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Ramble On’s (American) guide to the 2010 Ryder Cup

Posted by Bill Koch on September 8, 2010

We don’t exactly envy Corey Pavin and the choices he had to make this year for the United States Ryder Cup team.

We’ve sifted through the list of available players and found very few options that we think could beat the European team on their home soil at Celtic Manor Resort in Wales. The Euros are loaded with veterans like Lee Westwood and Luke Donald and star-studded rookies like Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer. It’ll take something special for the U.S. to avoid a similar drubbing to the one it received at The K Club in 2006, an 18.5-9.5 skunking that had the Americans running for cover.

Still, we’ll be tuned in and watching. Here’s a breakdown of the American team, Ramble On-style of course, with the four captain’s picks at the bottom of the page. (And yes, You Know Who and his selection are discussed in depth.)

— Phil Mickelson
Which Mickelson will show up in Wales? Will it be the hacker who used the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills to make equipment changes and sunk like a stone or the stud who rattled Augusta this season to win his third Green Jacket? Will it be the guy who hits it long, dazzles around the greens and makes a ton of birdies or the slasher who is a nightmare partner in the four-ball and alternate shot formats? That’s the problem. He’s the U.S. team’s most veteran player – this is his eighth Ryder Cup appearance – and we still have no idea what to expect.

— Hunter Mahan
I’ve heard Johnny Miller say at least twice this season that he can’t understand how Mahan doesn’t win more often. This guy’s game is so complete – solid off the tee, good iron player, very steady putter – and somehow he’s still not a superstar. He tied for eighth at The Masters and went downhill from there, missing the cut at the U.S. Open and not cracking the top-35 at either of the season’s final two majors. He doesn’t get us all that hot and bothered.

— Bubba Watson
We’ll come right out and admit that we have a little bit of a man crush on this guy. Watson hits it a country mile and is like a wizard with the golf ball – nothing he hits is straight and we’d probably pay to watch him hit trick shots on the driving range. He’s a juiced up version of Lee Trevino, who was a superb 6-2-2 in singles matches and took home 20 of a possible 30 points in matches he played during his Ryder Cup career. Pairing Watson with Mickelson or Woods seems like a natural fit – they might find in each other the only men who can hit the ball into deep trouble and consistently find a way to get it out.

— Jim Furyk
He’s still one of the most accurate strikers of the golf ball and one of the best pure putters on the planet, but for some reason Furyk goes begging at the Ryder Cup. His 8-13-3 career mark in his previous six appearances stems from not making enough birdies to win in a match play format. Par is good enough to win holes in your average weekend Nassau, but that doesn’t get it done against elite competition. At the very least, let’s hope Furyk has his cell phone charged and at least three wake-up calls scheduled for each morning of play.

— Steve Stricker
Can Stricker extend his usual fall form for one extra month? He never finished out of the top-25 through the first 10 FedEx Cup playoff events, starting in 2008, but his first Ryder Cup appearance ended in disappointment. Stricker was a miserable 0-2-1 while the U.S. was routing Europe at Valhalla.

— Dustin Johnson
This guy has disaster written all over him. He’s a choke artist who flamed out on Sunday at the U.S. Open and was miscast as the victim after grounding his club in a bunker at the PGA Championship this year. Why was Johnson’s tee shot on the 72nd hole 30 yards right to begin with? It’s a question that still hasn’t been asked or answered – everyone wants to hammer Pete Dye and his course design – but we’d like to suggest that the patrons at Celtic Manor have their helmets ready if Johnson gets involved in a match that goes to the final three holes. His golf ball will likely be headed their way.

— Jeff Overton
Forgive us if we’re skeptical about whether or not Overton is up to the challenge. He’ll likely be watching from the sidelines at least once during each of the first two days due to a résumé that lacks any sort of highlights. He finished second this year at three second-tier PGA Tour events (the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the HP Byron Nelson Championship and the Greenbrier Classic) and built up points much like Brett Wetterich did to qualify for the 2006 team. Don’t remember Wetterich? You shouldn’t – he’s played in just 23 PGA Tour events since 2007.

