Welcome back to the NLU Mailbag. In this space, we’ll address topics big and small, smart and dumb, irreverent and serious.

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From mcriblet: It seems like (at least some) sports fans and sports writers have evolved their thinking to become considerably more pro-labor/pro-player than they were in the 80s and 90s - support for player safety initiatives, paying college athletes, not crushing guys for requesting trades and leaving in free agency, etc. So is it time for the players to revisit the idea of getting paid for the Ryder Cup, after Duval and Tiger were pilloried for raising it back in 99? I know it is already financially advantageous to be on the team for other reasons, and that they receive some donation for charity, but I have to think they are entitled to a greater share of the pie than they are getting.

I feel torn on this issue, even though I am extremely pro-labor and don’t make any apologies for holding that position. The Ryder Cup has become obscenely lucrative for the PGA of America and the DP World Tour, to the point where the Euro Tour likely could not stay afloat without the Ryder Cup refilling its coffers every four years. Why shouldn’t the players be fairly compensated when they’re the reason the event has become so compelling? This is what Woods, Mickelson and Duval were pointing out prior to Brookline, and I think it’s a fair argument. Someone is profiting off of this. Why are we okay with those profits going to organizations — where there is very little transparency over how that money is being spent — and not the people responsible for the product? Why should Tiger Woods work for charity but not John Lindert, the president of the PGA of America?

The flip side of me believes while professional golfers attempting to squeeze every last dollar out of their marketability might philosophically make sense, it also feels a little gross to the people footing the bill (the fans watching).

Golfers participated in the Ryder Cup long before it was a lucrative event. The only reason Wyndham Clark and Max Homa would, in theory, be entitled to a large piece of the financial pie in 2023 is that people like Ben Hogan and Sam Snead laid the groundwork for it more than 60 years ago when the event almost didn’t return after the Second World War. If those men hadn’t played for free, traveling across the ocean, there wouldn’t be a Ryder Cup to profit from. I like the idea of honoring that tradition with a charitable donation in a player's name, not having their agents stick their hand out.

You are the 2023 US Ryder Cup Captain. You are making your duo selections for alt shot. Which pairings would you choose, not based on their golf skill of chemistry, but SOLELY based on how legit-sounding their law firm name would be if they were to represent you in a high profile court case (for example, is the law firm of Spieth & Thomas good enough to represent you if a LIVbot attempts to sue you).

I love the alliteration of Schauffele, Scheffler and Spieth, which would definitely have billboards all around town. My assumption would be that Xander would handle tax law, Scottie would be a calm civil attorney and Jordan would be an excellent criminal lawyer, his emotions and courtroom antics appealing to a jury. But Rahm, Straka and Rose would be a very intimidating law firm as well. Rahm would be a menace in the courtroom, frequently being threatened with contempt of court for his outbursts, but ultimately saved by his analytical co-counsel Justin Rose.

After @soly’s aggression against Sheboygan/Wisconsin of all places on Sunday’s pod, what would be the worst place in America to host a Ryder Cup and why is it Cleveland?

I want no part of this Wisconsin/Ohio blood feud, but I do think a Ryder Cup in Ohio wouldn’t be even close to the worst place you could hold it. I think a Ryder Cup held at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas would get my vote as the worst possible venue, just soulless and hot — too many full of fake waterfalls, fake smiles and fake breasts. No, thank you.

I do wish the Ryder Cup could travel to more venues, and places with an actual soul. But I also worry that the crowd at Bethpage in 2025 is going to behave so poorly, it’s going to make Brookline look like tea party at Buckingham Palace.

From: Clint Novak. If you could create 2 Ryder Cup teams for USA and Europe, using players from past 30 years only, who is going on each side?

Okay, 30 years is more limiting than I realized and perhaps more limiting than you realized. It’s 1993-2023, so I’m just barely able to sneak in Seve for the Euros, and Raymond Floyd for the US. After much deliberation, here are my squads:

For the United States: Raymond Floyd, Lanny Watkins, Corey Pavin, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Anthony Kim, Colin Morikawa, Xander Schauffele.

