2014 Ryder Cup Grades and individual final thoughts

By Sam Belden

Now that the dust from Team Europe’s 16.5 to 11.5 dismantling of the United States at this past week’s Ryder Cup has settled, we can begin to look at which players met expectations and which ones couldn’t cut the mustard. In this post, I’ll list each player, along with his record, a few comments and a final grade on an A to F scale. I’ll do the same for the two captains. With a whopping 26 names to cover, let’s get started.

Team Europe

Thomas Bjorn (0-2-1)–The Dane was one of Europe’s few underachievers this week. He teamed up with Martin Kaymer twice, but the pair was only able to earn half a point together. On Sunday, he was blown out by Matt Kuchar, who had his own struggles over the course of the competition. A wholly uninspiring performance from a player who’s likely played in his final Ryder Cup. Grade: D

Jamie Donaldson (3-1-0)–The rookie teamed up with the slumping Lee Westwood to win two out of three matches on the first two days. Then, on Sunday, he crushed Keegan Bradley and brought home the winning point for Team Europe. He was solid all week and looks like a real match play stud. What a debut. Grade: A-

Victor Dubuisson (2-0-1)–Another rookie, this Frenchman teamed up with Graeme McDowell to win a pair of foursome matches and, as the last man in Europe’s lineup, halved his meaningless singles match against Zach Johnson. As he often is, he was cool and collected under the immense pressure. He didn’t play too much, but going undefeated in your first Ryder Cup appearance is a real achievement. Grade: A-

Stephen Gallacher (0-2-0)–Europe’s third and final rookie was the only one who couldn’t meet expectations. Playing in front of his home crowd, he looked nervous and uncomfortable, and after losing the morning fourball match on the first day, he was benched until Sunday singles, when he was beaten by Phil Mickelson. Coughing up a goose egg for your team is never fun, but I’m willing to cut Gallacher a little slack. He didn’t get much of a chance. Grade: C-

Sergio Garcia (2-1-1)–The Spaniard teamed up with Rory McIlroy for the first time, and the pair brought home a win, a loss and a tie. They probably should have done better, but the fact is that Garcia played in four matches and only lost once. He did what he needed to do. Grade: B

Martin Kaymer (1-1-2)–The pride of Germany never really caught fire. He was dragged down by partner Thomas Bjorn in both fourball sessions, and he was forced to play with a fatigued Justin Rose in a Saturday foursome; in these three matches, he only managed half a point. Still, a big singles win over Bubba Watson deserves some respect, even though the wily American didn’t play well for the entire week. For Kaymer, this Ryder Cup wasn’t a complete bomb. Grade: C

Graeme McDowell (3-0-0)–The Northern Irishman was one of the leaders of this impressive European team, and he justified his role by winning every single one of his matches. Along the way, he was a great mentor to rookie Victor Dubuisson, with whom he absolutely owned the foursomes. On Sunday, he delivered a gutsy opening win over Jordan Spieth. G-Mac deserves a standing ovation. Grade: A

Rory McIlroy (2-1-2)–The expectations were great for the world No. 1. While he didn’t turn in a performance for the ages, he did pretty well, especially considering the fact that he was tasked with playing in all five sessions. If the final result had been closer, McIlroy would be scrutinized for only winning two matches, but it wasn’t. The other guys picked up the slack, and McIlroy was a solid contributor. Grade: B

Ian Poulter (0-1-2)–Anyone would have taken this Englishman as a captain’s pick if they were in Captain Paul McGinley’s shoes; Poulter’s past Ryder Cup record is absolutely sparkling. Unfortunately, many were quick to point out that he was badly out of form heading into the week. He was unable to turn it around and damaged his record, as well as his team’s chances of winning the Cup. Grade: D

Justin Rose (3-0-2)–He was always underrated as a Ryder Cup star, but that changed after this performance. Rose was an absolute rock for Team Europe, teaming up with Henrik Stenson to take home matches in the first three sessions. In the final two, he was clearly fatigued, but he still managed halves in both of them. An absolutely gutsy, gritty performance that will be one of the defining features of this year’s Ryder Cup. Grade: A

Henrik Stenson (3-1-0)–He rode Justin Rose’s top form to three wins in the first three sessions before taking a break on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, the Swede played well, but he wound up losing to Patrick Reed in a hotly contested battle. Nevertheless, he gave a strong performance on the whole, especially considering that it was his first Ryder Cup since 2008. Grade: B+

Lee Westwood (2-2-0)–The English veteran has played in every Ryder Cup since 1999, but he arrived at Gleneagles in the decline of his career; his world ranking slipped to No. 44. Thus, his results were pleasantly surprising. He and Jamie Donaldson were a mostly effective pairing. In all, another solid Ryder Cup performance from Westy. Grade: B

Captain Paul McGinley–The Irishman was groomed for this position extensively, serving as Ryder Cup vice-captain on two occasions and twice serving as captain of the British Isles squad at the Seve Trophy, which pits the golfers of Great Britain and Ireland against the best of continental Europe. He also thought about his pairings extensively, consulting former captains and players. It was even reported that he was given the ability to set the first and second day groupings in European Tour tournaments in order to see which players had chemistry. He wanted to win, worked hard, had a good, clear plan and saw it through to the end. One of the best captains that Team Europe has ever had. Grade: A+

