Monday, August 28, 2006

Ryder Cup Thoughts

After watching the WGS tournament held at Firestone Country Club last week it’s clear that the US is fielding a rather weak team. Tom Lehman is a poor choice for Captain and he will have difficulty motivating players who, on the regular tour, have a hard time motivating themselves. One redeeming feature is that the European team, while marginally stronger, also has members that play mostly for themselves.

Ian Woosnam will make a very good Captain as he is quite a fighter and a very determined individual. There are excellent players on both sides but the player who is and who should be expected to be far above the rest is Tiger Woods. He has already taken on defacto assistant captain’s role by contacting the younger team members and attempting to bond with them. Tiger might actually end up as the shadow playing captain.

In the last several weeks Tiger has faced competition from members of both sides and has prevailed. Just yesterday he held off Stewart Cink for his fourth straight tour championship. The conditions were good most of the week and Tiger overcame a distinct problem of four straight bogies that would have unhinged a lesser person. At the same time none of the other players could play well enough to eliminate Tiger while he was faltering. Emotionally Tiger is at the top of his game, the question is can he maintain this peak performance at the Ryder Cup?

The course at the K Club is not as difficult as the Firestone course. The disadvantage for the US Team is that the play will be in Ireland. These professionals are used to traveling to be sure, but several members are struggling at home. Phil Mickelson seems to be self-destructing after his US Open meltdown. Stewart Cink couldn’t put Tiger away when he had the chance. None of the other US Ryder Cup players were even in contention.

The European Team members who were in contention faltered badly under the pressure of a Tiger comeback. Luke Donald, who faded badly in the PGA Championship, couldn’t hold on. Paul Casey had a firm grasp on the victory and let it slip away fading to -7 at the end. The Ryder Cup is nothing like a regular tour event and so things might play out differently. The so-called American weakness in the alternate shot format is overrated. Why shouldn’t professional golfers be able to cope with whatever situation is left them?

The tournament will be a good one and the result is far from certain. The victory will be a close run thing whichever side prevails. Don’t be surprised with a tie, which is actually a defeat for the US as the Europeans will retain the Cup.

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