Ryder Cup: Five things we learned from Gleneagles

    Story highlights

    • Europe retained the Ryder Cup after a resounding win over the U.S. in Scotland
    • It was Europe's third successive win in the biennial contest
    • Phil Mickelson appeared to question the methods of U.S. captain Tom Watson in press conference
    • Watson previously captained the U.S. team in 1993
    If you're a U.S. golf fan, or Tom Watson, look away now.
    After a heavy defeat to Europe in the Ryder Cup, it's time for soul searching and reflection.
    With the next competition taking place at Hazeltine in Minnesota in 2016, here are five lessons for all involved to ponder over the coming two years.
    1. Fergie time
    There aren't many better figures in the world of sport to impart a few words of wisdom, or the hairdryer treatment when necessary, than former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson. European captain Paul McGinley's decision to harness the mind of English soccer's most successful coach was a stroke of genius.
    Ferguson, who won 13 English Premier League titles and two European Champions League crowns in a 27-year reign at Old Trafford, spoke to Europe's players two days before competition, McGinley enlisting the Scot's help to offer advice to his team on two fronts; firstly, on how to deal with being front-runners.
    "Most matches Man Utd played they would have been favorites, and dealing with being favorites was something he was used to and comfortable with," McGinley said. "He gave me a couple of pointers in that direction and I had a view, let's embrace this situation."
    The second, was maintaining a hunger to win having dominated the Ryder Cup for the last 20 years. Ferguson's desire to reel in Liverpool's record of 18 English league championships and "knock them off their f***ing perch" was a key driver for the former United boss.
    "I knew that one of his big motivating factors was chasing down the record Liverpool had of championships," McGinley said.
    "The image that we have in the team room was based on that — a roll of honor with a flag beside the winning continent and there's a lot more red, white and blue than there is royal blue and gold. Even though we might have won eight of the last 10, we're still hunting them down to get the equilibrium."
    Ever modest, 72-year-old Ferguson played down his influence, saying he got more out of it than the players did, but the opportunity to tap into his well of knowledge, now being utilized by Harvard University in his role as a lecturer, would have been invaluable.
    The world No. 1 was certainly smitten, Rory McIlroy saying: "I didn't take my eyes off him. I was sort of in this trance just listening to everything that he was saying."
    2. Captain fantastic
    Perhaps in future McGinley will also be asked to opine on the topic of man-management, such was his prowess in the European team room.
    Once a third straight Ryder Cup victory had been secured, his 12 players were falling over themselves to compliment his easy-going style of captaincy.
    He revealed at the team's jubilant press conference he had stressed right from their very first meeting at Gleneagles that the Ryder Cup was supposed to be fun.
    Stationed tactically right by the exit door in the European locker room was a quote from Bob Torrance, the late father of McGinley's vice-captain Sam, which read: "Happiest days of our lives."
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    It was a message that stuck. Not only in their practice rounds but also on the first tee and throughout the week, Europe exuded a more relaxed air than the United States.
    "We all know about the nerves, your stomach turning, but the Ryder Cup is also so exhilarating," McGinley said.
    McIlroy, one of those who lobbied hard for McGinley to get the captaincy, was at the front of the queue when it came to lauding his leader.
    He said: "From the first day we got here, the speeches he gave, the videos he showed us, the people that he got in to talk to us, the imagery in the team room, it all tied in together; all part of the plan all for the cause of trying to win this Ryder Cup."
    Lee Westwood, a veteran of nine Ryder Cups, went one step further: "I think you could base your captaincy and your future captain around the way Paul did it this week." High praise indeed.
    3. Scotland
    Returning the Ryder Cup to Scotland after an absence of 41 years proved a masterstroke. The country might have recently rejected independence but in terms of golfing pedigree it is out on its own already.
    The appetite for the competition in the nation that gave birth to the game has swelled enormously in those dormant years, and the set-up at Gleneagles presented a perfect platform for the European team to go out and strut its stuff.
