By Adam Schupak
On the eve of the 42nd Ryder Cup Matches, to be held at Le Golf National outside Paris, France, the American captain tries to explain why the U.S. side hasn’t won overseas in 25 years and why he’s still mad about 2012
Q. How’s your French?
My French sucks. My Spanish is decent, but my French not so much. I’m learning a few words, but not as many as I should. My goal is to be polite. I’ll be better off sticking to English.
Q. How do you explain your generation of U.S. stars never winning the Ryder Cup on foreign soil?
I’ll tell you what it wasn’t, a lack of camaraderie. Do all 12 guys have to be best buddies? No. That doesn’t happen in Europe either. I’d say there were a number of years where our team got along better than theirs did. It was the easiest scapegoat for the writers. It didn’t take a lot of creativity and you could beat your deadline. It was like hitting a 7-iron into the middle of the green, really.
Q. Anything stick out that you think has given the Europeans an edge?
Every Ryder Cup they’ve won on home soil, their guys have known the course because they’ve played a European Tour event there. Le Golf National is the annual home of the French Open. So I give them credit for that. They’re going to have a home crowd, and let’s be honest: It’s hard to travel.
Q. How would you describe your captaining style—hands-on, laissez-faire, tactical, cerebral, avuncular, collegial?
You need to have a little of all of those. Cerebral is certainly going to be part of it. Laissez-faire isn’t really me. For it to work, I need to be me and my personality can’t really change. You need to know when to speak up and when to stay quiet and let things play out. Most guys who make the team are going to have a good idea of who I am and what I’m all about.
Q. What’s the experience been like balancing the responsibilities of being captain and trying to compete?
Someone asked me how much time I’m spending on my game vs. preparing for the Ryder Cup and I said that is the biggest lose-lose question because no matter what I say, I lose. I’m trying to manage both and do the best I can, but if it comes down to it, the Ryder Cup takes priority.
Q. Do you still lose sleep over surrendering the last two holes to Sergio Garcia at Medinah in 2012, which cost the U.S. a pivotal point?
It pisses me off to this day. I’m pretty sure Sergio would tell you that I outplayed him, but I still lost the match. I think the Ryder Cup typically comes down to key moments and momentum shifts, and that was a perfect example. A win by one side or the other like that can tip the scales. It’s probably why the joy of winning is even greater as a team and the agony of defeat of losing together is harder to digest as well. I’ve had near misses and losses out here that have affected me, but not the way those team losses did.
Q. If we told you when you were in high school that you’d grow up to be U.S. Ryder Cup captain, what would your reaction have been?
When I was in high school, golf wasn’t cool. Thank goodness I played baseball, basketball, and football, otherwise it would’ve been tough. On match days, I made sure my mom drove me to school early before anyone got there and I hid my golf bag in the coach’s closet. Tiger has made golf a lot cooler. But captain of the American Ryder Cup team? That still would’ve sounded pretty cool to me.