September 22, 2016
One Week until the Ryder Cup
Davis Love picked three of his four Captain’s picks last week. I trust Davis’s judgement, because he is closer to the players and their recent accomplishments. Ricky Fowler, Matt Kuchar and J.B. Holmes are solid conservative picks. Davis wants a team that will bond together and create a true team concept. Bubba Watson wasn’t picked, I believe, because he is more of a loner and an individualist. However, when Love picks his last player after the Tour Championship on Sunday, I believe his last pick will be Bubba. Bubba has too much talent to ignore.
All matches will be in a match play format. The psychology of match play is quite different from stroke play competition. The Europeans have excelled in this format. The Americans are more individualistic in their approach to tournament golf and haven’t been able to switch gears as quickly as the Europe squad. What is so dramatic is that each match is a chess match that deals with nerves, guts, resiliency, and gamesmanship. I believe the US team has a very good chance to bring the Ryder Cup back to the US soil this year. Here’s why.
The European team has six rookies on the squad and will be lacking some inspirational leadership in Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell. Poulter will be an assistant coach, but it won’t be the same as when he was a player and being a constant thorn and irritant in the US side. Also a couple of European players are not playing their best. The US has a nice blend of old and new and enough contentious aggressive players that won’t back down. I see a score of 16 to 12 as the final score in favor for the US.
Psychological makeup is a key ingredient in match play. Here is how I see the individuals stacking up in match play situations.
United States Ryder Cup
Dustin Johnson – Is playing at his best right now. He will step on you and wouldn’t let you up. A+
Jordan Spieth – A bulldog that will keep fighting to the end. I would want him to have to make the last putt. A
Phil Mickelson – Great individual player. Tough to be his partner, because he plays a total different game then everyone else. Hope he can split his matches. C
Patrick Reed – Believes he is better than he really is. Attitude built for match play. If he plays Rory, he won’t back down and it would be a knockout must see match. A
Jimmy Walker – The PGA Championship was the week that he put it all together. However, the rest of the year has been sub-par. Driving is weak, so he will be a liability in Foursome matches, if Davis plays him. C-
Brooks Koepka – Very talented aggressive player in first Ryder Cup. Could be the key to a US victory. Match play should fit his style of play. B
Brandt Snedeker – Streaky player with ball striking and especially putting. If he is “on” he will contribute. Would be very happy if he can split his matches. C
Zach Johnson – Solid game that everyone would welcome as a Four-Ball or Foursome partner. Tenacious to the end. A player who will give you everything. B
Matt Kuchar (captain’s pick) – Will give you solid play in Foursome and Four-Ball competition. A must selection for this team for his good play and his contributions to team comradery. B
Ricky Fowler (captain’s pick) – Has faltered in these kinds of competition in the past. Hasn’t finished or closed off when he has had the chance. Great team player and a plus to the squad in that respect. C-
J.B. Holmes (captain’s pick) – Great choice. Match play tough and aggressive. Just what you want. Get him motivated and watch out. B
Bubba Watson (my guess) – Has practiced with the team last week at Hazeltine and has gotten into the team concept and spirit. Will contribute, but game not suited for Foursome competition. You can get into his head pretty easily. C
European Ryder Cup
Rory McIlroy – Best player for the Europeans. If his putter works, he will be the toughest match. A
Danny Willett – Masters Champion, but first time Ryder Cupper. Solid player, but new to this environment. B
Henrik Stenson – Great in all formats, and near unbeatable if he is putting. Except a great Ryder Cup from Henrik. A
Chris Wood – Rookie that got hurt earlier this summer. May not be in the best form. Might be a liability, because of recent play. C-
Sergio Garcia – Loves the Ryder Cup and is a Seve Ballesteros practitioner of gamesmanship. Will take the role of Ian Poulter on the course. A
Justin Rose – Solid all around. Will not fold and will grind to the finish in every match. A-
Rafael Cabera-Bello – Solid addition to team. Will bring fire to team and be a great partner for Sergio. B+
Andy Sullivan – Another possible weak link. A rookie that is not playing great right now C-
Matthew Fitzpatrick - A newcomer to Ryder Cup action, but not to the world stage. He will be on this team for years to come. Won US Amateur at match play and will be a major championship winner in the future. B+
Lee Westwood (captain’s pick) – Solid pick for experience and leadership. Has played well in spots this year, but short game is still his vulnerable area. Might be a liability, because he wouldn’t be able to carry his teammate as in the past. C+
Martin Kaymer (captain’s pick) – Steady as they come, but not spectacular. Will give you a solid effort and result. Hasn’t raised his level of play lately. B-
Thomas Pieters (captain’s pick) – Hot player who could not be overlooked for the final spot. Will be tough in all formats and knows how to be a team player. This is a player who is capable of being a top 10 player in the world. A-
The Ryder Cup will come right after the Tour Championship this week to determine the FedEx year-end champion. Jason Day, Adam Scott and Paul Casey are in the top five and have a chance for the $10,000,000 payout. Ryder Cuppers Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed are the other two in the top five that if they win will automatically capture the trophy. Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth are 6 and 7 in the standings and if they win this week, they will need the players ahead of them to not have a high finish so they can move ahead of them in points. Great test before the Ryder Cup with all of the American team participating except for Ricky Fowler and only Rory McIlroy for the European team. The European’s will be rested and eager for action and our team might have a slight letdown after an intense climax to the PGA Tour season. Given a choice, I would opt for being in competition the week before. However I’m sure each team will come out in full force and ready for battle. Should be a great climax to the PGA Tour season and an even better competition the following week!