In time honoured tradition, Steve Stricker is being hailed as a great Ryder Cup captain while aspersions are being cast on Padraig Harrington.
If there’s one Ryder Cup maxim that’s true it’s this: win and you are captain fantastic, lose and some will say you weren’t fit for the job.
You only had to listen to Shane Lowry leaping to Harrington’s defence ahead of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship to realise members of the European team are touchy about Harrington’s role at Whistling Straits.
“I stupidly picked up the paper on the flight up here yesterday, started to read some articles – and I just had to put it down, to be honest, because I was getting so annoyed,” he said. “People thinking they know what went on, they know what’s gone wrong, trying to pick holes in the European Ryder Cup system.
“If we win, we win. If we don’t, it’s not because the players or captains haven’t done their best.
‘I just don’t like it. What I’m trying to say is I’m just so disappointed for Paddy and the way his captaincy is being picked apart now. People think they know what they’re talking about. But they really don’t.”
“He’ll be fine, like, he’ll be grand. But he doesn’t deserve this.”
Ian Poulter said much the same thing in the aftermath of Europe’s record defeat. Poulter told Sky Sports:
“The toughest bit about all of this is this is going to be hard because Paddy will be questioned and that is not fair,”
“He has done a great job but we have been outplayed. Paddy (Harrington) has done an amazing job. Paddy and (his wife) Caroline have given us a team atmosphere and incredible bonding team room."
Lowry’s correct: no one outside a small circle knows why Harrington made the decisions he made. Where Lowry is wrong is in suggesting Harrington’s captaincy shouldn’t be picked apart. Ditto for Poulter.
Criticism, analysis goes with the territory when you assume the Ryder cup captaincy. It’ll be the same for Poulter when he leads the European team four years from now, and for Lowry should he ever get the skipper’s role.
As I noted a few days ago, Stricker’s United States team was much better than Harrington’s. They out played, out putted Europe. Anyone reading this could probably have captained the American team and they’d still have won, while someone with nous of Sir Alex Ferguson or Bill Belichik probably would have struggled to stop the U.S. from regaining the trophy.
However, that doesn’t excuse Harrington from facing tough questions about decisions he made, even though he’s on record saying he’s wouldn’t have changed a thing. As the Daily Telegraph’s excellent golf correspondent James Corrigan noted on Twitter:
“If you get beat 19-9 you have an inquest that delves a bit deeper than 'the best team won'. At least in other sports you do. Apparently not in the Ryder Cup. It's not a case of slaughtering anyone. It's a case of identifying errors and learning from them.”
Spot on. Ryder Cup scrutiny comes with the job. Anyone not prepared to be questioned shouldn’t apply for the captain's role in the first place.
Paul McGinley’s 2014 captaincy has been analysed to death. If it’s fair to analyse what a winning captain did well, then surely it’s fair to scrutinise what a losing one might have got wrong, especially one who presided over the biggest defeat any team has suffered since Continental Europeans became involved in the match?
There are no hiding places when it comes to the Ryder Cup captaincy, even for someone as affable as Padraig Harrington.
#JustSaying: “The Ryder Cup impacts my legacy. My ego is attached to my golf and there is no question the Ryder Cup will have an effect on that. Being a losing captain could definitely have an effect on who I feel I am.” Padraig Harrington