Wheelhouse Geoff emerges from the rubble of, well, the wheelhouse to provide us a look at the 2012 Ryder Cup. America, F**k Yeah.
The 39th Ryder Cup gets underway on Friday at Medinah Country Club just outside of Chicago, where the European Team will attempt to continue what has been two decades of near dominance over the US.
The Ryder Cup is unique amongst all modern sporting events for a variety of reasons. First off, none of these guys are getting paid to be there and all the winners get is a modest looking trophy and bragging rights. Yet every two years, you see more passion, excitement and spastic, poorly executed high fives from the competitors than you do at any other event. Secondly, the format is unique in that its not only match play, but much of the competition is team (two-man) match play. On Friday and Saturday, a total of eight matches will be played each day, each worth one point. Half of the matches will be Four Balls matches (commonly called "best ball") wherein the low score amongst the four players wins the hole. The other matches will be foursomes matches (commonly called "alternate shot"), in that one player tees off, and his partner then hits the second shot and they alternate until the ball is holed. Low score on the hole wins. The former format is one used quite often by weekend golfers and elsewhere and the latter is never used by anyone ever except at the Ryder Cup, because its incredibly stupid.
The US has a 27-11-1 record in the Ryder Cup, but has won only four of the last 13 competitions, dating back to 1985. The lion's share of US wins came before 1979, when the Euro team was expanded from just Great Britain/Ireland to all of continental Europe. Since then, Europe has won 9 of the 16 matches. Even more troubling is that we have lost 3 of the last 5 Ryder Cups on US soil. This recent futility is due largely to the Europeans success in the Friday/Saturday teams competitions. The US, conversely, has consistently been dominant during the Sunday singles matches, just not always dominant enough to make up for the shellacking they took the previous two days.
Most experts are picking the US as the favorites this year, but that seems to be the case every year. Its true that the US squad is stacked, but historically that's a harbinger of shitty golf to come. Of the last 12 major championships, eight have been won by 2012 Ryder Cup participants, four by US players (Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson) and four by Euros (Rory McIlroy (2), Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell). The other four recent majors were won by Darren Clarke (a 2012 Euro Team assistant captain) and an assortment of South Africans with increasingly odd last names and awkward smiles (Els, Schwartzel, Oosthuizen).
The Euros captain this year is two time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, who I would not urinate on were he on fire. Olazabal has a charming personality as long as you are endeared by aloof, self-important glowering. As a Ryder cupper, Olazabal has an 18-6-2 record, except no one can remember or find video of the matches he lost. When paired with the late Seve Ballesteros, the pair was 11-2-0 in team play. Ballesteros, who died earlier this year of brain cancer, Is largely credited with transforming the Ryder Cup competitions from a US walkover into a real (and somewhat bitter) competition. How revered is Seve by the Euros? His silhouette will be on each Euro player's bag tho weekend, Jerry West/NBA style.
Course set up and pairings will be the two most talked about topics this week when it comes to Davis Love and to a lesser extent Olazabal. The home team captain gets to set up the course however he sees fit. This year, Davis has taken advantage of that opportunity to a more considerable extent than many of his predecessors. When Davis went to examine Medinah a couple weeks back, he left the course requesting two alterations. 1. Make it longer. It is now stretched out past 7500 yards. 2. Get rid of the US Open style rough, and at the edge of each fairway add a 20 yard second cut. This effectively widened the fairways by 40 yards and made the rough a non-factor. The US team is longer than the Euros, and they don't drive it as straight, thus this seems a smart move.
As to pairings, the Euros have ready made teams with unimpeachable recent Ryder records. Expect McIlroy to play with McDowell, Westwood with Luke Donald (they shot a reported 59 practicing four balls on Tuesday), and some combo of Ian Poulter with Paul Casey or Justin Rose.
The US pairings are harder to predict. Tiger will likely be with either Steve Stricker (a captains choice who is having a bad year) or Jim Furyk Mickelson will be paired with Webb Simpson and Keagan Bradley and God only knows on the rest. I'm hoping for a Bubba Watson/Jason Dufner "Southern Idiots" pairing, which produced great theater and great results in '08 with JB Holmes and Boo Weekley in the roles of the idiots.
Players to Watch
Tiger Woods record in the Ryder is a modest 13-14-2, which sadly makes him one of our better participants since 1995. Medinah, however, hosted the PGA Championship in 1999 and 2006. Guess who won both of those?
Ian Poulter is 8-3-1 in the last three Ryders. He has seemed near unbeatable and there's no reason to expect that to change.
Nicolas Colsarts is a new member of Team Euro and is notably the longest player in the competition and the first Belgian to participate in this event. He has a long history of being highly talented and the shitting the bed. I expect both he, and Martin Kaymer, to be used sparingly on Friday and Saturday.
Sergio Garcia is back on team Euro after being an assistant captain in 2010 because he was playing like a 13 handicap back then. His game has returned to form since then, and odds are he will play well this weekend. He has a career 14-6-4 Ryder record, so expect him to be nancing around the greens like a homosexual at a Lady Gaga concert every time he makes an eight foot putt.
The US team has four Ryder rookies (to the Euros one: Colsarts) in Bradley, Simpson, Dufner and FedEx Cup champ Brandt Snedecker. Simpson distinguished himself quite well in last year's President's Cup and as a group, if these guys don't provide a good number of our points, we're screwed. Our big name players (Tiger, Phil, Stricker, Furyk) have an average age of 42. I don't expect them to carry the load.
I think the US wins the 14.5 points necessary to take back the Cup (in the event of a 14-14 tie, Europe retains the Cup). I'm pretty well sold on some of our younger players, especially because guys like Bradley and Simpson are such strong putters. If the US is down by two points or less going into Sunday, I think we will be in solid position to win.
Along with Wheelhouse Jerry, I'm talking the day off Friday to drink deep the aura of the Ryder Cup. The over/under on the first time Johnny Miller accuses someone of choking like a dog is set at 9:15am Friday. Take the under.