It’s Ryder Cup Week!

It is finally here! The Ryder Cup! By far one of my favorite events in all of sports. The bi-annual event between Team USA and Team Europe kicks off this Friday. The 39th edition of the Ryder Cup is at Medinah Country Club outside of Chicago. The US team is led by Captain Davis Love III and the European squad is captained by Jose Maria Olazabal. Both men are Ryder Cup veterans and have played against each other in the past. This is going to be good.

The PGA Tour just finished is season with the Tour Championship at East Lake C.C. In Atlanta. Seventeen of the players in the field of 30 are competing in the Ryder Cup. All 12 Americans were in the Tour Championship and 5 of the European Team members were as well. There is a truckload of talent between the two teams. All 12 of the Team USA members are ranked in the top 25 in the Official World Rankings. Team Europe has 7 players in the top 25. This is the most talent ever in the Ryder Cup.

So here are some questions. Will we see Rory vs Tiger? Who is DL3 going to pair together? Can the Europeans overcome what is expected to be a hostile US crowd? Can Team USA live up to the expectations and win?

First, I think we will see Rory vs Tiger on Friday. I think DL3 and Jose Maria will give the fans what they want to see. That is the only way to guarantee McIlroy and Woods play against each other. Sunday singles matches is near impossible to line them up. Unless both captains put them up in the first or last match on Sunday figuring the other will do the same. So I think we will get this matchup during the four-ball or foursome matches.

Pairings. Of course we all know that Captain Davis will go with the pairing of Woods/Stricker right of the bat. That is why Steve is on this team, to be paired with Tiger. This pairing has worked in the past. Keegan Bradley has said he wants to play with Phil Mickelson. I think it makes sense. Put a steady Eddie rookie with The Ryder Cup veteran “Phil the Thrill”. That would be a solid pair. Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson have also said they would like to play together. Both are calm and cool customers. I think that pair could be sneaky point hogs for Team USA. And what about FedEx Cup Champ Brandt Snedeker? Who does this Ryder Cup rookie play with? Furyk? Dustin Johnson? Capt. DL3 has so much talent on this roster that I am not sure if he can go wrong with whomever he runs out there.

Finally, I believe the crowd will be a HUGE factor. In this day and age of Twitter, Facebook and the Internet, fans on the grounds will know exactly what is going on all over the course and be able to react accordingly. This could prove to be an advantage for the Americans. The fans will instantly know match status and how hard to route on the US Team or worse…jeer and heckle the Europeans. That will be something Team Europe will have to deal with for sure.

My prediction: Captain Davis Love III brings the Cup back to stay on American soil.
Team USA wins 15 1/2 – 12 1/2.

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Congratulations to Freddie Couples!

One of my very favorite golfers of all time will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2013. Well…he is a whole lot of people’s favorite golfers. It was announced earlier today that Fred Couples will be in the 2013 Hall of Fame class.

Frederick Steven Couples. Better know as Fred or Freddie or even Boom Boom. Born in Seattle, Washington on October 3, 1959. Attended the University of Houston. Turned pro in 1980. Joined PGA Tour in 1982. Joined Champions Tour in 2010. He has 55 professional wins. 15 PGA Tour wins. 3 European Tour wins. 8 Champions Tour wins. Won the 1992 Masters for his only major victory. 1991, 1992 PGA Tour player of the year.

Freddie Couples is so much more than stats. He has been a fan favorite on tour for as long as I can remember. I grew up watching Freddie cruise and smile his way around the golf course. He had and still has one of the smoothest swings you will ever see. It goes right along perfectly with his calm, cool and collected demeanor on the links. One of the things I have always loved and admired about Freddie is that presence and attitude of the course. Watching him play, you can’t tell whether he is in a PGA event or playing a $5 Nassau with his buddies.

Make no mistake…Fred Couples absolutely deserves this honor. He has been a tremendous ambassador for the game of golf. He was a bulldog for the US Ryder Cup Team and Presidents Cup Team. He has won the past two Presidents Cups as team Captain. He can still play too. Every spring he makes a little noise at Augusta National. He has never denied that The Masters is his favorite event and absolutely loves playing there. Don’t be surprised to see him contend a few more times there before he is done.

Congratulations Fred!

Greg Norman’s Comments Are Not Dead On, But They Are Close

“What I’m seeing is that Tiger’s really intimidated by Rory,” he says. “When have you ever seen him intimidated by another player? Never.

“But I think he knows his time’s up and that’s normal; these things tend to go in 15-year cycles.

“Jack took it from Arnold (Palmer). I took it from Jack, Tiger from me and now it looks like Rory’s taking it from Tiger.”

