Ryder Cup Picks and Pans

By Brian HewittSeptember 5, 2008, 4:00 pm
The Comebacker this week is all about the captains picks. Europes Nick Faldo chose Ian Poulter and Paul Casey on Sunday. U.S. boss Paul Azinger followed with Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan, J.B. Holmes and Chad Campbell on Tuesday.
Tongues have been wagging and e-mails have been flying ever since.
Without further ado:

Larry writes: I don't know what to make of the captains picks by Faldo and Azinger. My guess is Faldo made a mistake by not taking Clarke. I have a gut feeling that the Americans are going to do well. It is kind of a weird team, with six rookies, but we seem to have some players like J.B. Holmes who would drive you nuts in match play. The Kentucky factor with Holmes and Perry will generate some enthusiastic gallery support and I can't help but think that the absence of Clarke will generate a camaraderie void that will hurt the Euros. In any event, it will be great theater and should be fun.
The Comebacker Holmes is sometimes desperately slow. And that will work to the Americans favor. He is also long enough to take lines off the tee that are so aggressive as to actually intimidate the less experienced of his opponents.

Troy writes: I am an avid GOLF CHANNEL/golf-in-general junkie and a fan of yours. What are your thoughts on Azinger not picking Rocco (Mediate) or Woody (Austin)? I think that the lack of fire and intensity that the American players have kills them in Ryder cup play. Azinger had a chance to change that and really messed up.
The Comebacker Azinger hasnt messed up anything yet. And its unlikely, especially with vice-captains Raymond Floyd and Dave Stockton at his side, that he will do so during the matches. But I remain disappointed with the failure to pick Scott Verplank, a flinty competitor and player unafraid to make putts. Verplanks career Ryder Cup record is 4-1-0.

Coy writes: If he (Nick Faldo) is as brilliant a captain as he was a player we are in trouble. I cant pick on him until we see the result. By the way, I do think Azinger will do a good job. I hope he stresses fun to our guys; when its fun (with fire in the heart) you will play your best.
The Comebacker Here, again, is my mad genius theory regarding Faldo: If the Euros lose, Faldo (because he has so many enemies on his own continent) will shoulder the blame. If the Euros win, (for the same reason) all credit will go to the players. As a result, Faldo has managed, intentionally or unintentionally, to take the pressure off the players.

James writes: Those are revealing stats that you present on the putting performance of the four U.S. captains picks. I think this will hurt the U.S. performance when it comes down to the crunch. Well see, of course ' but the U.S. squad looks even more the underdog to me now that the full team is known. Nick Faldo must be pleased Paul Azinger has chosen several guys with cold and erratic putters to oppose his team. The U.S. appears to be betting on a big bomb and gouge advantage. I dont see it happening.
The Comebacker The course in Kentucky should set up for Americas long hitters. But they still have to close holes out with their putters.

Connie writes: Paul Azinger's personal picks erased what little hope the USA team had to defeat the (Europeans). As usual the good ole boy network of the tour players prevailed. Appointing Paul Azinger as captain was the first mistake; his predictable and illogical picks were the final mistake. I predict a big (European) victory, tempered only by Nick Faldo's desire to keep it close to save his (butt) as a golf commentator.
The Comebacker Methinks Connies a little harsh on Zinger. This I can guarantee you: If the Euros win and it is close, a small margin of victory will have absolutely nothing to do with Faldos desire to save his (butt) as a golf commentator.

Phil writes: The Ryder Cup is totally overrated, overhyped. A little too much flag waving, quite honestly. Its just a game. We arent going to win the war in Iraq in Valhalla.
The Comebacker Id settle for winning the battle at Valhalla. In any event, The Comebacker, a Ryder Cup junkie, believes the event is worth every bit of the hype.

Ernie writes: No matter what either of those two would have decided, there would always be criticism. Why all the second guessing? Just like religion and politics, they are circular discussions, with everyone having their own beliefs and opinions. The teams are what they are. Let the games begin and lets enjoy them for what they are meant to be.
The Comebacker Sorry, Ernie. Not buying your pacifism here. Half the fun is deconstructing the picks and the rationales behind them.

