I'm going to meander into blasphemous territory here and stakeout the position that, from a purely entertainment standpoint, the Ryder Cup is every bit as strong, if not stronger than The Masters (dodges heaven sent 2-iron stinger from Bobby Jones). I mean nothing compares to that feeling of Masters week . . the first time you tune-in for live golf on Thursday, moving day and the back nine on Sunday but consider this about the Ryder Cup:
- When the first groups step on the tee tomorrow morning, before they even stick a tee in the ground it is fucking ON like maybe no other sporting event in the world. There is no easing into the game with a kick-off, first pitch or jump ball. It's Hagler v. Hearns right out of the gate and it doesn't stop until someone taps-out on Sunday.
- The crowd is vicious and they're expected to be. Players from both teams can either feed off it (Ian Poulter and Patrick Reed) or be crushed by it (Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson). It will be interesting to see what Italian flavor is added this year. Hopefully we get at least one "vattela a pigliare in culo" ("go take it up your ass") or vaffanculo a chi t'e morto" ("go fuck the souls of your dead family members" . . . ouch).
- For three days, the best golfers in the world get to openly hate each other. Imagine how liberating it must feel to not only display your feelings about Reed and Poulter, but to be celebrated for it.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Quick golf break to acknowledge the passing of Baltimore Oriole legend and arguably one of the most loved athletes in the history of any sport, Brooks Robinson. I'm going with a vintage highlight here but, if you are a Brooks fan, I would also recommend you devote four minutes of your time to this tribute by Jim Palmer. The man was silky.
This is perhaps the greatest — and undoubtedly the most famous — play ever made by an infielder.— Paul Hembekides (Hembo) (@PaulHembo) September 26, 2023
The preeminent maestro of the hot corner.
Sleep well 🙏pic.twitter.com/ohsLrLutoM
There are is all kinds of random shit you can bet on this week from whether there will be a hole-in-one to which player will hit the first shot for each team. Seeing as how we've dragged this preview past the 11th hour, we are going to keep it simple and focus on (a) best individual performances, (b) Sunday line-up strategy, and of course, (c) the overall winner. Let's do it.
Top U.S.A. Point Scorer
Justin Thomas +1100 and Xander Schauffele +600
Playing the odds here with two guys who should get five matches. Unless Zach Johnson is a fool and I don't think he is, the Justin Thomas - Jordan Spieth team will get the call four times or until they show they aren't worthy. Then it comes down to which one of those two you think has a better shot at winning his singles match and I'm going with the guy who has everything to prove. Slight nod to J.T. over Spieth.
Meanwhile, you can pair Xander Schauffele with just about anybody in either format but I see him and Collin Morikawa as a wrecking ball for at least two matches and then maybe he gets one or two with say Max Homa or Patrick Cantlay. That feels like at least 2.5 points plus a singles win.
Top European Point Scorer
Shane Lowry +1500 and Tyrell Hatton +750
Applying the same theory here as I'm almost certain Tyrrell Hatton will play five times. Shane Lowry isn't quite a lock for that but, when you consider his odds along with the guys behind him on the depth chart, he should get out at least four times. Don't worry, I checked the weather in Rome and it should be suitable if not ideal for a burly Irish guy.
First U.S.A. Player Out on Sunday
Justin Thomas +800 and Rickie Fowler +1400
Coach Johnson is going to go with a guy who will embrace the role of tone setter and that points directly at Thomas. He could also go the inspirational route and, if Rickie Fowler shows anything on Friday and Saturday, that could make him the leadoff man on Sunday but J.T. feels like a lock.
Last U.S.A. Player Out on Sunday
Collin Morikawa +900
I want the guy who's already shown he's a steely eyed mutherfucker down the stretch of a major and Morikawa's done that twice. The only reason you wouldn't put him in this spot is if you had a big lead going into Sunday and you wanted to front load the lineup to step on their throats. In that case, I could see Brian Harman in this spot but his odds are lame at +450.
First European Player Out on Sunday
Tyrrell Hatton +1100 and Shane Lowry +1800
I get why Rory McIlroy's odds are so short (+135) because he checks both the tone setter and inspiration boxes but, if you think Luke Donald might look elsewhere, both Hatton and Lowry check those boxes too.
Last European Player Out on Sunday
Shane Lowry +800 and Justin Rose +800
This was a process of elimination based again on the theory that it's relatively close going into Sunday. You're not saving Rory or Jon Rahm for this spot but you're also not dropping Sepp Straka or Ludvig Aberg into that potential pressure cooker. I'll take one of the second tier guys with both Ryder Cup experience and a bit of swagger. In a perfect world this comes down to the final match on Sunday and I get this right so we see Morikawa duel Lowry or Rose for the Cup.
I've watched all of the montages on the Golf Channel about how the U.S. hasn't won on European soil since 1993 and hasn't really come close in the last 25 years and it all just makes me that much more convinced that this is the year that all changes but it's not just because the Americans are due. This is a complete mismatch.
In the past, the Euros would roll-in with a strong top tier like they do this year with Rory, Rahm and Viktor Hovland but just below that they would have a huge advantage with Ryder Cup assassins like Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Francesco Molinari along with solid contributors like Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey and Graeme McDowell. Now you've got Lowry, Rose, Matt Fitzpatrick and Tommy Fleetwood in those roles and I'm sorry but those four guys aren't scaring anybody in 2023.
Compare that to the American roster that goes twelve deep and the two guys at the bottom are the defending U.S. Open and British Open champions. Is that something you might be interested in? Sure you could see Rickie Fowler, Sam Burns or one or two other players struggle but you only really need eight or nine guys to play well in order to win and I can't see more than four players on that roster having a bad weekend.
The only other way to lose would be for Captain Johnson to get all squirrely with his pairings but, as noted above, I don't think he's a fool and he has the luxury of rolling out Thomas-Spieth, Schauffele-Morikawa, Scheffler-Burns, Cantlay-Koepka with Fowler and Homa who can play with anyone who needs a break. And if you don't think that Brian Harman and Wyndham Clark are going to carry some pride onto the course for their limited opportunities, well, um, think again.
USA, USA, USA . . . 16 - 12 which makes the wager . . .
U.S.A. by 4-6 +500
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