As you can see, Greg Norman was not shy by his opinions.   I am not convinced that Tiger is intimidated, but I do think that he sense the end is nearer than the beginning.

Greg stated that Jack Nicklaus passed the baton to him, then he passed it to Tiger.   Greg Norman was a wonderful Champion and he had his day in the sun though he may always be none for his collapses in Major Championships.   He has won Major Championships,  just not one on American Soil.    He also spent over 300 weeks as the number one player in the world.   That said, he was one of the greatest golfer’s of all time.    So his opinion is valid and one of experience.

Greg stated that when he started winning, he really did not acknowledge his place until he had beaten Jack one on one in match play at Wentworth.
He considered it his “crowned jewel”.

Rory has beaten Tiger the last couple of weeks, as he has won the last two Fed Ex Playoff Events.    Tiger was contending in each one, but was not able to find that gear that he was famous for having.    Tiger’s game will still yield him a win or two per season for a few more years, but even that will start to slow up.

Tiger is a competitor, and he would never admit that he was intimidated, though  he is more friendly with this rival as he has been with any of them.    Is that because Tiger is older and wiser?    Is it because of Tiger’s recent issues that has caused some self  induced humility?     Or is it because his skills are not what they used to be, and he knows that deep down?    I think it is all of the above.   He remembers what it is like to be in Rory’s shoes.  Instead of living it, he is watching it.

On the other hand, McIlroy understands where he is, and because he knows how to just roll with it and not let it get to big for him, he handles it with grace and class. Though Rory is only 23, so we may not see his best golf for a while.   Scary thought if you ask me.

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The European Ryder Cup Team Travels Well

The Americans have not figured this one out yet.   Though, the European team has the whole traveling thing down pat.    No group/team travels as tightly as this team does for any event.

The European Ryder cup team, really is a team.    They stay together while they travel to different countries to play in tournaments, and in the Ryder Cup, they act and prepare as a unit.   There is little room for any selfishess on this team.    The Captains won’t have it, and the guys with the experience also will not tolerate it.

In a lot of cases, these guys have been playing together for a long time.    And when the young guys step up and it is there turn to contribute or lead, they show they have learned from their elders well.    They follow the same recipe that has been laid in front of them for years.

Rory McIllroy is currently leading the FedEx Cup and is currently the number 1 European player in the World.   So, for the first time since the PGA started this playoff system, a European Cup winner could be leading his team into the Ryder Cup event the  following week.

Tiger is currently 2nd in Cup points, and is the top American.    That said, Woods has never been the strongest Ryder Cup Player.  He is someone that plays well when it is for himself.    Where as, the European team members all embrace this format so much that I do not think  it affects them the same.   They know how to put their individual goals aside to win as a team.

I think that this Ryder Cup will be one of the most competitive and fun to watch because for the first time in years, the most watched/followed player in the world may not be Tiger, it very well could be Rory.   Wow how times have changed.

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Will the Rio McIlroy be EIRE to the core or a Team GB Rory?

Whilst Rory McIlroy looks to have the FedEx Cup, Race to Dubai and money lists topped for this year as our learned colleague 5beachgolf surmises, not to mention finishing atop of the OWGR rankings come the end of the season another all-but certainty, there is one aspect of the Northern Irish fella’s game not so cut and dried.

Who will Rory play for at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil?

For those living beyond the boundaries of our septic isle, the decision may look as simple as signing on the dotted line. You’re born in Northern Ireland, so you play for the UK, or Team GBR as it indubitably will be. But the tightrope upon which you walk is a lot thinner than most when you’re talking affinity to one flag or another, despite anything that a peace process may or may not have announced to the world in the Good Friday agreement.

You only have to look back at last season’s Scottish Premier league campaign to get a sense of the depth of feeling that remains. Neil Lennon, having been born and having played for Northern Ireland, took over the reigns as manager of Celtic FC after a successful career as a player there. The fact that Celtic was borne of Irish Catholics looking for a community and presence in Glasgow at the end of the nineteenth century and it is only ever the green, white and orange tricolour you will see around Celtic Park even to this day, never the Saltire, only hammers home the allegiance the club and fans have with their Republican roots.

The protestant element went out of their way to emphasise just how much they thought of Lennon as a traitor, as he was attacked on the field at Tynecastle, had the walls of his home daubed with sectarian slogans, received death threats and even received a letter bomb through the post, as did two prominent Scottish figures associated with the club.

