Between the Rory McIlroy and Joe LaCava shouting match in front of the Marco Simone clubhouse and “HatGate,” this year’s Ryder Cup had plenty of theatrics and drama.
While this year’s World Champions Cup might not have exactly the same fervor, United States team captain Jim Furyk, Europe captain Darren Clarke and Team International captain Ernie Els addressed the Ryder Cup fallout in Tuesday’s press conference that announced their latest selections for the inaugural team competition at The Concession Golf Club in East Manatee on Dec. 7-10.
SkySports’ Jamie Weir reported there was a fracture in the American camp at the Ryder Cup held in Rome, Italy, with Patrick Cantlay leading it due to his belief players should be paid to participate in the Ryder Cup. He refused to wear a team hat in protest, Weir reported.
The “HatGate” saga, as it was termed, permeated through the weekend.
However, Furyk, who was a vice captain for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, addressed the report Tuesday at a press conference in Jacksonville, Florida.
“Absolutely not the case,” he said about the rumored split. “I’m not sure exactly where that came from, but especially after you saw the support that Patrick had with the guys kind of raising their hats in front of the green. He took a lot of beating that day from, whether it was from the media, from the fans about not wearing a hat, the speculation that maybe he didn’t want to wear the American flag, whatever it may be. I think you saw the support from the players.”
Furyk said the 12 players on the team bonded and got along really well, refuting the report there was a split.
Els said he does not think players should be paid and that it’s all about pride in team competitions such as the Ryder Cup or President’s Cup.
“It’s all about playing for that Cup, you know,” Els said. “I think there’s enough money in professional golf that goes around, so you make a good living. There’s a lot of effort that goes into these team events. I know from my experience in Ryder Cups, President’s Cups, sometimes you play five matches in a week, walking a very hilly golf course and giving it your all and getting it from the crowd the way the U.S. team got it last week in Italy.”
Els also addressed the ‘HatGate’ report.
“I think Jim is right, I think Patrick, the cap just doesn’t fit,” Els said. I’ve had the same back in the day when I played President’s Cup, I didn’t wear a hat because my — look at my head, you know what I mean? It’s just the way it goes sometimes. Today’s day and age, there’s a lot of things swirling around and unfortunately he got the brunt of something false in my view, so that’s my case.”
Europe won the Ryder Cup, 16.5-11.5, on Sunday. The U.S. has not won the Ryder Cup on European soil since 1993.
Furyk said the reasons it is so difficult to beat Europe on its home turf are jet lag, the European fans and the course setup.
“Our East Coast changes six hours, our West Coast changes nine hours to Rome,” Furyk said. “So they say basically for every hour, it takes a day to get acclimated. Guys line up Monday morning on a charter, so your body doesn’t always feel quite right.”
He added, “I’m kind of ramping them up in importance if that makes sense. Two, you’ve got the fans. You go to Europe and you’ve got 90% of the people cheering against you. I’m actually being nice if I say 10% are rooting for you. European fans are amazing. They cheer loud for their team, make a lot of noise and I think the same thing to the U.S. So there’s always that home field advantage.”
When it comes to the golf course setup, Furyk said this year’s Ryder Cup was built for the event in mind.
“The Europeans even built this golf course with the Ryder Cup, so they kind of put things in mind,” he said. “How can we get the fans involved? How can we set this golf course up to keep our team out? What can we do to mitigate the strengths of the United States team? So that’s a big part. And I think with that, this one in Italy a little less, but with that when you go back to say Paris, if you go back to Gleneagles, if you go back to Celtic Manor, if you go back to K Club, to the Belfry, to Valderrama, you’re looking at courses that they always play events.”
“They played three Italian Opens there. They played the French Open at Le National for 30 years. So the course knowledge, maybe not for the Rory McIlroys of the world, but the course knowledge for the depth of their team is great. So knowing that golf course. Our guys are going around it in two rounds and trying to figure out the golf course. They’ve got a lot of competitive knowledge and placements. They’ve played the golf course in tournament situations, so that’s key as well.”