— Matt Kuchar
He’s the one player the U.S. has who is playing well coming into the competition. Kuchar is finally starting to deliver on the promise he showed when he won the 1997 U.S. Amateur, finishing in the top-10 at a pair of majors this year and never outside the top-27. He won The Barclays at the end of August, adding to his tour lead in top-10 finishes this season, and has the game and the nerve to hold his own against Europe’s best.

— Zach Johnson
Johnson has very quietly put together a decent finish to the 2010 season, tying for third at the PGA Championship and battling back to 15th in the world rankings. He’s one of the few Americans who enjoyed the trip to The K Club in 2006, finishing 1-1-1 in three matches during his rookie appearance. Johnson is the type of steady rock who needs to be paired with another steady rock (Stricker, Mahan, Cink, Furyk) in the alternate shot format. The temptation to tame Mickelson or Watson by pairing them with Johnson is a foolish one. He can’t get it out of the trouble that they find.

— Stewart Cink
Cink is making his fifth straight Ryder Cup appearance, and this selection feels more like a career achievement award. He built up most of his points during the 2009 season, winning The Open Championship in a playoff against Tom Watson and finishing in the top-10 at a pair of World Golf Championship events. Cink has a decent game – he’s plenty long off the tee and a good iron player – but we’re not so sure if he’s got everything clicking right now.

— Rickie Fowler
Pavin picked Fowler based on his 7-1 record in the Walker Cup, the amateur version of this competition, but that doesn’t mean that Fowler is going to make an easy transition to the next level. He has little to no professional experience playing in major championships, World Golf Championships or anything else that’s noteworthy. Fowler is here because Anthony Kim’s game has gone in the tank over the past month, Boo Weekley couldn’t recapture the magic that made him to toast of Valhalla in 2008, J.B. Holmes would need a machete to chop out of the rough that awaits at Celtic Manor and David Duval’s allergies wouldn’t allow him to stare at green grass for that long. As they say on the other side of the pond, Fowler is there just to make up the numbers.

— Tiger Woods
For those of you who have made it this far, congratulations. Here’s your reward – it’s Tiger time.

If we were in charge of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, there is absolutely no way that even the threat of spending the next 100,000,000 years in the fires of hell would have been enough to scare us into picking Tiger for this team. There are so many reasons that we could cite that we could waste even more of your time, but we’ll go with these.

— Tiger was a distraction before everything in his personal life exploded. Players wither in his presence and in front of galleries that explode in size when he’s in their group. His Ryder Cup teammates are going to be asked continuously about his personal life and whether or not that’s hurt his game by a European press corps who isn’t as scared of Tiger as the American writers seem to be. The galleries are going to absolutely pound him every time he hits a poor shot, and the poor sap who happens to be out there with him is going to suffer the consequences as well.

— It’s almost impossible to be Tiger’s partner in either the alternate shot or four-ball format, and that has nothing to do with anything written above. He has no clue where the ball is going these days, making it an exercise in frustration to play alternate shot with him, and it’s always going to be your fault if you lose a four-ball match with the alleged No. 1 player in the world. Nobody is volunteering for that job.

— Tiger’s career mark in the Ryder Cup is rubbish. Even in his five previous appearances, before his left knee blew up and his ex-wife took a 4-iron to the rear windshield of his Escalade, Tiger was a disappointing 10-13-2. That’s not exactly worthy of a captain’s pick. Yes, he’s 3-1-1 in singles matches, but too often those don’t matter on Sunday after he spends Friday and Saturday dropping points in the team matches. Sadly, we see the same scenario playing itself out yet again.


One Response to “Ramble On’s (American) guide to the 2010 Ryder Cup”

  1. […] right. Your boy BK stayed up through the night watching my favorite golf event. All of the four-ball and alternate-shot matches will be broken down in detail here for your […]

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