Team USA

Keegan Bradley (1-2-0)–Team USA’s emotional juggernaut of 2012 started out well, teaming up with pal Phil Mickelson and winning on Friday morning, but he was unable to carry his 44 year old partner to another win in the afternoon. After being benched on Saturday, he looked flat against Jamie Donaldson on Sunday and surrendered the winning point. It wasn’t all his fault (he should have been allowed to play on Saturday), but this has to have been a huge disappointment for Bradley. Grade: C-

Rickie Fowler (0-2-3)–The young gun is still winless in two Ryder Cups, but it’s not for a lack of good performance. He and rookie Jimmy WALKER were an inspired pairing and halved their first three matches. Unfortunately, fatigue caught up with Fowler, and he was blown out during the last two sessions, albeit at the hands of formidable opponents. He played hard and went the distance for Team USA, and despite going winless, he mustered a point and a half. Give him some credit. Grade: B-

Jim Furyk (1-3-0)–He got a nice win by teaming up with Hunter Mahan on Saturday morning, but that was just about the only positive aspect of Furyk’s week. Sure, he’s developed a reputation as a choker, but he’s also ascended to No. 4 in the world, so more was expected of him. A disappointing week and probably his last Ryder Cup as a player. Grade: C-

Zach Johnson (0-2-1)–The last man to automatically qualify for the team is consistently praised for his excellent chipping and putting, but he didn’t display either skill this week. Instead, he floundered, failing to win with both Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar. His tie was a meaningless one against Victor Dubuisson that came after the outcome had already been decided. A really poor performance. Grade: F

Matt Kuchar (1-3-0)–Kuchar had three different partners this week: Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson and Bubba Watson. He was bad with all of them, which is surprising, especially since he’s is one of the PGA Tour leaders in birdie average. He did earn a point on Sunday, but he was up against Thomas Bjorn, one of Team Europe’s very worst. His only meaningful contribution was his ability to pair well with many other golfers; although these pairings didn’t result in a win, they were harmonious enough and allowed Tom Watson to send out other, better pairings. Considering the expectations and projections, however, Kuchar was nothing short of a disappointment. Grade: D

Hunter Mahan (1-2-1)–After sitting out on Friday morning, Mahan played in every other session and was pretty average. His win with Furyk was a nice one, while his half point against superstar Justin Rose on Sunday kept the USA in the competition and showed his grit. His losses weren’t too bad. All in all, it was a decent performance from the best of Tom Watson’s captain’s picks. Grade: B-

Phil Mickelson (2-1-0)–The 44 year old looked exhausted by the end of the PGA Tour season, so his play this week qualifies as a pleasant surprise. His win on Friday morning was rousing, but he was clearly gassed that afternoon and was benched on Saturday. He won his singles match, but it came against Stephen Gallacher, who was in way over his head. Still, for the second consecutive Ryder Cup, Phil did just fine. Grade: B

Patrick Reed (3-0-1)–The fiery 24 year old was superb. The only American to go undefeated, Reed teamed up with fellow youth Jordan Spieth to win two matches and halve another, and he emerged victorious from a gripping Sunday matchup against Henrik Stenson. Along the way, he yelled, taunted and pumped his fists, becoming the emotional ball of lightning for Team USA. An absolute natural for the Ryder Cup, and hopefully a fixture for years to come. Grade: A

Webb Simpson (0-1-1)–Simpson, who was picked specifically so that he could team up with Bubba Watson, did so on Friday morning and was blown out. As a result, he didn’t play again until Sunday singles, when he halved the match with Ian Poulter, who’d been having an equally dismal week. Still, he didn’t get much of a chance to show what he could do, which saves him from complete failure. Grade: D

Jordan Spieth (2-1-1)–The 21 year old Texan was by no means carried by partner Patrick Reed–the two were equally responsible for their dominance over the first two days; Reed was just more showy about it. On Sunday, Spieth battled hard but ultimately fell to Graeme McDowell in an instant classic. A rousing debut from a player that we’ll probably see for years to come. Grade: B+

Jimmy Walker (1-1-3)–The rookie was given a tall task: play in all five matches. He did so and performed admirably, teaming up with Rickie Fowler to halve the first three and outplaying Lee Westwood on Sunday. He was consistent, professional, and one of the few bright spots for Team USA. Job well done. Grade: B

Bubba Watson (0-3-0)–Where to begin? The reigning Masters champion had three opportunities to earn a point for Team USA. He failed each time. He was given two different partners: Webb Simpson, who he’s always played well with, and Matt Kuchar, a birdie machine who pairs well with anybody. Neither of them could help him win. He lost to a struggling Martin Kaymer on Sunday. Team USA expected better and deserved more from their most talented player. Grade: F

Captain Tom Watson–The first of Watson’s many mistakes came directly after the Friday morning session. The pairing of Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth had just notched a huge victory and were pumped to go back out in the afternoon, but Watson refused. Instead, he sent out Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson; the later was exhausted and lost the match for them. It didn’t end there. While Paul McGinley’s pairings were expertly crafter, Watson’s seemed to be almost willy nilly, going with a few obvious choices and then just picking randomly and seeing what worked after that. Worst of all, he was pessimistic and grim towards the press. That sort of attitude gets back to the locker room and bums out the players. He was crotchety and defensive, and he completely lost the locker room. No player on the team respected how Tom Watson captained, and very few fans do. While McGinley was one of the best, 2014 Tom Watson was one of the worst Ryder Cup captains in recent memory. Grade: F


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