DOA: Ryder Cup post-mortem

        I had no life apart from the Ryder Cup from Friday through Sunday. I was fully invested and barely missed a single shot on the Golf Channel and NBC, running to the fridge and bathroom on the short commercial breaks. (I apologize, Mercedes.) I wanted the U.S. to win, but I wanted as much an exciting, sporting match -- which I got, to a fault. Mindful that second-guessing is a lot easier than two putting from 40 feet in the waning moments of a Ryder Cup, I can’t resist a few observations.


Addicted to Love

        Davis Love’s playing style has always been steady as she goes; consistency without any of the drama or, frankly, creativity of some of his contemporaries. He showed that same no-flash style in his captaincy of the Ryder team. Although his pairing of Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson was inspired, it emanated from a clichéd approach –- put

Maybe it is time to rethink the notion of pairing an excitable player with a calm one.

the experienced guy with the new guy to calm down the latter and energize the older.  But both are "excitable" personalities, not a term you would use in reference to Steve Stricker.  Although not as far apart in age as Mickelson and Bradley, the Tiger Woods and Stricker pairing made the same kind of sense to Love; the animated player with the steady personality (there’s a lot of Love in Stricker). But as Tiger has receded to “excellent player” from “otherworldly,” he’s begun to show mortality under weekend pressure; and Stricker has had a mediocre year and has never really distinguished himself under the pressure of major championships.  The pairing obviously did not work.

        Hindsight is easy, but it might have made more sense to pair Tiger with a younger, less sensitive player like Jason Dufner or Dustin Johnson than with the sometimes weepy Stricker. (Note: The young/old pairings didn’t exactly rock for the European side, as Lee Westwood did nothing for Francesco Molinari, and vice versa, in the Friday foursomes.)


U.S. captain’s picks get old

        In the age-old argument of whether experience or youth can handle pressure better, experience came out the loser for the American side. In the home stretch, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker wilted, especially on the greens, in the harsh glare of late-afternoon Medinah. For the most part, the kids and rookies on both sides –- Dufner, McIlroy, Molinari –- seemed anxiety proof. The usually deliberate Stricker engaged in self-atrophy, leaving his putter head behind the ball way longer than is customary for him; and after NBC made a big deal of how Stricker had analyzed the breaks on every green and shared the resulting maps with his team members, he totally misaligned the putt on the 18th hole by eight feet! (although it turned out not to matter after Martin Kaymer made his six-foot Cup-clinching putt.) It was Stricker’s miss of a six-footer on the 17th that denied us all of the almost unbearable excitement of seeing Tiger Woods play the 18th hole for The Cup.

        Captain Love’s picks for the team turned out to be a mixed bag. Dustin Johnson played wonderfully, Brandt Snedeker not so wonderfully after the opening day. Add Furyk’s and Stricker’s combined 1-6 record for the weekend, and the overall 5-8 performance of the U.S. captain’s picks was disappointing. Euro captain Olazabal’s picks were Nicolas Colsaerts (1-3) and Ian Poulter (4-0). Colsaerts single-handedly beat Woods and Stricker on Friday afternoon, going nine under on his own ball and dragging the inert Lee Westwood around like a papier-mache ball and chain.  And Poulter, of course, deserves the credit he is getting for reanimating the Euro squad with his hyperkinetic five-birdie finish on Saturday afternoon.


Guilty conscience

        The matches were totally absorbing this weekend. As an American, I was rooting for the home team, but as the U.S. side got out to a quick lead, I found myself wishing for a close match lest Sunday’s outcome be reached after less time than it takes for a 6-0, 6-0 tennis match. But as the noose tightened, I started to take it personally, thinking, “What have I done?”  I won’t make that mistake next time…if there is a next time. This was the best weekend of golf play I’ve ever watched, and it will be tough to duplicate.


        My son, Tim, who has posted reviews of golf courses in this space, has a more "mystical" notion of how the Americans came to lose The Cup in such dramatic fashion.  For his article, click here.

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