For Europe: Seve Ballesteros, Bernard Langer, Nick Faldo, Jose Maria Olazabal, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Colin Montgomerie, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari.

Are there some glaring oversights? Absolutely. Tiger Woods getting left off the American side is difficult, but it’s hard to wrap your brain around the harsh truth. He won one Ryder Cup, in 1999, as a player. He was a headache in terms of pairings. He can be the captain. Phil Mickelson making my squad may seem like a curious decision, but he had two great Ryder Cups (1995, 2012) and two good ones (2016, 2014), even if he also had several stinkers. Anthony Kim makes this squad even though Brooks Koepka is likely more deserving simply because I loved his vibes in 2008 as much as any American player ever. Pavin’s inclusion might feel like a surprise, but he had a 8-5 record and won two cups as a player. In an era where U.S. wins were hard to come by, that’s pretty impressive. Xander gets the nod despite playing in only one cup over some other guys because of his ability to hit it straight, which we’ll need in Europe.

It gets more difficult on the European side, where Graeme McDowell gets left off, Henrik Stenson gets left off, Padraig Harrington gets left off and so does Darren Clarke. Faldo wasn’t great in this era, but he’s one of the best of all time, so if I’m going to put Seve and Lanny Wadkins on the squad based on past performance, it feels like Faldo should get the nod as well. Fleetwood and Molinari were as good a pairing as Seve and JMO, so I want them both on this squad. Honestly, Rory came closest on the European side to getting bumped, but some of his record doesn’t reflect how well he played at Celtic Manor and Hazeltine.

Turns out Soly and DJ were right, the course is an absolute joke and the players are throwing a fit through the first 4 sessions. A tied event on Saturday night and with a horrible weather forecast for Sunday, the teams decide to forego singles and instead they’ll compete in twelve, one round boxing matches, each “round” ending with a KO.

Having never been in a fight in his entire life, ZJ turns to the lone journalist on site who has actually thrown hands (who knows, I’m clearly making a lot of stuff up at this point). KVV, how do you structure the US team and who are their opponents? How do you see the boxing matches turning out, and who takes home the Ryder Cup?

Before we proceed here, I have to admit, I have only been in fights on the football field, while in full pads, and so I can’t claim much pugilist expertise. But I do enjoy this game, in part because so many golfers would look ridiculous in a boxing ring. We’re going to stipulate these are actual boxing matches, with 10-ounce gloves, not bare-knuckle brawls. If I’m advising Zach Johnson, I’m hoping these are my match-ups, because we are in serious trouble when I look over my line-up:

Brooks Koepka vs. Rory McIlroy: The Europeans always send one of their best out first, and it’s often Rory. I’m not sure what kind of stamina Brooks is going to have, considering he went to LIV to play less golf, but he’s got a size advantage on Rory and might be able to wear him down. Outcome: Halved

Colin Morikawa vs. Tommy Fleetwood: A couple of featherweights locking horns. Having grown up in Southport, I give Tommy Lad the edge here, but Colin might be able to pull off an upset by sticking to a game plan. Outcome: Fleetwood wins.

Brian Harman vs. Matt Fitzpatrick: Neither man is going to strike fear into an opponent with their physical prowess, but Harman could send a message to all the people in England who were appalled by his bow hunting that he isn’t afraid of hand-to-hand combat either. Plus, the fact that he’s a lefty is going to be hard to strategize for on short notice, even for a professorial mind like Fitzpatrick. Outcome: Harman wins.

Sam Burns vs. Justin Rose: Ever been to Shreveport, Louisiana? Burns isn’t that far removed from it, while Rose has been living in the Bahamas for many years. I think we’ve seen enough here. Outcome: Burns wins.

Patrick Cantlay vs. Shane Lowry: In every Ryder Cup, you have to look up and down your lineup and offer a few sacrificial lambs just to give you a better shot in other areas of the board. This is a roundabout way of saying Patrick Cantlay would get absolutely thumped by Lowry, and his only chance would be to pull a Floyd Mayweather and dance around long enough for Lowry to get tired. I still think this one is over early. Outcome: Lowry wins.

