We eschewed a traditional preview for the chance to lay down some quick and dirty thoughts/predictions before the Ryder Cup begins on Friday:
The overarching narrative coming into this event (and deservedly so) is Team Europe’s recent dominance. Winners in 4 of the last 5 (and 7 of the last 9) events, what do you attribute this to, and is it cyclical or systemic?
Tron: First reaction was systemic, in that the culture of EuroTour golf promotes camaraderie and cooperation inherent in group play, but then I looked at recent results and the American team results have been pretty solid overall. It’s actually the individual record that sticks out. So I’ll posit that it’s a mix of both. Golf (and sports in general) are inherently cyclical. Sorry to cop-out on this one.
Soly: I feel like we’re dealing with such a small sample of actual golf being played that it’s hard to really read into the results this much. When you think about it, we’re talking about three days of golf played every two years. Just look at all the things that had to happen in 2012 for the Europeans to win. The US was up 10-4, and if ANY of these things DON’T happen, the U.S. wins:
- Stricker misses his 12 foot birdie on 18 on Saturday to halve the match.
- Poulter birdies the last FIVE holes on Saturday to win 1-up (!)
- Rory gets a police escort to make his tee time on Sunday
- Rose birdies the last two holes (including a 35-footer on 17) to beat Phil 1-up on Sunday
- Furyk bogies the last two holes to lose 1-down to Sergio and needs the Heimlich
- Stricker bogies 17 and fails to birdie 18 to lose 1-down to Kaymer
Go back to 2010, and if Stewart Cink doesn’t miss two putts inside of six feet in his last four holes, the U.S. wins that Cup as well. (Seriously, that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. He owes Hunter Mahan a muffin basket a week for eternity). Yes, I’m working in the hypothetical, but the last pair of Cups have been as close as physically possible, they just haven’t gone our way.
Neil: I think Soly makes a strong to quite strong point above. Match-play and over the past decade, Ryder Cup Match Play has a very thin margin of victory. It’s important to point out the USA has been extremely competitive in defeat, but also important to note the dramatic fashion in which the USA has collapsed in recent years; the way the snowball rolls back on them. That type of defeat leaves a mark, and for me, it points to Euro dominance being systematic. They have an edge for whatever reason. It could be the outsiders camaraderie or a scrappiness to prove that even though these Euro’s play primarily on North American soil, they want to prove golf talent is far from home-grown in the USA. That is just one jolly theory, but the point is winning becomes a habit. When the pressure builds on Sunday, having that memory of sinking clutch putts and that experience of winning in a tight contests, I think that pays dividends.
Fil: It’s most likely cyclical and I agree with most of Soly’s points above in that small samples can yield misleading motifs. However, it is tough to dismiss 7 of 9 with a wave of the hand. More than anything, I think Team Europe has enjoyed a bit more collective and individual chutzpah of late. Take Ian Poulter–for all that’s been made of his Ryder Cup record (12-3), and rightly so, it’s still hard to understate the tone he helps establish for Team Europe: “I love the fight of it. You get to stare your opponent straight in the face, and sometimes that’s what you need to do.” The guy is a maniac!! I love it! I don’t think it’s coincidence that one of two American wins of late was when Anthony Kim brought this same cocksure attitude to Valhalla in 2008 (when they literally had to rip AK off Sergio in Sunday singles.) In a team competition between the world’s best, the x-factor appears to be who wants it more. Of late, that distinction has been with Team Europe. Here’s hoping Pat Reed, Spieth and Fowler can start to change that.
Which American/European has the most to gain this weekend? The most to lose?
Tron: For Amurricans my first thought was Jordan Spieth, but since the overriding expectation is that his temperament and style of play will thrive in this environment, I’ve gotta go with Five-Hour Furyk as my choice. His past performance in this event is tragic, but I think he’s primed for redemption. His form is tight and he’s got that crazy look in his eye! Tom Watson has the most to lose for his uninspired captain’s picks. I don’t really view the European team in the same fashion, as they all hail from different countries and aren’t subject to the same pressure. However, I suppose the newcomers could certainly make a name for themselves. And Westwood could use some success to close out the year.
