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Friday, October 1, 2010

The Ryder Cup is Underway at Last!

The preliminaries are finally over and we can get down to some golf! At the time I'm writing this, all I know are the pairings for morning fourballs (in case you've forgotten, that's where each player plays his own ball and the team takes the lower score):
  1. Phil Mickelson / Dustin Johnson VS Lee Westwood / Martin Kaymer
  2. Stewart Cink / Matt Kuchar VS Rory McIlroy / Graeme McDowell
  3. Steve Stricker / Tiger Woods VS Ian Poulter / Ross Fisher
  4. Bubba Watson / Jeff Overton VS. Luke Donald / Padraig Harrington
There's been quite a bit of buzz already about the US lineup. I understand that Monty referred to Tiger being "hidden" in the third match, and that when Corey was pressed about why Tiger was in the third group, he simply said "the first two spots are filled already." I guess the Euros expected the Stricker/Woods pairing to go out either first or last; there seemed to be some disappointment that Donald and Harrington drew the rookies.

I'm not really surprised that Furyk is sitting the first match. Combining the excitement of the Tour Championship and FedExCup win with the time change, I suspect he could use a little extra rest. (Plus the course will most likely be damp and cold and play long in the morning, so Jim -- and Zach, for that matter -- would be at a disadvantage right off. Accuracy will probably be more valuable in the afternoon alternate shot wave.)

Nor am I particularly surprised that Watson/Overton goes out in the morning. Again, the course is most likely to be damp and cold and play long in the early round, so their length will probably be most valuable then. (Plus they both seem to be chomping at the bit to get out there. I say put them out early and avoid the possibility of having them play their first match when the US is behind. Historically, I believe we've done worse in fourball than alternate shot.)

The real surprise to me is that Monty is sitting the Molinari brothers in the morning. How do you sit the reigning World Cup team in any match? I would have expected them to go out in all four team matches; they could be the real juggernaut on the Euro Team.

What seems most clear to me with these pairings is that both captains want to see how their big names -- especially their question marks -- are playing. Furyk and Jiminez are arguably the hottest players on the planet right now and both have been this route before, so sitting for one round is no problem for them.

Monty's question mark? Kaymer is hot but also a rookie, so testing him under fire with Westwood (whose health still has to be a bit of a question) is not just a smart pairing move -- sending them out first will give Westwood the most rest possible if Monty wants to play him in the afternoon.

Corey's question mark? Clearly it's the Stricker/Woods pairing. I suspect the third position was chosen to avoid putting Tiger's swing under more stress until he's had at least one chance to test it under Ryder Cup pressure... and to see if the team's magic will carry over from the Presidents Cup. Fourballs with Stricker is probably the safest test for Tiger's new swing tweaks.

I actually think the afternoon pairings will be the most telling about the teams. Despite the US problems in fourballs, alternate shot is the more exacting skill in team play. But I suspect the Euros will lead after the morning round, 2.5 to 1.5, with matches 1 & 4 going to the Euros, match 2 a tie, and match 3 going to the US. That's right -- I think Stricker/Woods will be the only victorious US team in the morning.

I hope I'm wrong and the US sweeps the fourballs, but history indicates it will probably be otherwise.

2 comments:

  1. Can't wait for Steve Stricker / Tiger Woods VS Ian Poulter / Ross Fisher!

    ReplyDelete
  2. So I set the DVR to record starting around noon (eastern) when they were supposed to get back on the course and there seem to be some really long shadows. Did they install lights during the break ? That can't be sunshine. :-D

    If this afternoon weather continues, we're going to see some great golf shots and maybe even the lavender sweaters on the Americans.

    ReplyDelete