Thursday, September 27, 2018

The 2018 Ryder Cup Preview

I'm never quite sure how to preview the Ryder Cup because we don't get the match-ups in advance and we don't even know how many times each guy is going to play (though the practice rounds appear to be giving us some strong indicators). I guess I could trot-out some thoroughly unimaginative power rankings like the ones over on PGATour.com. Or I could use those power rankings to do my own power rankings while mocking the commentary in the other guy's power rankings. It would literally combine two of my favorite things: (1) power rankings; and (2) mocking. I'm inspired.

Since I can't control how many times a guy is going to get in the game my goal here is to rank the players by winning percentage while favoring those who will probably get the most runs and therefore have the greatest impact. My analysis will be based on the following two assumptions: (1) in a match between two golfers or two pairs of golfers, the better golfer(s) usually win; and (2) past Ryder Cup experience doesn't mean shit but past Ryder Cup records do mean shit. In other words, I'd rather have a guy who has never played in one before than a guy who's played eleven matches and gone 3-8-0 (we'll get to him later . . . much later). Playing well in the Ryder Cup is like vodka in your Gatorade. Not for everybody.  

Here's how we're going to do it. I'll give you my rankings followed by PGATour.com's rankings and then each player's past Ryder Cup record. Then I'll quote PGATour.com guru Rob Bolton and pivot off that. It's gonna be great.  

1. (10) Justin Thomas (Past Record 0-0-0)

Rob's Take: "It's hard to believe he's a first-timer in the Ryder Cup."

FGR Take: Who gives a shit? What matters is that he's won eight times since the last Ryder Cup including the PGA Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone. He also went 2-0-1 at the Presidents' Cup. If you were designing the perfect Ryder Cup player, he would be it. He's a fiery grinder who putts lights-out and makes birdie or better on over 25% of the holes he plays. His only weakness is accuracy off the tee but, if you play him in alternate shot, he can just dial it back and hit 270 yard 2-irons all day. Depending on how many matches he plays, I expect him to go something like 3-0-1.  

2. (4) Francesco Molinari (Past Record: 0-3-2)


Rob's Take: "The Italian is one of the anchors of his team." 


FGR Take: The definition of an "anchor" is "a heavy object attached to a rope or chain." According to Rob, the European team has multiple anchors as Molinari ("The Italian") is just one of them so that should be good for the Americans. Despite his anchor theory, Rob has him ranked 4th. I generally agree with him on that part. Francesco is going to be a steady nagging pain in the ass for the Americans this weekend. 


3. (3) Rory McIlroy (Past Record: 9-6-4)

Rob's Take: "Makes the most sense in Four-ball but probably won't sit." 


FGR Take: Just so it doesn't seem like I'm trying to be a total dick, I'll agree 100% with Rob on Rory (you're not fooling anyone).
4. (1) Justin Rose (Past Record: 11-6-2) 

Rob's Take: "In the absence of a Frenchman, he's the spiritual leader for his fellow charges." 


FGR Take: Even if they had a Frenchman, would he really be the spiritual leader? I'm pretty sure the words "if only we had a Frenchman to lead us" have never been written or spoken without a heavy dose of sarcasm. Speaking of which, can we take a moment to appreciate the fact that the course is called "Le Golf National" which translates to "The Golf National"? It's kind of like how "El Nino" means "The Nino". As for Rose, he's playing great and I would imagine that everyone on the team would be happy to be his partner because he seems very supportive and complimentary (you should take note).   


5. (7) Jordan Spieth (Past Record: 4-3-2)

Rob's Take: "Presents one of the easiest pairings on either squad. He's 8-1-3 with Reed in two Ryder Cups and two President Cups."

Dare to find someone
who looks at you like
Torville looks at Dean.
FGR Take: Only now it looks like he's going to be playing with Thomas which I think makes him a more appealing choice because their chemistry should be solid. (Current scuttlebutt is that Patrick Reed is going to play with Tiger). A lot of people were taking for granted the fact that the Spieth-Reed combo would continue to roll like they're Ollie and Seve or Torvill and Dean (classic ice dancing reference dude!) but nothing is forever in this world, especially not in golf. If Jim Furyk does break them up to give Thomas a comfortable pairing and to put someone with Tiger who will thrive under the pressure and the sheer on-course insanity, count me in until it fails miserably and I eviscerate him for it next week.

6. (13) Alex Noren (Record: 0-0-0)

Rob's Take: "Made his PGA Tour foray card look easy in 2017-18 and ranked fifth in strokes gained putting. Winner of the Open de France two months ago and placed eighth here last year."

FGR Take: So Noren is a great putter and he loves the golf course. Then why in the hell did you rank him 13th? Oh wait. Is it because he doesn't have 33 matches worth of individual Ryder Cup experience that have resulted in a losing record while the his team has gone 1-6 in his seven appearances like someone else we know? Yeah that makes sense.    

7. (14) Tommy Fleetwood (Past Record: 0-0-0)

Rob's Take: "Poised to be a staple in the Ryder Cup for years to come, but this is his first."

