Dr Bob Rotella: Europe should be Ryder Cup favourites but appear to be underdogs

25 September 2016 12:08

Darren Clarke's European team should be favourites for the Ryder Cup - but have found a winning formula by portraying themselves as underdogs.

That is the opinion of one of golf's foremost performance psychologists, Dr Bob Rotella, as the build-up to next week's contest at Hazeltine intensifies.

Europe have won the last three matches and six of the last seven, despite facing United States teams laden with players ranked among the highest in the world.

And once again the US are the most heavily backed, with home advantage, more top-20 players and fewer rookies all perceived to be factors in their favour.

But, as Rotella points out, that can count for little if the team ethos is not correct.

"For some reason we keep individual records of players' achievements in the Ryder Cup, but all that really matters is did the team win," Rotella told Press Association Sport.

"If you go undefeated as an individual and your team loses, nobody cares. If you lose all your matches and your team win, it doesn't matter. You have to get guys to forget about their individual records.

"Europe have dominated it but every time Europe somehow manage to be presented as if they are the underdogs and America are supposed to win. I don't know where the logic in that comes from.

"So, I am sure Europe will continue to try to convince everybody they are the underdogs, even though they have won a bunch of them, and I am sure America will try to figure out a way to take the pressure off themselves and convince people that Europe should win."

In this regard the role of the captain is crucial and Rotella expects Europe's Darren Clarke and US counterpart Davis Love to be thorough in their approach.

Rotella knows the pair well as they are among scores of players he has worked with in more than three decades in elite golf. The American has helped deliver more than 80 major titles to players across the men's, women's and senior tours, with Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell among the beneficiaries.

Rotella, speaking as part of a promotion for Standard Life Investments, said: "I have known Darren and Davis for years and am very close friends with both of them.

"Each of them will be trying to do everything possible to help their team win and it involves getting themselves in a great state of mind, getting themselves to believe in their teams, and then getting the team to believe in their leadership.

"That is ultimately what it is about and then we spend a lot of time just getting the head in the right place to play. A lot of these Ryder Cups are won by teams that cope the best."

It is in this facet that the Americans often seem to have come unstuck, notably at Gleneagles two years ago when their failed quest culminated in a public row between captain Tom Watson and senior player Phil Mickelson.

Rotella hopes the Americans respond to that scarring experience and deliver a more positive performance this time.

He said: "Was it something the captain failed to do or did the team just not buy into what he was trying to get them to do? The bottom line is it doesn't matter if you want to blame individuals or the captain - both sides all have to buy in.

"It certainly appeared that Paul McGinley and his team did a lot better job of buying in last time. He did an unbelievable job.

"I don't think anyone knows everything that went wrong with the US but it sure looked like they didn't get done what they needed to get done in terms of being a team. That is the kind of stuff that tends to happen when you lose a bunch of competitions in a row.

"I think it is a lot easier to get people to buy in when you've won but, on the other hand, I think with this American team, they have lost so many in recent years I think they are probably going to bond very closely."

:: Dr Bob Rotella was speaking on behalf of Standard Life Investments, Worldwide Partner of The Ryder Cup.

Source: PA