America's lousy showing on the world stage (and questions about possible influences) generated more comments during an otherwise slow news week.
Reacting to Jose Maria Olazabal's course setup related comments in a John Huggan column, ken-one-putt writes: You know, I am currently less concerned about the obsession with lengthening golf courses, and more concerned about the lack of options around the greens...But for the past two years I have been playing a course with perfect Zoysia fairways and large, flat greens. These insipid greens are almost all elevated 3 to 5 feet above the surrounding terrain, and they are surrounded by slopes covered in rough. Worse, the area away from the slopes is a morass of clumpy grass and cuppy lies. Like JMO, I have concluded that this is anti-skill for a short-game specialist. And it makes the game BORING.
And while some of us see this change impacting the younger American players, SI's Gary Van Sickle suggested that the U.S. collegiate system is not developing players properly.
Reader Chuck disagreed: Among the International players there are a few (i.e., Garcia) who simply turned pro at a very young age when they were endowed with overwhelming talent. And I don't think that any 'national sports program' had much to do with anything. There are others (Donald, Casey, Villegas) who, for all practical purposes, have been American collegiate players almost from the moment that they left the junior ranks. Montgomerie, Elkington, etc. -- U.S. collegiate players all, going back many years.
Smolmania: A broad attack on NCAA golf and its affect on the creation of great players is put to the lie by precisely the examples you raise of Villegas and Casey -- seems to me that some young guy at Stanford who used to be know as Urkel turned out okay playing a couple of years of college golf. Would Justin Rose have benefitted from a couple of years at Oklahoma State? Who can really say? He would probably have had a lot more fun going to college football games and chasing sorority girls than missing 50 cuts in a row (or, whatever the number was). Would he therefore not be having the same degree of success he seems to be working toward?
Pollner offered a different take: the population differences between the US and Australia do lead one to wonder why they produce such a strong amount of golfers? I doubt that I would blame the college ranks alone (if at all), though. Of course, the fact that the Aussies et al. come over here for college has contributed to their seeing all sorts of courses. The US player that stays home doesn't really get anything extra.
Four-putt writes: Maybe today's instructors are to blame. Too much emphasis is placed on having a "perfect, picturebook swing" instead of teaching players, well, to play. Too many of today's golf swings take place on ranges. We have become a counter culture of "practicers," where most players make perfect swings from perfect lies. No one visits a range to buy a bucket of balls and hit them off choppy ground, like we often find on real golf courses. From my observations, great-looking golf swings do not win tournaments. Some of the ugliest golf swings -- Palmer, Floyd, Trevino, Furyk, Rodriguez -- all were "players."
Lip-out: This conjecture about the Ryder Cup is just that...conjecture. Any team with Wetterich and Vaughn Taylor on the back end, while the other team has Ian Poulter sitting at home watching is going to lose. It's got NOTHING to do with collegiate golf or its coaches. It's just an opinion that Gary felt nobody had thrown out there. But nice try!
And Ardmore Ari writes: Lets teach our junior players to putt (one could substitute shooting free throws and playing team basketball instead of dunking as TEAM USA keeps losing as well) instead of thinking its so great to bomb it 300 plus yards off the tee!