CARY, North Carolina — Former American Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton thinks a study committee will not transform his country’s Ryder Cup results until the players start focusing more on their own performances and stop worrying about who the captain is and what he says or does.
In the wake of another defeat two weeks ago by Europe — the eighth in the past 10 competitions — and criticism by star player Phil Mickelson of recent captaincies, the PGA of America is forming a task force to study ways of halting the poor record.
But Sutton believes the post Ryder Cup focus on Mickelson’s thinly-veiled attack on 2014 captain Tom Watson’s methods misses the bigger picture: that the American players did not perform on the course at Gleneagles.
“I dare say that nobody who has ever played on a Ryder Cup team has thought that every decision that was made (by the captain) was right,” Sutton told Reuters during the SAS Championship on the over-50 Champions Tour being played this week.
“I just think we’re looking to blame the wrong folks. They (the players should) go there with one mission in mind, to play well (because) that’s all they have control over.
“To me, when you start blaming the captain you’re looking for excuses already.”
Sutton played in four Ryder Cups. He had a solid individual record of seven wins, five losses and four halves, and was particularly impressive in alternate-shot foursomes (5-1-1).
But he was less successful as a captain, presiding over a record home defeat in 2004, when his decision to play Tiger Woods and Mickelson together on the first day was widely questioned, at least after the pair twice lost.
Sutton, whose 14 PGA Tour victories included one major, the 1983 PGA Championship, explained his attitude to playing the Ryder Cup this way.
“I knew I had to play well and I didn’t care who I was paired with and I didn’t care (who the captain was),” he said in his homespun Louisiana accent.
“It wasn’t about the captain. It was about a bunch of individual play that added up to a team effort. It’s not a magic recipe.
“I really believe that it boils down to good play, simple as that, and not being worried about everybody else, not being worried what the captain does.”
Sutton’s comments may strike some as old school, but he clearly does not believe in over-complicating what at its core still remains a simple game.
“The Europeans are just playing better. That’s all there is to it,” he said, laying down the gauntlet at the feet of the players ahead of the 2016 competition.
“By nature, golfers want to blame somebody else. It can never be your fault (but) at some point, if you want to be better, you have to address the truth.”