The USA is ticked off at kneeling, of kowtowing, of losing - and it prays that that sorry song will change at the 7,674 yard Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota. That State, and the States, after learning a man from the Religion of Peace stabbed nine innocents in St. Cloud now, more than ever, could sure use a Ryder Cup win. As for the course? Well, it’s under protection (from golfers, not terrorists.) Club members have been hitting off of fake-grass mats to save fairways. And to make for great TV airwaves, for three weeks prior to, the course has been untouched by the golfing heathen and hackers.
What also looks great for the Ryder Cup is having no money paid to the players. They play 28 matches for free. Players get their “juice” through national or continental pride, and get their souls stirred playing for teammates.
Europe’s team will feature 6 rookies. (Brooks Koepka is the only American newcomer.) Captain Darren Clarke is already making rookie history. Europe is going for a 7th Ryder Cup victory in 8 attempts. Being Captain is not easy, it leads to unreasonable scrutiny - but being a player oh-so-close to being a Captain’s pick, and missing out is, in the case of Russell Knox, in the school of hard knocks, creating a messed-up head - and an acute case of utter agony, Captain be damned.
Although 20 rungs above Belgian Thomas Pieters in world rankings, Clarke chose Pieters. He said the Belgian, who bashes the ball a mile, reminded him of Rory and Tiger. And Thomas did finish 4th at the Rio Olympics. Clarke doesn’t, however, mess with the heads of the players he picked - regarding their schedules coming into this emotional extravaganza – but he has to be thrilled that Masters winner, Danny Willett, has his head (and schedule) on right, coming in 2nd in the Italian Open.
Davis Love says his starting 8 had input into his picks.
And they picked a law firm: Fowler, Kuchar, and Holmes.
B.J. Holmes drives like John Daly, without the Major victories (and, possibly, without the major crashing, life-style accidents.)
Gotta think here, Kooch may have been into the hooch early when he said it would be legendary if Davis picked Tiger. Hairy is more like it. Woods hasn’t played competitively since August 2015, the Wyndham Championship. He tied for 11th. Davis won - an indubitable, definable, connection there. Tiger is a vice captain, leave it at that.
While the States uses Scouts Inc. analytics to aid their game plans, Clarke avers European Team ethos has factored in Europe’s successful spans in Ryder games. Factor that fact, with Rory’s recent winning of the Deutsche Bank Championship (thanks, new putting coach, Phil Kenyon!) and figure in with the stats of other European vets with Ryder Cup success, like Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, and Lee Westwood who will, intangibly and viscerally, help the rookies’ peak - or at least not crater – means that Europe is a MEAN team. And word is Henrik Stenson’s right knee meniscus cartilage tear won’t affect his swing.
Meanwhile, Tom Lehmann, a native of Austin, Minnesota, will reaffirm to Love that the course’s big greens requires precise putting, and that some holes demand wondrous wedge shots (necessitating Phil on every hole!) Davis calls Tom “our ace in the hole” calls Tiger his “tactician” but despite Tom’s tutelage, and Tiger’s tactics, with the latter caddying around a 13-17-3 Ryder record, and despite the Bettors, such as Bodog Odds-favoring the Yanks, the Americans still have to play - and playing at home may compound the pressure of finally lifting Europe’s dominance off their backs.
The States has another, theoretically definite edge, having the course somewhat tailored to its specifications. Love doesn’t want high roughs, wants SHORTER par-5’s to create birdies and eagles – figuring the galleries will go gusto, boosting the homeland team. However if Hazeltine should, say, somewhat disappoint Love’s deep desires - the 18 holes will certainly roll in a price-point, total bonanza-windfall, via “ka-ching” with corporate tents. These tents have necessitated the normal first four holes of the front-nine being played as the back, and visa-versa. (Whether this makes for great golf is beside the point.)
A gigantic point: are Americans united? Remember Phil Mickelson (who will tie Nick Faldo with his 11th Ryder Cup) ripping Tom Watson’s 2014 strategy, while lauding the pod system Paul Azinger used in 2008? Remember Tom disagreeing with Phil, saying it wasn’t the lack of pods that killed America - it was the fact that “Europe kicked our butts?”
Faldo points out that every time Europe wins, their big three players have done their bit, amassed points, led the way. America’s stars have not shone, nor have the wildcard picks. In the past ten Cups America’s picks were 36-35-19. Europe’s were 39-28-12.
So flayed America formed a task force. It includes best buddies (kidding!) Tiger and Phil, and Rickie (who is winless in his eight matches in two Cups), along with Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Lehman, Raymond Floyd, Davis, and PGA executives. Everything is being scrutinized but they already missed scrutinizing - and scrapping - the PGA’s definition of the Ryder Cup: “...our most prized competitive asset.”
The heck does that mean?
Anyway...if Europe beats the U.S. again, will a panel be formed, what with the task force proven a failure?
Here’s what; If America plays as well as their world rankings suggest, and if they emulate 1979 and 2008 when they won every outing - forces, committees, panels, or daises - won’t be needed.
As Rory says “...it’s not rocket science...”