FGR Take: Again, who gives a shit? The guy is a birdie machine and he won on this course in 2017. He also strikes me as being a blast to play with. The fact that Thomas Bjorn didn't put Eddie Pepperell on this team so they could spend three days acting like golf's answer to Ashton Kuchar and Sean William Scott in Dude, Where's My Car is preposterous. 
8. (2) Patrick Reed: (Past Record: 6-1-2)

Rob's Take: "Fans will want a rematch with McIlroy to open singles, but a faceoff against Hatton to ignite the senses on Sunday could be equally as compelling."

FGR Take: I'm not exactly sure which senses Rob is talking about here. Maybe the sense of taste as in watching Reed and Hatton play would be like having to do a taste test between two different types of aquatic bird shit licked-off the hot metal railing of Parisian tour boat? If you're an American who feels guilty because you're secretly rooting for the Euros, just think of it as rooting against Patrick Reed instead. (That's not me but this event can test your patriotism when you consider who is actually playing . . . especially without Kuch to make you feel better about everything in your life).  

9. (16) Jon Rahm (Past Record: 0-0-0)

Rob's Take: "One of Europe's five debutants, projects to be mentored by and paired with Garcia."

FGR Take: Rob is so obsessed with the new guy thing that he's now diving nine words deep into the Thesaurus. By the way, how exactly is Garcia going to mentor Rahm? "You see Jon, you pout like this and then spit in the cup like this and later we'll discuss how to complain about the way the weather only affects you."   

10. (8) Ian Poulter (Past Record: 12-4-2)

Rob's Take: "Has kept the pedal down since simplifying life outside the ropes."

FGR Take: I guess that's supposed to be a clever reference to Poulter recently buying his 14th Ferrari but I'm not sure how zero top tens anywhere in the world since early June constitutes keeping the "pedal down." I'm taking a bit of a leap of faith here considering that he hasn't had a top thirty in his last four starts but, if there is one guy you can count-on raising his game by 25% at the Ryder Cup, it's this asshole.

11. (12) Brooks Koepka (Past Record: 3-1-0)

Rob's Take: "He and DJ figure to engage in some tactical tag-teaming this week." 

FGR Take: If you read the FGR's 2017 PGA Tour Preview, then I'm sure you remember like it was yesterday how I noted that Rob's writing style seemed to have a flare for the Harlequin Romance angle (of Ryan Palmer he wrote, "so just let him come to you and embrace the predictable" to which I replied "sounds like something my wife would say" HEYOOOO!!!!). Well clearly he's at it again this week with visions of Koepka and DJ frollicking in wrestling singlets. Just wait until we get to Thorbjorn Oleson. 

12. (9) Rickie Fowler (Past Record: 2-4-5)

Rob's Take: "Captain Furyk's swingman could pair with anyone from Thomas to Mickelson to DeChambeau." 

FGR Take: Not sure about the swingman role. I think Rickie is like 5' 8" so if you've got him guarding the European small forward, you're fucked. I do, however, think that this is the year he plays well and makes a really solid contribution like say a 2-1-1 record because the stupid 2-3 holes he plays every round will get erased in match play and also because it's not a major (see Colin Montgomerie).   

13. (5) Dustin Johnson (Past Record: 6-5-0)

Rob's Take: "The world's most natural talent is No. 1 in the world again." 

FGR Take: I happen to think that Ryan Gosling is the world's most natural talent, especially after his performance in La La Land and The Knife Guys but that's just me. As for DJ, I expect him to have a solid but not spectacular Ryder Cup. His career 3-0 singles record is a little deceptive because those matches were against Chris Wood, Nicolas Colsaerts and Martin Kaymer with the Kaymer match being the only one you'd describe as a good win. Hopefully we get to see him against McIlroy or Rose this year. As for my Gosling contention, I rest my case:



14. (6) Tiger Woods (Record: 13-17-3)

Rob's Take: "Everyone will want to pair with him, of course, but look for one or two partnerships with DeChambeau."

FGR Take: I can assure you of two things: (1) all eleven of Tiger's teammates would say they want to play with him; and (2) almost half of them would be lying. Why would you want to play with a guy who's combined record in Ryder Cup Fourballs and Foursomes is 9-16-1? I'm pretty sure that's a large enough sample size to indicate that either Tiger doesn't play well with others or others don't play well with him (or both). Even if you factor-in his Presidents' Cup record in those formats (18-13-1), he's still below .500 (27-29-2). Remember that this whole team concept runs counter to everything that Tiger was taught growing-up when his father used tell him that all of the other junior golfers were Vietcong and the only way he was going to make it off the course alive was to shoot 67.

15. (11) Thorbjorn Oleson (Record:0-0-0)


Rob's Take: "Strong off the tee, his game only gets better nearer the hole." 


FGR Take: In other words, Oleson delivers a powerful thrust off the tee and maintains a pulsating energy down the fairway climaxing in ecstasy at the green. Someone get the crowd a cigarette.  


