Team USA Always Comes Home From Ryder Cup With Drama

GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy (AP) — The Americans always seem to come home from the Ryder Cup with plenty of drama.

Just never the trophy.

Maybe they need another task force to figure out a way to tip their caps — whoever is wearing one, anyway — and congratulate Team Europe for a superior performance, and then wait for their next chance to end three decades of losing on the road.

But there was Phil Mickelson in 2014 at Gleneagles, using Tom Watson as leverage to give players more control over who gets to be captain. It led to a task force that has accomplished little else besides making the U.S. team feel like a social club.

Then it was Patrick Reed in 2018 in Paris, getting on the phone with The New York Times after Europe had won convincingly. He blamed Jordan Spieth for breaking up their partnership, Jim Furyk for benching him twice and the entire U.S. team for putting ego over the Ryder Cup.

And now it’s the father of Xander Schauffele, who watches golf with a monocular and speaks with a megaphone.

“I’ve already done seven or eight interviews today,” Stefan Schauffele said Sunday from just beyond the first tee at Marco Simone as he waited for his son’s singles match to start.

The topic sounded dramatic — Xander Schauffele potentially not playing in the Ryder Cup over a contract dispute — and it provided perfect fodder after the cup had been won. For now, it at least took heat away from Zach Johnson. Captains usually are the first to get blamed in defeat.

Stefan Schauffele spoke of a back and forth with the PGA of America over the “Player Participation and Benefits Agreement,” how he wanted three amendments to the contract. It took a few weeks to get everyone on the same page and then it was sorted out.

One of those changes involved media — “streamers” is what he called them — not having access to private team areas. That led to Johnson taking a pulse from his team and Netflix having limited access for its “Full Swing” document series. The vote was 12-0.

This is all minutiae. The ultimate goal of Stefan Schauffele is for Ryder Cup players to be compensated, a topic he first raised at Whistling Straits and one that certainly isn’t original. The Ryder Cup rakes in millions, and players have no stake in the PGA of America. It’s always been a reasonable discussion, just not during the week of the matches.

“I’m creating a foundation to build our defense for future payment,” Stefan Schauffele had said in the weeks leading to the Ryder Cup.

He had an audience at Marco Simone, in part prompted by an unsubstantiated Sky Sports report that Patrick Cantlay wasn’t wearing a cap to protest not getting paid.

“Not a shred of truth in the article that just one journalist wrote,” Cantlay said.

The hat story made its way to some 40,000 cap-waving fans at Marco Simone, led to a tense moment between Rory McIlroy and Cantlay’s caddie and lingered after the matches. It forever will be a memory of this Ryder Cup, just like the American rainsuits at Celtic Manor in 2010.

There is substance to the pay-for-play conversation, of course. But it is not limited to only the Ryder Cup.

Cantlay and Schauffele are not alone is raising questions about the revenue at all the majors, and what percentage goes to the players, who are most responsible for it.

The PGA Tour does not run any of the majors or the Ryder Cup. The PGA of America gives the tour 20% of its Ryder Cup television contract, which a tour official said goes into its general operating budget.

This is old news, dating to at least 1997.

Would it have come up at Marco Simone if there was anything else to talk about besides Cantlay not wearing a hat or Europe not missing a beat when it comes to winning big at home?

And then there’s Stefan Schauffele, part German and part French, a little bit of Austrian and 100% invested in his son. He relishes taking on golf’s powerbrokers.

He wrote a 2,600-word email to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan asking why his son did not get credit for an official win at the 2020 Tour Championship when Schauffele had the low score but Dustin Johnson (who started at 10-under par as the No. 1 seed) won the FedEx Cup.

He threatened his son’s participation in the Olympics in a back and forth with USA Golf over accommodations and other restrictions during the pandemic-effected games in Tokyo. Xander Schauffele went and conquered, winning the gold medal.

Stefan Schauffele is an interesting character in his own right. He had Olympic aspirations until getting hit by a drunken driver on his way to Germany’s training camp for the 1988 Games. He lost his left eye and his Olympic dreams, and then he found golf. A PGA professional, he is the only coach Xander has had. His nickname is “Ogre,” and he embraces it.

Cantlay was asked in the Sunday evening news conference whether he was not wearing a hat to avoid tan lines for his wedding pictures (he got married Monday in Rome). That prompted laughter and a query of the source. He was told it was Stefan Schauffele on German radio.

That prompted Xander Schauffele to pull the microphone toward him and say with a smile, “I apologize for anything my father said.”

Still to be determined is how much the father is speaking for the son, and what effect this has on Xander Schauffele going forward.

He is a seven-time PGA Tour winner, has spent the last five years in or around the top 10 in the world and doesn’t get bothered by much, unless it’s the PGA Tour doing a deal with Saudi Arabia without anyone knowing it. He made his feelings clear about that.

The last thing a team needs is outside noise, which only gets louder after losing.