I’m going to go against the flow of golf writers (and players) calling captain Tom Watson to task for his Ryder Cup decision making. I don’t think any decision Watson made would have changed the outcome. The bottom line is that the European Team had better players, and those players lived up to their potential. The US Team did not.
Even if Watson made the moves most advocated by the Monday morning quarterbacks (playing Spieth/Reed Friday afternoon, and Mickelson/Bradley on Saturday), the Europeans still would be winners. Assuming the US team won in both of those matches (a false assumption) the Europeans would have retained the cup 14.5 – 13.5. There just were not enough US victories in the individual matches.
Further, would Mickelson have defeated Stephen Gallacher if he had played Saturday instead of resting? Maybe. Maybe not. And had Mickelson played Saturday, there’s no guarantee he would have played Gallacher on Sunday. There’s always the possibility that European Captain Paul McGinley takes that into account and creates a different lineup, hoping to match Mickelson against a better player.
Another oft-repeated theme is that Watson’s Captain’s picks did not pan out. Webb Simpson is the general target. Suppose, however, that Captain Watson had chosen Player X instead. Would that guy have been able to both team with Bubba Watson to beat Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson and then defeat Ian Poulter in singles? I seriously doubt it.
In my mind, it is not enough to say that Watson should have picked someone else. Critics need to be able to defend their contention that a replacement would have changed the outcome. The way the Europeans played, no one can seriously make that argument.
Finally, I reject the argument that Watson—theoretically out of touch with the much younger players—did not provide the proper inspiration. If you can’t get inspired by simply playing the Ryder Cup, what sort of cheerleading could make a difference.