Cubs, Ryder Cup can learn from each other, not task forces

Ryder-Cup-logo-34eA Ryder Cup task force to explore ways a team that’s losing can find a better way to win?

Brilliant. Why didn’t the Cubs think of this?

Actually, they did. In the early 1960s, they created the College of Coaches and brought in Col. Bob Whitlow as athletic director.

Rotating coaches. College rah-rah. Didn’t matter. The North Siders still haven’t hoisted any hardware.

With this Ryder Cup task force, give credit to the PGA of America for a desperate public-relations move to show how determined it is to beat the Europeans, who have won eight of the last 10 Ryder Cups.

But as with the Cubs, Team USA’s Ryder Cup shortcomings are more about players. This year, Europe simply had better players. During their streak of domination, even when the Americans had better players, the Euros also have won because of better team chemistry and a better comfort level with the team format of what’s an individual sport on this side of the pond.

Fourball and foursomes—best ball and alternate shot— are more common in Britain, so the Euros are more familiar with those formats. Across the pond, golf is frequently about winning rather than scoring. At Muirfield, for example, the members often play a best ball in the morning, have a nice lunch, then play alternate shot in the afternoon.

Also, golf is more of a game of the people in the U.K. than it is in the United States, where country clubs rule. Americans tend to have pretty swings; the Euros tend to have scrappy toughness that makes them very good in match play.

chc_1200x630A big common tie between the Cubs and America’s beleaguered Ryder Cup squad is momentum—or rather, reverse momentum.

Both teams are constantly reminded of their history of failure. That means the current athletes are inundated with questions about past failure and how monumental a break-through victory would be.

That’s pressure. Especially in a competitive situation where the pressure already is pretty intense.

People talk about the Cubs’ meltdown after the Bartman incident in 2003, and that was certainly a tense team. But I also remember sitting in the dugout before Game 5 in San Diego in 1984 with Jim Frey, who looked like he’d just seen a ghost. By that point, the pressure was off the charts. That Cub team won the first two games handily, then lost three straight to the Padres. By the time Game 5 rolled around, the tension had become unbearable.

I noticed something similar at Medinah two years ago, when Team USA blew a 10-6 lead on Sunday when it seemed to have the Ryder Cup in its grasp. In the marquee matchup, Keegan Bradley, who had played so well the first two days, seemed to be on his heels against Rory McIlroy. That was odd because McIlroy, who had rushed to the tee after supposed time-zone confusion, should have been the distracted player.

Long before that in weekend in Chicago, I could almost sense an apprehension in captain Davis Love III when I saw him during a couple of summer updates. You could almost feel the wheels turning inside him.

That’s understandable. The Ryder Cup and Cubs droughts are casting giant shadows.

How to end the losing? In baseball, it has to be a comprehensive top-to-bottom/ bottom-to-top overhaul. The Cubs like to grab headlines by hiring successful execs like Andy McPhail (from the Twins) and Theo Epstein (from the Red Sox).

Maybe they ought to take a Mega-Bus down to St. Louis and come back with minor-leaguer managers, pitching coaches, hitting instructors, scouts, you name it—or at least or at least bring back a notebook filled with ideas on how to build that kind of winning organization.

In the Ryder Cup, there’s an even simpler solution: Bring in a hypnotist to convince the American players they’re playing for the Presidents Cup, where they have won nine of 10, to ease the losing-streak pressure.

It makes as much sense as a task force.



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