The suggestion from Jack Nicklaus that begat a lost Ryder Cup generation

Ryan Ballengee
Devil Ball Golf

You're angry. You're upset. You're looking for a scapegoat for the Americans' eighth loss in the last 10 Ryder Cups. Here's one: Jack Nicklaus.

In 1977, Jack Nicklaus met with the Earl of Derby, who, at the time, ran the PGA of Europe and the combined team of Great Britain and Ireland. GB&I had lost nine of the previous 10 Ryder Cups. They played to a draw in the 1969 matches at Royal Birkdale, thanks in large part to a putt Nicklaus conceded to Tony Jacklin on the final hole of the final match. It was obvious Americans would lose interest in the biennial matches if they won all the time. So Nicklaus had a suggestion: expand the GB&I team to include continental Europe.

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Rory McIlroy shakes hands with Jack Nicklaus. (Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy shakes hands with Jack Nicklaus. (Getty Images)

The PGA of Europe and PGA of America both loved the idea. It would inject some intrigue. Two years later, Team Europe made its Ryder Cup debut, falling to the U.S. by a 17-9 count. The 1981 matches were worse, with the U.S. winning 18½-9½. But in 1983, the Europeans nearly pulled it out, losing by a mere point. Seve Ballesteros, at the peak of his career, urged his teammates not to lament the loss but see it as proof that they could, in fact, beat the Americans.

Since 1985, the Ryder Cup has been played 15 times. With their victory on Sunday at Gleneagles, Europe has won 10 times, halving once.

How fitting, then, for the European Tour to award Nicklaus on Sunday with an honorary lifetime membership.

“Both organizations [the European Tour and PGA of Europe] would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the vision of one man who, in 1977, recommended to the President of the PGA of America and our President of the British PGA to consider widening the British and Ireland team to all of Europe," said European Tour chief executive George O'Grady on Sunday.

Nicklaus never could have imagined expanding the Ryder Cup would have flipped the matches on their head, so dramatically in favor of the Europeans.

A look down the all-time list of most Ryder Cup points won shows the importance of Europe to the matches. Bernhard Langer (from Germany), Seve (Spain), Jose Maria Olazabal (Spain) and Sergio Garcia (Spain) are all in the top seven of that list.

Despite their differences – language being the least of them – the Europeans band together every two years to wallop the Americans. They come together as a team, lifted by a singular cause.

The U.S. says they do band together, too, defeat after defeat, but the results simply don't show it. In fact, a generation – yes, a generation – of resounding losses have poisoned the American talent pool. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk – they've all been rolled by Europe so many times it's hard to imagine finding the inspiration to fight back. Mickelson may well have Stockholm Syndrome based on how he applauded Justin Rose after each successive bomb in their decisive singles match at Medinah two years ago. Woods phoned in the final hole against Francesco Molinari back then, knowing a win wasn't possible. Indifferent about the tie, he lost the hole to give the Europeans another win. Why bother.

Some 37 years after Nicklaus posited his revolutionary idea, it would be great if he, or anyone for that matter, could deliver one to benefit the United States. Let me humbly pose a pair of ideas.

PGA of America president Ted Bishop, or his successor Derek Sprague, should call 2008 captain Paul Azinger on Monday and offer him the job for 2016 at Hazeltine near Minneapolis. Apologies are in order for not celebrating what he masterminded at Valhalla. He should have the job until he loses. His "pod system" – he had players play, practice and hang out together based on personality tests – worked in the same way that nationality helps European duos gel.

Future captain's picks, be they two, three or 12, should favor inexperience. Tom Watson selected Hunter Mahan despite his crippling flub against Graeme McDowell in 2010 at Celtic Manor. Mahan's repeated goofs against Rose on Sunday was Exhibit A as to why Ryder Cup experience is a liability, not an asset, on the American team. Exhibits B, C and D are Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Jimmy Walker, the three rookies who played inspired, passionate golf these last three days.

The next generation of American greats will have grown up knowing nothing but Ryder Cup defeat. They will be motivated in the way Seve Ballesteros was so infectiously. Reed and Spieth are the future, with other young players still to come.

Now we have two long years to identify a path forward, an inspired leader and to stew -- again.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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