Soly: I agree on Furyk. No one needs a strong performance worse than he does, considering he’s likely most to blame for the collapse in 2012. I’ll also say Patrick Reed can really turn around public opinion of him if he can conquer Ian Poulter’s soul and forever put an end to the Top-5 jokes. Fowler’s got the most to lose. He’s seen as the leader of this group as far as playing ability due to the incredible run he’s had in the majors this year, but he takes a step backwards if he’s not able to put some points on the board for the U.S. For the Euro’s, I’d say that Poulter has the most to lose, and a rookie like Gallacher or Donaldson has the most to gain. The reason is simply expectations.
Neil: I love the Furyk and Reed calls above, but I have to go with Bubba. Despite Soly’s call that Fowler is the leader of this squad, I’d say the masses on both sides of the pond will look at Gerry Watson Jr. as the face of the USA team, and for this reason, I think he has the most to lose. Let me re-phrase, “Bubba-Golf” has the most to lose if he plays poorly under pressure on foreign soil. Whether it’s a rosary, a moment of silence, or even a slight genuflection as Bubba approaches the first tee, it’s time to #PrayForTedScott people.
For the Euro’s I think Victor Dubuisson has the most to gain with a strong showing this week. Whether it’s a head and shoulders sponsorship (best lettuce in the game right now) or world-wide recognition as a ball-striking savant, Dub-V (it works I swear) has a huge opportunity. After his strong toe-to-toe showing against Jayyyyson Day in the desert earlier this year, we know he has oodles of match-play game.
Fil: I think Spieth has the most to gain. He’s played his way into some big-boy spots on Tour already, but also drawn criticism for his failure to close. I think his overall game is greater than the sum of its parts, which speaks to an ability to grind. If he can have a monster Ryder Cup, perhaps run down a Rory or Poulter in singles, and lead the US to an upset abroad, I think it could be a real springboard going into next year. Could be the key to unlock big, big things for him. On the flip side, I think Furyk has the most to lose. His abysmal Ryder Cup record is already well-documented and a blemish on an otherwise sterling career. If this is his last Ryder Cup, it’ll be his last opportunity to change that narrative. He doesn’t want to forever be remembered as a butt in Ryder Cup futility jokes.
For Team Europe, I think the rookies (Gallacher, Donaldson, and Dubuisson) have the most to gain for reasons mentioned. Of the three, Dubuisson probably the most. With France set to host the 2018 Ryder Cup (which is hilarious in a lot of ways), a strong showing this week can set Vic on a path culminating in leading Team Europe on his home soil in four years. The most to lose is probably Rory, though that’s nitpicking. Whatever happens this week, he’ll still enter next season half-way to a ‘Rory Slam’ and the clear cut World’s #1. A bad week here doesn’t do much of anything to change that, perhaps only giving a potential foe (like Spieth or Fowler) confidence to play with him. (If you think I’m reaching here, you’re right, I am).
The European pairings usually fall along national borders. Given this, which Euro pairings would you like to see that we probably won’t?
Tron: Any combination of Serg/DubV/Rory would be megatasty, IMO. The golf would be surpassed only by the staggering amount of talent in that gallery. I also think a Bjorn/Stenson pairing would be too obvious, but the Big Dane and the Big Swede teaming up in a show of Scandinavian solidarity would warm my soul.
Neil: I’d love to see Rose/Poulter take on Keegan/Phil in a heavyweight bout of overconfident swashbucklers. Also, love The Dub-V/Sergio (from Rio) pairing Tron proposes.
Soly: I’m dying to see Donaldson and Gallacher paired against Reed and Walker just to see if they get the “dropped from coverage treatment” in an event where only 16 players are playing at a time.
Fil: Given the legal fun G-Mac and Rory are involved in (or their management teams anyway), that’d be a delicious pairing purely for curiosity’s sake. I’ll also agree Serg and Dub-V paired together would yield splendid amounts of awesome.
