil for the first time since 1993.