WP Rory McIlroy

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not that I’m suggesting this depth of feeling runs over into golf, but denying that it exists in sport at all is somewhat foolhardy.  What will his Irish fan base think if, having played for Ireland as a youth “under the Golfing Union of Ireland umbrella” as he recently referred to his career-to-date affinity, he then turns around and plays for Team GBR four years from now and not EIRE?

In a recent tweet, Rory has categorically stated that he has not made up his mind. Who can blame him? But he has fuelled the rumour mill by recently stating in the Daily Mail that he feels more British than Irish. Perhaps he is laying down the foundations for an announcement, possibly before this season’s out.

With the harmony of Europe coming together to defend the Ryder Cup in Medinah next month, there hardly seems a better time to publicly declare where his future loyalties lie, especially if Team Europe pull off the win that the bookies have U-turned on over the last six weeks and now fully expect against the backdrop of all recent major golf competitions have found champions from the east shore of The Atlantic.

Does Rory think with his head or his heart?

Along with the Irish golfing nation, the likes of Donald, Westwood, Rose and Poulter, at least one of whom would have to miss out in the event of Rory coming down on the side of Team GBR, must also be hoping he carries on sporting the green, white and orange. But to my mind, I think Brazil in 2016 will most definitely see a Team featuring a Great British Rory. Let’s hope the fans appreciate his decision, whichever way he goes, and just accept him for who he is now, the greatest golfer on the planet, irrespective of where he comes from.

Hunter Mahan is a bad sport

So Hunter Mahan says he will probably not watch the Ryder Cup matches in two weeks when they take place in Chicago at Medinah Country Club. Give me a break! Talk about a spoiled sport. In an interview he gave this week at he stated that having been there and competed in it…it would be too tough to watch. He will probably just tune in at the end of each day to check the scores. What a load of crap!!!!!

Hunter Mahan is like the kid in the neighborhood that didn’t get picked for the game. Come on, we all knew this kid when we were young. If he did not get picked to play in the game (no matter what sport it may be) he would grab his stuff, get on his Huffy bicycle and peddle his butt home crying to his mommy that the mean kids wouldn’t let him play. That is what Hunter Mahan is doing now about the Ryder Cup. He did not get chosen as one of the four Captain’s Picks to see his going home to pout and not watch the matches.

Bravo Hunter!!! You jerk!! How about a little professionalism? How about a little patriotism? How about acting like a grown adult? So you didn’t make the team. To quote our good friend, and the Sports Monger himself, Jason Havelka “Life’s tough…wear a helmet!”

Hunter Mahan has only himself to blame for not making this team. After the Masters in April he was in first place on the Ryder Cup points list. Then he played like a dog for the next four months. He missed the cut at The Players Championship, finished 38th at the US Open, 19th at The Open Championship and missed the cut at the PGA Championship. His best finish was 8th at the AT&T National at Congressional. Yes he was 9th on the points list for the Ryder Cup, but he had not played well all summer. So why would DL3 take him?

I think Hunter Mahan is a very good golfer. In fact I have picked him to win several tournaments in a fantasy golf pool that I play in. But my opinion of Hunter Mahan the man has changed tremendously after his comments this week. It is ok to be disappointed that he did not get picked. It is even ok to be angry and feel like you were screwed or over looked. But come on Hunter….show a little class. Don’t stomp your feet and take your toys and go home. We all thought you were better than that.

“Life’s tough…wear a helmet!” Words to live by Hunter.

Can anyone beat McIlroy???

Can anyone beat Rory McIlroy for the 2012 FedEx Cup and $10 million prize?? The list is short. Tiger, Phil and Dustin Johnson are the only ones that have a chance (in my opinion that is). They are the only 3 players that have been playing at a high enough level to try and keep up with Rory. He is playing so incredibly well right now that I am not sure that he can be caught.

The Tour Championship at East Lake C.C. Is next weekend outside Atlanta. The top 30 holders in FedEx Cup rankings are in the field. They all better hope that the week off will cool McIlroy down some to get everyone else a chance. There are some great names in the field next week. Lee Westwood, Brandt Snedeker, Louis Oosthuizen, and Bubba Watson are all within striking distance but I still believe only 3 guys have a shot at this thing.

Rory has played so well that he can finish as low as 29th at East Lake and still have a mathematical shot at winning the Cup! 29th!! That is next to last!! It is very likely that he will win this thing…..unless…..

Tiger wins next week then he is champion. Or if Phil wins then he is champ. Or if DJ wins and Rory finishes 3rd or worse. These 3 are the only people playing on the same level as McIlroy. In my opinion it will be one of these four men that will be walking away with $10 million in their pocket next week.

I know football season is in full swing now but man these FedEx Cup playoffs have been exciting!!!