I am a huge fan of U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III, but I think he has made a mistake in the first Foursomes (alternate-shot) pairings for Friday. He has a very, very hot hand in Dustin Johnson (four straight top 10s) on his team who he is sitting out, while he plays Phil Mickelson in the opening matches even though Mickelson has been highly inconsistent since April. And here’s the deal: I would ALWAYS want Mickelson in Four-ball (best ball), because he is always prone to create magic. But he also is wild enough that it puts a huge pressure on his playing partner to have to play Mickelson’s foul balls, which are many, and which is what is necessary for a partner to do in Foursomes. Mickelson can get himself out of weird places, because he is so inventive, but most players can’t do those things. The time has come to stop the star system in which Tiger and Phil are pretty much expected to play all five matches in three days; that’s asking too much: It wears them out. Why not send the signal that the team is strong enough top to bottom that they do not need to use Phil and Tiger as a crutch like that? I would have sat Phil in the morning and gotten Johnson right into things. Then, Phil would be ready for the other four matches — and especially better rested for the singles on Sunday.
As it is, I expect the Euros to win 3 (or at least 2 and a half) of the first four points, with Tiger and Stricker beating Poulter and Rose, but the U.S. doing no better than a “halve” in any of the other three matches.
I think, top to bottom, the U.S. does have its best team in a fair number of years, but I expect that with a gap to make up after the opening Foursome, plus the psychological downer of falling behind early, the Americans will be struggling to catch up throughout.
Meanwhile, I expect three Euros: McIlroy, who will like the long course with softish greens; Sergio Garcia, who has two superb finishes in PGAs at Medinah, and Luke Donald, who has played the course a lot because he lived so long in the Chicago area. On the U.S. side, I expect great things from Woods, who won both those PGAs at Medinah and who is playing rather well recently; Furyk, who has something to prove after several recent collapses and a weak overally Ryder Cup record that doesn’t reflect his grit; and Stricker, another midwesterner who seems rather unflappable.
All of which adds up to a tight match throughout the three days, but with the U.S. always trying to come from just a little behind. I do expect the Americans to gain more points than the Euros in Sunday singles, but I expect either McIlroy, Garcia or Donald to make the key putt with the whole competition on the line to ensure the 14-14 tie and the narrow retaining of the Cup.
I hope I’m wrong. Go, U.S.A.!
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