Facing the inevitable, Johnson reflects on Ryder Cup loss

Reflecting on the recent Ryder Cup led by U.S. captain Zach Johnson, it’s the quiet moments that stir memories, both good and bad.

In the hectic year leading up to and the week of the Ryder Cup, there’s no time for reflection or retrospection. Yet when the roars fade and each team moves on, it’s those quiet moments when a captain wrestles with every decision. For Johnson, the cycle of reflection and second-guessing has begun in earnest.

History can be a cruel arbiter, but no one has been tougher or more thorough on Johnson than Johnson himself. Could he have made different choices with his captain’s picks? Was the gap between the Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup too long? Was there anything he could have done differently to change the outcome?

“I’ve got a lot of 20/20 hindsight things that I certainly think about. Arguably, some regrets,” Johnson conceded. “But I think something of that magnitude, win or lose, you’re going to have that, that’s sports. And I think that’s when you care, you’re passionate about something, you’re going to have those natural feelings.”

Johnson is hardly alone in his reflection. What is surprising is how captains, particularly those who have lost, process every decision made during the event.

For Davis Love III, captain of the U.S. team during the 2012 Ryder Cup, a historical collapse is remembered as the Meltdown at Medinah. Critics point to Love’s singles lineup as a catalyst for failure, but Love always goes back to the simplest decision that cost the U.S. team the victory.

Similarly, Johnson takes a granular approach as he dissects what happened at Marco Simone. Expanding beyond specific decisions, his focus encompasses a macro view.

“I looked at every aspect of the Ryder Cup before and during the event and tried to understand it, like what’s the most efficient way to tackle each and every item,” Johnson said. “The common denominator that I go back to is that I wish I could have changed, or not changed — I wish it would have dawned on me earlier — is just the pure commodity of time and understanding that it’s precious.”

Time management has been a talking point for U.S. Ryder Cup teams since the deflating loss in 2014 in Scotland, creating a formal committee. Johnson would have strived to streamline the time demands placed on players, allowing them to prepare the same way they would for any other event if given a captain’s mulligan.

“I’m not suggesting that would have changed the outcome, not at all. I can’t determine that, that’s sports, right? I’m just saying I think in my seat I didn’t see what needed to be seen until after the fact,” Johnson explained.

It’s that type of detailed nitpicking that Johnson has to look forward to. But a second captaincy won’t quiet the voices in his head, as reflected in the sentiments following the loss in Italy.

The irony isn’t lost on Johnson that his biggest regret is the same thing that fuels his second-guessing. All he has now is time and quiet moments filled with reflection.


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