Harig reported that Captain Tom Watson began the meeting by telling his players, "You stink at foursomes."
Of course, given that the Americans had just gone 0-6-2 in foursomes, that's a pretty obvious statement. But it wasn't what the players wanted to hear in that setting; they were after some encouragement and optimism, and Watson's brusque, brutal (but accurate) assessment set the tone. The meeting was all downhill from there.
Watson, according to Harig's sources, showed no appreciation when the team presented him with a personalized gift. In fact, he demeaned the gift, saying it meant nothing to him if Team USA failed to win. He also insulted multiple European players when going through the singles matchups for the final day.
Quite a guy, that Tom Watson!
Funny thing is: the PGA of America knew exactly what they were getting when they named Watson captain because he was a jerk the first time he captained, too, back at the 1993 Ryder Cup.
When Watson captained the 1993 Team USA, he caused a stink the night of the gala dinner. It was tradition for the Ryder Cup teams to pass around their menus for the dinner, with each team member, USA and Europe, signing them. That way, every golfer in the event went home with a pretty neat memento.
Watson, however, refused to let the American golfers participate. The Europeans were insulted and angry. Watson also reportedly "blew off" European team members that year.
Watson later apologized, but also claimed his actions set a tone of seriousness and fight that helped Team USA win the Cup that year.
In the aftermath of the 2014 loss, Phil Mickelson infamously, at the post-match press conference, let everyone know that Watson didn't consult the players at all about pairings, or keep them informed about his strategy, tactics or reasoning.
Guess what? Captain Watson behaved exactly the same way at the 1993 Ryder Cup. When Watson was announced as captain again in late 2012, Tim Rosaforte wrote in Golf Digest about how Watson handled the team in 1993.
Watson, John Cook - a member of that 1993 team - told Rosaforte, made up his pairings as we went along and didn't care about communicating with his team members:
"I don't think he asked anybody, to tell you the truth," Cook said when I reached him Tuesday evening. "He had his game plan with Stan Thirsk. He talked to Roy Williams, who was then at Kansas, about coaching. I know he had his practice pairings, but he just kind of observed, made his mental notes and made the pairings. We had such a complete trust in Tom and what he was doing. He was the captain. He ran the show. He took the bull and rode it all the way to the end."
What you have to keep in mind, though, is that when reporters were reporting this stuff in 2012, at the time Watson was named captain, they were reporting it approvingly. Watson was the tough guy the Americans obviously needed to win back the Cup.
Watson hasn't changed much over the years. He's still a jerk. But maybe the players have changed. Maybe they are too delicate now, to fragile in ego and intellect, to be treated that way.
Or maybe it just goes to show that golf is a game full of vagaries, and captains and their methods don't really matter that much. Players playing well will win no matter how bad their captain is; players playing poorly will lose no matter how good he is.