If Capt. Watson were offered a deal to be even up going into Sunday singles, would he take it? Would you? If so, talk to me about how you’d order the American lineup, and the matchups you’d hope to see (as both Captain and jingoistic fan).
Tron: Absolutely. I think the strength of this team will be in Sunday singles. I’d lead with Furyk, just to get him out of the gates early, keep him out of his own way, and ensure that a huge putt isn’t resting on his stick. Would throw Bubba out there early. Close it out with Johnson, Fowler, Spieth, Mickelson. Put everyone else somewhere in between. As for dream matchups, I absolutely will be rooting for Sergio on Sunday (Serg, God, Family, Country for me), so him paired against Bubba would be delicious. Rory/Rickie and Spieth/Poulter are other dream matchups.
Soly: For sure he’d take that. I think the order of lineups on Sunday is completely overrated. All of the matches are worth the same points, and I don’t really believe that much in the “momentum” factor of one singles match affecting the others. That may seem blasphemous based on what happened last year, but it’s not like you can predict who certain guys are going to get matched up against. Did I successfully not answer the question?
Neil: I think both coaches would take an even start on Sunday, and what theater it would be. I think it’s time we saw a Ryder Cup that’s a dead heat and not some lopsided comeback. On Sunday Singles, I’d like to see Furyk and P Reed out early with Spieth, Rickie, and Phil closing things out (Phil is the closer here).
Fil: I’d take it, and I agree Capt. Tom would too. I’d order the Americans on Sunday in the following fashion: Spieth, Kuch, Watson, Webb, Mahan, Walker, Furyk, Reed, Keegan, Phil, Fowler, and ZJ. Lead off with competitiveness, hid some questions marks in the middle, and stack closers late. I’d imagine Team Euro would follow a similar line of thinking.
As a fan, there are a couple matchups I’d absolutely salivate over. Spieth/Rory is as good as it gets in my opinion. I also think Poulter/Reed would be fascinating (You’re a top-5 guy, Pat? Let’s see you run down the Euro soul collector). Phil/Sergio would be a a swashbuckling, ballstriking festival. Furyk/Westwood could be a great retirement match. Essentially, I’m most interested in Spieth and Patrick Reed. I want them to draw Euro thoroughbreds. Great acid test for each.
Alright, let’s get to it–winning side and score, please. Also, feel free to throw in individual point predictions if you’d like.
Tron: Trailing heading into the final day, Amurrica vanquishes the continent, 15-13 (there hasn’t been a non-halfpoint final tally since 1992!) on the back of strong singles play from the young and the hung. Wading into point totals would be an ill-advised proposition for me, but I will venture out on a longgggg limb predicting Furyk and Rickie to go undefeated. And once the Ryder Cup is mercilessly wrapped up, we can FINALLY turn our attention to a team competition that actually matters.
Soly: I placed a bet at 10/1 that Europe would win 15.5-12.5, so I’m sticking with that as my prediction. I just can’t imagine a scenario where the first two days go well enough for them to pull it out Sunday. Anything can happen though (hot take!).
Neil: I think an underdog American team rally’s to win on Sunday. Why? Because that’s what I want to see, and I think too many people have hailed the Euro team too strong setting up a great opportunity for a young USA team to make a splash with help from veteran grinders looking for redemption!
Fil: My head says Europe 15.5 to 12.5, My heart says USA! USA! USA! by the score of 15-13. As far as individual points go, I hope (for his and Tron’s sake) Furyk has a big weekend. If I were placing bets, I’d wager on Spieth (8/1) and Reed (16/1) as top American point scorer, and the Big Swede, Stenson, (6/1) as top Euro point scorer.
If you’d like write your predictions in Internet ink, please do so through the comments–it’ll be awesome to marvel at our collective inaccuracy Sunday evening! Enjoy the action this weekend, and if you’d like, get in on our completely free, no strings-attached BINGO contest for the chance to win a Callaway 1-wood.