ATTENTION, READERS in the 28 EUROPEAN VAT COUNTRIES: Because of the new VAT law, you probably can't order books direct from my site now. But that's okay -- just go to my Smashwords author page.
You can order PDFs (as well as all the other ebook formats) from there.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Mother Nature Sweeps Friday Matches

Thunderstorm clip artAs the Scottish poet Robert Burns once wrote, "The best-laid schemes of captains and assistants gang aft agley / And leave us no relief from the rain..." Or something to that effect.

Welcome to the Ryder Cup. There were more than 7 hours in rain delays, and Mother Nature is up in all 4 matches. Sun Mountain Sports may have been the biggest loser, since the rain gear they made for the US Team failed to keep the players dry... and the US Team ended up buying Euro rainwear in the merchandise tent. You can check out this article on the rainwear debacle at CNBC for more info.

Plus, let me give you guys a link I found Friday. It's for a Ryder Cup webcast hosted by Michael Breed and Brian Katrek that runs concurrently with the TV broadcasts. You probably recognize the names: Brian Katrek hosts both Teed Off on XM Radio and On the Green on "Sports Radio 790 The Zone" down in Atlanta, and Michael Breed hosts The Golf Fix on Golf Channel. The webcast doesn't necessarily show the same thing that's showing on TV; if it does, there's about a 10-second delay. But I thought they added a lot of good info that didn't wasn't mentioned on TV, so you might want to run the webcast while you watch the TV broadcast.

And now, on to the golf... such as it was. Here are the results for the unfinished morning session (the players in bold are leading):
  1. Phil Mickelson / Dustin Johnson VS Lee Westwood / Martin Kaymer
    1 up thru 12
  2. Stewart Cink / Matt Kuchar VS Rory McIlroy / Graeme McDowell
    2 up thru 11
  3. Steve Stricker / Tiger Woods VS Ian Poulter / Ross Fisher
    All square thru 10
  4. Bubba Watson / Jeff Overton VS. Luke Donald / Padraig Harrington
    1 up thru 8
As it stands, the US is actually leading (SHOCK!), 2.5 to 1.5.

I had some trouble sleeping Thursday night, so I flipped on the TV and got to see all the players tee off. The weather was absolutely horrible. Very few players even managed to hit the fairway, but I was really pleased to see that Jeff Overton was one of them. He not only piped his drive, but then got a birdie on the first hole to put him and Bubba up in the match. Bubba birdied the second, and they still led when play was called for the day.

In case you didn't know why play was initially called: Steve Stricker hit one of the fairways, but there was so much casual water (even with squeegee teams following each match) that his closest point of relief was in the rough some 25 feet away. Since that clearly affects the outcome of the match, play was suspended.

By the time most of you read this, these matches will have been settled. The real news is how the rest of Saturday is scheduled, and how that affects team strategy. Believe me, it will have a HUGE effect on the outcome.

Here's the plan for today's play, assuming the weather holds:
  • 1st wave: Finish Friday's fourball matches.
  • 2nd wave: Play 6 foursomes.
  • 3rd wave: Play 4 fourballs & 2 foursomes.
Why the strange numbers? Normally, you play 8 fourballs and 8 foursomes. With 4 fourballs already underway, that leaves 4 fourballs and 8 foursomes. By playing 6 foursomes in the 2nd wave, you put everybody out and get half of the remaining matches played, leaving 4 fourballs and 2 foursomes for the 3rd wave -- which can be played in one session if you send everybody out again. Instead of 4 sessions, you only need 3... as long as the weather holds up long enough to finish them all on Saturday.

How does this change the strategy? Well, if the captain could choose the whole team, he could pick players who were good in all three styles of play -- fourballs, foursomes, and singles. However, since most of the members qualify on points, you generally get players who you know are good at singles but vary in their abilities at the other two. The captain then uses his picks not only to get players who are temperamentally compatible with those qualifiers, but to fill out holes in the teams' requirements. In the end, he has some players who are particularly good at fourballs (like a Stewart Cink or an Ian Poulter), some who are better at foursomes (maybe a Jim Furyk or a Luke Donald), and some who do well at both (think of a Steve Stricker or Lee Westwood). The match format recognizes this, and that's why it only requires 8 players in a session, rather than all 12; you send out your strongest players in each format.

As a result, the captain can choose to "hide" players who are weak in a given format. In fact, on the rare chance that someone qualified who was only good at singles, the captain could sit him until the singles.

The weather has destroyed this strategy. All 12 players will have to play in the foursomes during the 2nd wave, meaning there could be some very weak teams out there. And the 3rd wave presents a new problem: Since you'll be playing fourballs and foursomes at the same time, and everybody will have to play, the captains have some hard decisions.

Here's one obvious example: It's easy to assume Monty meant to play Westwood in all four team sessions. However, there are only 3 sessions now. Westwood has played the 1st wave fourballs and will play the 2nd wave foursomes... but do you send him out in a fourball or a foursome for the 3rd session? Which decision weakens the team least? And since he could conceivably have to play 42 holes on Saturday (if all 3 of his matches run the full 18), how might that affect his torn calf muscles? Westwood can't be rested Saturday if it starts bothering him. He will have to play all 3 waves.

Oh yeah, this could be a real interesting Ryder Cup.

No comments:

Post a Comment