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    A popular refrain this week has been that the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles is only the fourth best in Auchterarder, the joke being that the town only has four courses. But what it lacks in splendor or stardust in makes up for in layout.
    Manicured greens and immaculate fairways are a given, but what the Centenary has are contours that allow vast numbers of spectators to congregate around them.
    At times looking down the first tee it felt like all 40,000 spectators that flocked to the course each day were present.
    An added sparkle was undoubtedly provided by the galleries. Consistently respectful towards the American players, the Scottish patrons were exuberant at all times, devising an array of witty ditties on the first tee and gently bellowing their approval whenever a Europe player won, saved or halved a hole.
    Those that had traveled from the States also played their part in cultivating an atmosphere of warmth and friendship.
    As Phil Mickelson remarked: "The Scottish crowd, the people here were terrific. They were very courteous, respectful of everybody."
    4. Wildcard picks and rookie revelations
    With three captain's picks to accompany the nine automatic qualifiers, McGinley and Watson had a direct influence on 25% of their team, and Europe's leader undoubtedly chose better.
    Ian Poulter was a given, even though the man nicknamed the postman — as he always delivers — was not firing on all cylinders.
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    His mere presence galvanized those around him. His chip-in on Saturday while playing with McIlroy, accompanied by that famous eye-bulging, fist pump, was a key moment in denting American momentum.
    Lee Westood, a veteran of 10 Ryder Cups, formed a valuable twosome with rookie Jamie Donaldson, the pair winning two of their three matches together.
    McGinley's decision to pair them was such a success that the Welshman thumped Keegan Bradley in the singles and hit the shot that won the trophy for Europe.
    And though the wildcard gamble on home favorite Stephen Gallacher didn't pay off, the Scot losing both the matches he played, it added an extra layer of spice for an already vociferous home crowd.
    McGinley's pairing of another rookie, Victor Dubuisson, with the experienced Graeme McDowell was also a masterstroke, the enigmatic Frenchman ending his debut appearance unbeaten.
    As for Watson, one of his picks — Webb Simpson — was chosen to hit the first shot of the competition at the crack of dawn on Friday. Symbolically, he spooned it up in the air so far it only just made the fairway.
    That match, alongside Bubba Watson, was lost, and Simpson didn't reappear until Sunday, halving his match with Poulter.
    Keegan Bradley lost two of his three matches, and was clearly unhappy at being benched all day Saturday, while Hunter Mahan's points return of 1½ from his four matches was paltry.
    All the while Billy Horschel, winner of the season-ending FedEx Cup tournament just a few weeks ago, and Chris Kirk, who finished second, were sat at home watching. McGinley, unquestionably, chose more wisely.
    5. American discord
    Almost as soon as the golf ended, the American inquest began.
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    Every losing captain is made to wriggle, but usually by the press, not his own players.
    Mickelson's remarkable broadside against Watson betrayed a lack of harmony behind the scenes and an inflexibility in the approach the nine-time major champion adopted as leader.
    No longer sacrosanct, it seems, is that staple of team locker rooms — "what goes on tour, stays on tour."
    Tension crackled in the media center as Mickleson decried Watson's decision not to involve players in his decision making and the lack of a "real game plan."
    All the while the 64-year-old sat with an uncomfortable smile on his face.
    He had told CNN prior to the Ryder Cup that one of the things he couldn't get to grips with since he was last captain in 1993 was Twitter.
    But after a comprehensive defeat at the hands of an ebullient European team, it seems there was plenty more besides.
    Mickelson's criticisms portray a teacher-pupil dynamic to Watson's leadership, a difficult balance to strike in an age where players are multi-millionaires and puffed full of ego.
    His decision not to use the electric rookie pairing of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed on Friday afternoon after their comprehensive morning win was a mistake, as was electing to sit Mickelson and Bradley out all day Saturday when Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker had run out of gas and slumped to a heavy defeat.
    Watson have much to ponder, and answer, in the coming days and weeks.