16. (17) Bryson DeChambeau (Past Record: 0-0-0)

Rob's Take: "The American with the French surname is a captain's pick and a first-timer, but he welcomes all things new. Tutelage under Woods is predictable . . ."

FGR Take: It's taking everything I've got not to make a "how to order at a pancake house" joke here (nice effort). Anyway, don't forget that DeChambeau had one of the more convincing U.S. Amateur performances in 2015 which should come as no surprise because he's got two of the key traits of a great matchplay player: (1) he's methodical; and (2) his style of play annoys the shit out of his opponents.  

17. (18) Webb Simpson (Past Record: 2-3-1)

Rob's Take: "Asserted himself better than anyone else at TPC Sawgrass to highlight a phenomenal season."

FGR Take: Good grief just say he won The Players and stop trying to be so wordy. Rob goes on to say that the duo of Simpson and Bubba Watson "complements each other with intangibles" but doesn't explain what those intangibles are so I will. Their clubs have Jesus in them. I mean everyone's clubs have some Jesus in them but theirs have a lot more.  

18. (19) Tony Finau (Past Record: 0-0-0)

Rob's Take: "His length of the tee is a reliable bonus, not his identity."

FGR Take: Holy shit Tony Finau is a secret agent!

19. (22) Phil Mickelson (Past Record: 18-20-7)

Rob's Take: "Once he was dubbed a captain's pick for what might be his final appearance, his focus may have shifted to France because he faded in the playoffs."

FGR Take: That's an interesting use of the word "dubbed" which I suppose in this context means that Phil was picked because not picking him would have created a huge headache that Furyk just didn't want to have to medicate. You know he asked Davis Love, III or someone with similar experience, "hey what if I pick Tiger and not Phil?" and they just laughed that telling laugh that says "better you than me sucker." He should just say "fuck it" and pair Phil with Bubba Watson in the first fourball match. If they win, great. If they lose, at least Furyk can say he tried and then bench them both until the singles. That would make for a fun Saturday subplot as Phil hung-around the course trying to draw attention to himself by doing karate kicks.  

"Henrik put me down for
that 2:00 p.m. slot."
20. (24) Henrik Stenson (Past Record: 7-7-2)

Rob's Take: "He'll help others rest."

FGR Take: How? By giving Swedish massages? That seems a bit stereotypical. Stenson is supposedly injured but, if he's not, there is no better alternate shot player the way he drives the ball. If he's healthy and able to play at least three matches, the Americans could be a bit fucked. 

21. (21) Tyrrell Hatton (Past Record: 0-0-0)

Rob's Take: "The energetic Englishman will be the emotional flashpoint in his debut, so he's a wild card from every angle."

FGR Take: I think Rob is trying to be diplomatic here by calling Hatton "the energetic Englishman" instead of "the dickhead." The Golf Channel guys universally agreed that Hatton would probably be the European to spend the most time on the bench which is probably the member of the team with which he would have the best chemistry.  

22. (20) Sergio Garcia (Past Record: 19-11-7)


Rob's Take: "Since his Masters breakthrough in 2017, he's won twice, including in Singapore to open 2018, but he still needed a captain's pick."


FGR Take: He needed the captain's pick because he dropped from 10th to 28th in the world this year and apparently not many players you've heard of got the memo about there being a tournament in Singapore considering the four guys who finished behind Sergio were Shaun Norris, Satoshi Kodaira, Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattananond (I did not make any of those names up).    


23. (15) Paul Casey (Past Record: 3-2-4)

Rob's Take: "Eliminated any doubt over sore back at BMW with T11 at East Lake."

FGR Take: The perpetually injured Paul Casey wouldn't eliminate doubt over a sore back if he paddled a canoe from East Lake to Paris. He seems like a nice guy but I feel like this moment might be a little too big for him. I bet he plays two matches including a nice benign 4th or 5th slot in the singles and goes 0-1-1 at best while Thomas Pieters and his potential 2-1-1 sits at home.

"They told me that all French
chicken was gray and slimy."
24. (23) Bubba Watson (Record: 3-8-0)

Rob's Take: "Combined 0-5-0 in Foursomes and Singles in the Ryder Cup. His most comfortable pairing is Simpson."

FGR Take: Bubba absolutely earned his way onto the team but now it's time for Furk to have the awkward conversation about him only playing twice or maybe once. Then again, as we learned at Kiawah, if a player is hurt, you split the singles point. "Have some more escargots Bubba . . . that nauseous feeling usually goes away by the third dozen."  

Overall Prediction

It just feels like the Euros are coming-in with more talent at the top and a bunch of solid chemistry pairings while the Americans have some very odd shaped pieces to make fit like Tiger, Bubba, Phil and DeChambeau as they transition from one generation to the next. Also, don't underestimate the fact that the Europeans want to stick it to the Americans this year more than the other way around and the "stick it" factor is often what decides these things   

Europe - 15.5 . . . USA - 12.5

Email the Fantasy Golf Report - fgr@fantasygolfreport.com 
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