Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Ryder Cup Perspective

Let's start with the good and man there was a lot of it. Most obviously the fact that this is the first time in the history of the Fantasy Golf Report that we didn't have to call this The Ryder Cup Post Mortem. For whatever reason, the Americans just had better stuff than the Europeans this time. Better chemistry. Better mojo. And most importantly, better putting.* If you ask Phil Mickelson why, he'll give you that smug fucking "I told you so" look he wore for the post-match interviews and talk about how they followed the plan they use to win the President's Cup almost every year. However, I think there might be a more accurate and straightforward answer. The Americans were a demonstrably better team. (Prove it). Ok. Consider these points:

1. Since the last Ryder Cup was played, here is the scoreboard between American Ryder Cuppers and their European counterparts of wins in tournaments that feature world class fields:
  • Majors: Americans - 5 . . . Europeans - 2
  • WGC: Americans - 2 . . . Europeans - 1**
  • Players: Americans - 1 . . . Europeans - 0

Even the uniforms were cooler this year.
That's a big game score of 8-3. And, if you include the Americans 5-2 edge in runner-ups at majors which you could argue are more valuable than WGC wins and are certainly more valuable than a Players win, that takes the score up to 13-4. Also, six American players contributed to that score (Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler). Compare that current depth to the fallow years since the last U.S. Ryder Cup win in 2008 when their best big game players were an erratic Mickelson, an enigmatic Bubba Watson and the artist formerly known as Tiger Woods. Any chemistry involving those three is going to end-up going BOOM which is great if you're trying to counter-intimidate a drug dealer but not so great if you're trying to win a team golf event.

2. The average World Golf Ranking for the American team was 16.3. The average ranking for the Europeans was 27.7. That might not seem like such a big deal until you start pairing players off in match-ups. You want to play your #3 against our #3? Ok. How do you like your odds with Danny Willett against Patrick Reed? You want to go #9 v. #9? Cool. We get Brandt Snedeker and you've got Matthew Fitzpatrick. How about #11 v. #11? Fine. Zach Johnson v. Martin Kaymer will be a good match but we like our chances. Of course the Europeans could've balanced this out a bit by fielding Paul Casey (#12 in the world) but they have a rule that made Casey ineligible because, despite the fact that he was born and lives in England, he's not an official European Tour member (I'm sure Brexit had something to do with it). And again, Clarke could have picked Knox (#19 in the world) over Westwood but Knox's booze game is as yet unproven and Clarke needed to make sure he had someone to get back-slapping drunk with after Ian Poulter and Sam Torrance passed-out every night.  

3. The Americans got better by "promoting" certain guys from player to vice-captain. When they lost the Cup in 2012 by simulating a person who has a large bone stuck in his throat while stumbling around an Outback Steakhouse begging people for help, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker combined to play in 11 matches and produced a whopping total of 1.5 points.*** Bubba Watson played ok in 2012 but his career Ryder Cup record is 8 matches played and 3 points won. And you can interpret this analogy however you like but the most difficult conditions under which to play golf are either (a) gusty unpredictable winds or (b) when you can't stand your partner. I'll just leave that there.    

So you see? Sometimes it's just as simple as the better team wins. This makes the job of the 2018 "task force" fairly straightforward: (1) Hope you have better players to choose from leading-up to the Cup . . . (2) choose those players . . . and (3) avoid chokers and dickheads. 

For about five seconds on Sunday, Patrick Reed
did the impossible and made me stop hating him.
And then that feeling passed.
And now for the bad. Come on people. You can heckle the Euros as they walk down the fairways and between holes but don't bark on their backswings and cheer missed shots. And American players. You're not much better. Here is the proper sequence to follow when dropping a dagger putt to win your singles match (I'm looking at you Patrick Reed):

1. Make the putt.

2. Remove your hat.

3. Calmly shake the hands of your opponent and his caddie.

4. Turn to the crowd and go completely apeshit. 

Aside from this being the respectful way to do it, it's also the cooler way to do it because during those brief moments when you're honoring your opponent, the crowd intensity is quietly building just waiting for you to turn around and light the fuse. When you start jumping around and double-fist pumping right away, you waste the opportunity to send the crowd into a full extended frenzy because watching you awkwardly shake hands after you just rubbed it in the guy's face is a buzz kill.   

And while we're here, can we all agree that cupping your hand to your ear as a way of telling the crowd "I can't hear you" is a dorky gesture that every sport besides golf has left behind. If you're not convinced, then just know that no matter who you are, you look just as annoying as David Duval in 1999 when you do it. Enough said on that.   

"It's a one foot putt Lee.
I'd say go right at it."
Before we conclude and potentially go dark until January (and beyond if I actually follow-through on my annual threat to stop writing this crap), we would be remiss if we didn't at least make mention of the passing of a great American golf hero who has impacted countless major championships and whose disembodied spirit helped inspire last weekend's victory. Even though we have almost surely seen the last of it in Ryder Cup competition, Lee Westwood's putter will always have a place in our hearts even as it sinks to the bottom of lake with a name like Windemere, Ullswater, Bassanthwaite or some crazy shit like that. Godspeed Lee Westwood's putter. Godspeed.    

Footnotes

* Please don't check me on that from a statistical standpoint because I have no idea if it's true but it sure seemed that way. Then again, it rained all weekend around here so alcohol got involved early and often meaning I may have been watching highlights of the same putts over and over and not known it.   

** The Europeans could have had another WGC winner if Darren Clarke had picked Russell Knox instead of one of the world's most notoriously bad clutch putters in Lee Westwood. But hey, how often do Ryder Cup matches ever come down to putting anyway? ("So I was gonna wear a condom but then I thought hey, when am I ever going to get back to Haiti?"). More on Westwood's putter later in the show.

If this gesture had a name, it
would be "not our finest hour."
*** And we're not even going to get into what they did playing in three of the last five matches on Sunday with the Cup on the line because if you're reading something called the Fantasy Golf Report, you probably already know what they did so no need to ruin the joy of 2016 by reliving it here . . . though I just got a chill remembering Furyk's putt on 18 . . . and not the good kind of chill like when someone says "drinks on me" . . . more like the "did I forget to close that browser on my home computer when I had the whole house to myself?" kind of chill. Speaking of which, is "did I forget to close that browser?" the new "did I leave the oven on?" Don't ovens eventually turn themselves off these days? If so, can someone please invent the self-closing browser? Come on Bill Gates. Stop trying to cure everything and help a brother out.