At the 1989 Greater Greensboro Open, I was a college senior and volunteered to chauffeur golfers not high enough on the money list to merit their own car for the week.  I drove several up-and-coming golfers to and from the course, including Fred Funk and Jeff Sluman.  Meeting the people behind the name led me to follow those players’ careers in the coming years.  Eventually my interest in following particular golfers blossomed into a full-fledged love for watching the game.

Since then, I have been known to schedule vacation time around golf majors.  Being a good Southern belle, y’all, I am partial to the azalea-drenched Masters.  But I am a latecomer to the Ryder Cup. For those of you like my pre-1989 self, the Ryder Cup is an every-two-years competition between the best US and European golfers, dating back to 1926.  The 2008 competition is happening this week.

The first Ryder Cup I watched was in 1999.  The American team staged a remarkable come-from-behind victory which hinged on a critical putt that Justin Leonard sunk on the 17th hole at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts. I watched the American team -including Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson – celebrate with raw, unbridled joy…as a team.  These normally stoic, fiercely competitive players jumping up and down like an 8-year-olds’ soccer team:  forget about it.  I was hooked.

The 3 Ryder Cups I have watched since then have not brought the same joy to the U.S. team.  The Europeans have defeated the United States each time, and each time the strength of the European team has overcome the unrealized strength of the US individual competitors.  During this time, the U.S. has assembled supposedly amazing groups of talented individuals, who collectively possess multiple individual titles, but seem to not be able to make the leap from being a group to being a team.

The 2008 US Ryder Cup Team is missing its star, Tiger Woods.  It will be interesting to see if his absence helps or hurts the team.  I can make a case on either side:  Having a rock star on the team, one person whose talent towers above everyone else, can raise the bar for everyone on a team.

On the other hand, if the rock star…

(a)    keeps his (or her) distance from the so-called team,

(b)    has a well-known lack of chemistry with the #2 talent (a la Tiger and Phil), and/or

(c)    captures more attention and privileges than the other members of the team…

Do you have a team?  Does it matter?

Golf or no golf, I am in the process of examining a long-held personal belief that the cost to the team of a rock star outweighs the benefits.  I have recent workplace evidence on both sides of the argument…and I’m intrigued to find out how this year’s Ryder Cup might influence my perspective.

Are you trying to win a U.S. Open or a Ryder Cup?

What’s the magic mix of people, personalities, and behaviors to enable your organization to win both?

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