Justin Thomas vs. Tyrell Hatton: See above. We’re basically punting in another match, hoping that two of Europe’s best brawlers don’t get the crowd too riled up as they make short work of two of our most annoying players. Outcome: Hatton wins.

Jordan Spieth vs. Viktor Hovland: Remember in Rocky 2 when Mickey taught Rocky to fight right-handed for the rematch against Creed? Then in the middle of the match, Rocky switched things up and went back to his natural southpaw? I feel like Spieth (who is naturally lefthanded but plays golf right-handed) could use this technique to pull off a surprise win. This might, on the surface, seem like a pillow fight between two nerds, but I think both Hovland and Spieth have a bit more grit in them than people realize. It could be one of the day’s best bouts. Outcome: Spieth in an upset win.

Max Homa vs. Nicolai Højgaard: In order for the Americans to pull this off, they have to string together some upsets. I think Max could take down Nicolai, even though Nicolai is 6-2 and weighs about 190 lbs, figures that give him about an inch and 10 points on Homa. The reason? Max has wanted to be part of the Ryder Cup more than anyone not named Keegan Bradley the last two years. I think you might have to kill him if you’re going to defeat him in this match. Hojgaard isn’t ready to go full gladiator in this match, which is why Homa wins in an emotional bloodbath. Outcome: Homa wins.

Rickie Fowler vs. Jon Rahm: We need a little gamesmanship because the board is getting tougher for the U.S., so right before this match, Fowler withdraws with an injury, filling Rahm with a crushing disappointment as he’s been jogging around the Roman Colosseum for an hour screaming Fowler’s name in anticipation of the fight. Furious he’s not able to join the fray, Rahm insists he be allowed to fight Fred Couples, or Steve Stricker, or even a U.S. fan. When he refuses to calm down, he is locked inside the Pantheon, where he spends the next four hours trying to scale the ceiling and climb out the oculus, to no avail. Outcome: Rahm by default.

Xander Schauffele vs. Sepp Straka: I want to believe that Xander’s father Stefan, who was nicknamed The Ogre in Germany, could help his son make this competitive, but have you ever stood next to Sepp Straka? That man is a unit, as they say in Georgia by way of Austria. We got no chance here, and Sepp is gonna be watching the final matches play out with a dip in his lower lip and without a scratch on his face fairly quickly. Outcome: Sepp wins.

Scottie Scheffler vs. Robert McIntyre: Everyone thinks the Euros would be favored in this bout, because one is a greenskeeper’s kid from a small town in Scotland and the other is a lawyer’s kid who grew up in a country club in Dallas. But the tape and the talent don’t lie. Scheffler is a better athlete with a bigger frame, and that’s going to make a big difference. McIntyre has shown this year that he struggles when he wants it too much, which means the technically proficient Scheffler is going to drop him when he can’t control his emotions. With the U.S. hopes hanging by a thread, Scheffler silences the Italian crowd. Outcome: Scheffler wins.

Wyndham Clark vs. Ludvig Aberg: Clark has become a target for European fans this week, particularly after he said he needed to believe he was as good as Rory McIlroy, otherwise why compete? He also suggested the Euros might run out of gas on Sunday since they’ve played a lot more golf recently than the U.S. team. What a delightful twist of fate it would be to have the entire cup come down to him? But I’ve walked Luke Donald and Captain Tron Carter into a trap here. They decided to send precocious young Ludvig out as their anchor, knowing if it came down to him, they’d at least have someone extremely talented in the last spot, someone who would likely be a Ryder Cup stalwart for a generation. What they didn’t realize is I’d save Wyndham for this final spot, and Wyndham has already shown this season that he doesn’t scare. That club twirl in the third round of the U.S. Open? That’s a man who doesn’t mind flying close to the sun. Ludvig is game, but he’s too young and green to win this bout, which Clark has been dreaming about his entire life. He ends 30 years of frustration with a TKO, leaving Europe stunned and Rahm weeping inside the Pantheon.