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What the Ryder Cup taught me about Team Culture
As captain, Luke Donald was faultless...
I've just been lucky enough to visit the Ryder Cup in Rome. Perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity, we’ll see.
I love the Ryder Cup - it's one of the best sporting events in the calendar. Golf is normally an individual sport but in this, a team come together against their opposition. This is why I find it so fascinating.
Team Europe were victorious, however they weren't supposed to win. America should have been too strong. OK so home advantage definitely plays its part but I personally think there was much more to it than that.
Europe got off to a blistering start, going 4-0 up in the Friday Foursomes (where players take alternate shots with the same ball). They capitalised on that in the following 3 sessions and went into the Singles on the final day with a healthy lead. This was almost certainly needed as the American team is so strong and much fancied for the 1-on-1 matches. As it happens the two teams drew that last session although it certainly ebbed and flowed making it a nail-biting last couple of hours.
During the second day, I was lucky enough to be right behind Tommy Fleetwood when he chipped in on the 16th for an Eagle out of the rough. He turned around and looked straight at us. What a guy! 🙂
Of the top 20 players in the world right now, America has 9 and Europe have 6. Europe took four rookies, one of whom has been a pro for less than a year and the Ryder Cup stalwarts of yesteryear have all but gone.
The thing that was very clear to me was the team camaraderie. From Justin Rose taking young Bobby Mac under his wing, to Victor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg winning one match with a record margin, against the world number 1 nonetheless!
The team (and individual) passion shone through. Yes, we may not have had the fist pumps from Poults anymore but these have been replaced by the roars from Rory and passion from Shane Lowry. We also witnessed first-hand the way the players who finished ahead of their compatriots, followed them around and shared the edges of the greens for a consolling fist bump or a congratulatory hug. I didn't witness much like that from the Americans.
As captain, Luke Donald was faultless. From his decision to play foursomes first (not been done in 30 years) to his choices of pairs (there is an interesting article about the stats guru and vice-captain, Molinari that you should check out if you’re a sports nerd), to his singles order, to the culture and team he has built. They truly wanted to play for him...
Donald’s captaincy was so well received that we saw the players singing for him to do another 2 years! Now that’s the sort of leader I want to be!
Getting people to follow you isn’t easy and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what Luke did to make that happen. Little touches like having a space for Seve in the locker room as if he were there and having the words ‘this is your time’ written below each player’s name in their native language. Sometimes it’s the small things that really make the difference. Although I’m not a party to what went on behind closed doors, I would put money on it that Luke got to know everyone individually and was an amazing man manager. Through my years of running teams, it’s that which sets you apart - not the pool tables, fresh coffee or forced team bonding. Well played Luke!
The scenes on the 16th as Rickie conceded his putt and the Ryder Cup was Europe’s will live in my memory for a long time. I feel truly blessed to have had this chance and even more so because of the amazing team I witnessed and everything I can take from that into my own ventures.
Here are a few more pics from this epic event: