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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Can You Really Sit Phil & Keegan?

Friday was a really good day for the US and not so good for the Euros. In many ways, that's not surprising -- after all, as I have said repeatedly, the home team (whoever they may be) should be favored in any Ryder Cup. But the results were a surprise for an unexpected reason.

Traditionally, the US is strongest in foursomes (alternate shot) and the Euros are strongest in fourballs. Friday the Euros managed to tie the foursomes and the US dominated the fourballs. Save for Colsaerts and his record-setting performance, this Cup might be nearly over before it even got started. Clearly the rookies on both sides have decided that experience is overrated... and proven they're right!

So how much sense have each side's choices made? First, here are the Saturday morning foursomes:
  1. Simpson-Watson VS Rose-Poulter 
  2. Bradley-Mickelson VS Westwood-Donald
  3. Dufner-ZJohnson VS Colsaerts-Garcia    
  4. Furyk-Snedeker VS McIlroy-McDowell
Much has been made of Woods and Stricker sitting, but I think that should have been expected. Between knees and necks, both men have been recovering this year and sitting them for their least-profitable format makes sense.

Likewise, many questioned the Euro decision to sit Poulter, Donald, and Garcia on Friday afternoon, but I thought that also made sense. They played during the foursomes -- typically the worst Euro format -- and sat during the fourballs, when the Euros expected to be stronger and thus you would miss them least. Since you expect the strongest players to play both sessions Saturday and the Sunday singles, sitting them then made the most sense. It just didn't work out as planned, while the US team got more than they expected. As they say, that's why we actually play the matches.

I expect to see Rose-Poulter and McIlroy-McDowell in both sessions today, and I expect to see Garcia-Donald in the afternoon. I expect either Molinari or Hanson to team with Colsaerts as their fourth team. (Although JM may play Westwood all 4 matches, even if he doesn't play well with Donald this morning. Since nobody particularly stood out besides Colsaerts on Friday, JM doesn't have a lot of current form to base his decisions on. He may decide to go with experience and trust that Lee will figure out some way to score.)

As for the question I began this post with... I don't think so, at least if Phil & Keegan win their morning match. I understand that Phil's arthritis could be a concern going 5 matches, but that assumes you're worried about his singles match. Phil's only 4-4-0 in singles; if he and Keegan can get me 4 points in the team sessions, I don't worry about his singles match. And if he goes 4-0 in team matches, he may be so thrilled that he blows his singles opponent away. So if they look good, I play that team in every session.

I know everybody thinks DL3 won't play anybody for 5 matches, but that's not what he said. He said he'd prefer not to... that's a different matter.

I also look for Simpson-Watson to play both sessions today, and for Kuchar-DJohnson and Woods-Stricker to play this afternoon -- the same groupings that played so well Friday afternoon. Let's not forget, fourballs have traditionally been the US weak spot. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Overall, I won't be surprised it the day finishes 9-7 in the US's favor -- an even split of Saturday's matches. I look for the US to win the morning session and the Euros to win the afternoon session, the result we expected Friday.

Oh, and one other thing... let's not forget that the US needs 14.5 points to win the Cup, while Europe needs only 14 to retain it. That effectively puts the Euros only 1.5 points behind. That half-point could be big come Sunday afternoon.

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