Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Bobby Jones Advises the Ryder Cup Team

It's another Ryder Cup year and, once again, the pressure is being dialled up on the Americans.  Unfortunately for the Americans, nothing will seem to satisfy their fans shy of a win.  That's a lot of pressure to deal with.  The Euros, on the other hand, continue to play, it seems, with house money.  

I have no doubt that the Americans are easily good enough to win the Ryder Cup.  On paper, they continue to be the stronger team.  How confident should they be as they prepare to face those Euros again?  Bobby Jones provides some excellent advice on just how the Americans need to approach these matches in order to have the best chance of winning.  In Bobby Jones on Golf, when talking about the best attitude to have towards competing, Bobby wrote:

  "It doesn't help a great deal to have the soundest swing in the world if that swing is not trusted.  There are many men who play golf exceptionally well when the issues are small, but who collapse when anything of importance is at stake.  The fact that they can play well at all shows that fundamentally their swings are good.  But what causes the detonation is fear--lack of confidence in the swing--making them unwilling to trust it with anything that really matters.  In face of such an obstacle, tension takes the place of relaxation and strain upsets rhythm.  The smoothest machine in the world cannot run in a bearing full of the gravel of uncertainty.
  There is one kind of confidence that everyone must have in abundance; when he stands up to the ball ready to make a decisive stroke, he must know that he can make it.  He must not be afraid to swing, afraid to pivot, afraid to hit; there must be a good swing with plenty of confidence to let it loose.
  The other kind of confidence is a different thing, and a dangerous one.  In a way, it has something to do with the player's opinion of his ability to play shots, but works in an entirely different way.  Of this kind of confidence, we must have only enough to make us feel as we step upon the tee with John Doe:  'Well, John, you're pretty good, but I think if I play hard and well, I can just about beat you.'  It must be enough to overcome actual fear or to rout an inferiority complex, but it must not be sufficient to produce a careless, overconfident attitude.
  Every successful golfer has learned to adopt a certain humility toward an opponent or an Open Championship field.  He knows that no matter how well he plays, there may be someone who may play even better.  Therefore, although he may be supremely confident of his ability to drive well, play his irons accurately, and putt well, he still is a fool if he is confident of winning--that is to any greater extent than I have indicated.  Confidence in the club, or the swing, or the shot, aids concentration because it banishes tension and strain; too-great confidence in the result of a match or a tournament makes impossible the concentration and hard work required to win."

So, if Bobby was the US Ryder Cup team captain, what might he say to those talented young men before they play?  Here's what I think he'd say:

  "Those Europeans are pretty good.  But, if you guys play hard and well, you just might beat them.  No matter how well you play, they might just play better.  That's the reality of this game of golf.  Therefore, you aren't supposed to win.  You cannot be expected to win.  But if you try your hardest and play your best, you just might win."

I think it's ridiculous the pressure placed on the American team by their supporters to win.  They already have enough internal pressure.  I think Bobby would just ask them to play hard and not give up.  He'd probably then say: "Win or lose, that's all I can ask of you; and all you should ask of yourself.   Now, go and have fun."