Jeff writes: I feel like this is a make or break Ryder Cup. Losing the last three, coupled with the sweeping changes Paul made to the selection process has the U.S. in a very precarious position. Your thoughts?
The Comebacker If the U.S. loses, look for the PGA of America to revert back to the old system where the captain got just two picks.

Bucko writes: Everyone is patting Zinger on the back for his choices ' why can't he comment on who he did not pick? I believe Scott Verplank should be there and why not bring Woody Austin along? Too much is being said about this team getting along well together yet there are no personalities. Some of the best teams in sports have not always got along well together but they won. (Oakland A's, Oakland Raiders, N.Y. Yankees). Not everyone is enamored with Monty, yet he has the best Ryder Cup record of all time! Unless Southerners Holmes, Weekley and Perry can excite the Kentucky crowds and get the job done, it'll be a very long weekend!
The Comebacker
In the immortal words of Long John Silver, Aye, me Bucko.


Bill writes: Something about your story really struck me as unusual; namely, the quote by Valhalla's pro that he had widened the intermediate rough at Azinger's direction. Is this true that the U.S. captain can exert his influence on the shape of the course to the advantage of his team? If so, this is bull. The Americans will already enjoy the support of the home fans. It's totally unfair and frankly unethical whether the home captain is American or European to be using his authority to alter the course in such a way. It's a friggin conflict of interest!
The Comebacker Get down off your high horse, Bill. Course tinkering by captains has been going on for years and the home town is always within its rights to doctor the course as they see fit.

JP writes: This is not a good week for the Ryder Cup. No Darren Clarke makes no since; Ian Poulter couldn't beat me; Paul was even worse. I love J.B., but no way; Chad Campbell is nothing; Where is Verplank? Could have taken Steve Flesch and we would have a lot of Kentucky boys. This is going to be an interesting year. It will be the team that backs into the Ryder Cup and not one that wins it.
The Comebacker
Am guessing JP might be watching the NFL on Ryder Cup Sunday. Its all yours, pal.

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Related Links:
  • American Team Records
  • European Team Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
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    Singh's lawsuit stalls as judge denies motion

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Vijay Singh’s attempts to speed up the proceedings in his ongoing lawsuit against the PGA Tour have been stalled, again.

    Singh – who filed the lawsuit in New York Supreme Court in May 2013 claiming the Tour recklessly administered its anti-doping program when he was suspended, a suspension that was later rescinded – sought to have the circuit sanctioned for what his attorneys argued was a frivolous motion, but judge Eileen Bransten denied the motion earlier this month.

    “While the court is of the position it correctly denied the Tour’s motion to argue, the court does not agree that the motion was filed in bad faith nor that it represents a ‘persistent pattern of repetitive or meritless motions,’” Bransten said.

    It also doesn’t appear likely the case will go to trial any time soon, with Bransten declining Singh’s request for a pretrial conference until a pair of appeals that have been sent to the court’s appellate division have been decided.

    “What really should be done is settle this case,” Bransten said during the hearing, before adding that it is, “unlikely a trail will commence prior to 2019.”

    The Tour’s longstanding policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation, but earlier this month commissioner Jay Monahan was asked about the lawsuit.

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    Videos and images from Tiger's Tuesday at Torrey

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 7:45 pm

    Tiger Woods played a nine-hole practice round Tuesday at Torrey Pines South, site of this week's Farmers Insurance Open. Woods is making his first PGA Tour start since missing the cut in this event last year. Here's a look at some images and videos of Tiger, via social media:

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    Power Rankings: 2018 Farmers Insurance Open

    By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:59 pm

    The PGA Tour remains in California this week for the Farmers Insurance Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the North and South Courses at Torrey Pines, with weekend play exclusively on the South Course.

    Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to submit your picks for this week's event.

    Jon Rahm won this event last year by three shots over Charles Howell III and C.T. Pan. Here are 10 names to watch in La Jolla:

    1. Jon Rahm: No need to overthink it at the top. Rahm enters as a defending champ for the first time, fresh off a playoff win at the CareerBuilder Challenge that itself was preceded by a runner-up showing at Kapalua. Rahm is perhaps the hottest player in the field, and with a chance to become world No. 1 should be set for another big week.

    2. Jason Day: The Aussie has missed the cut here the last two years, and he hasn't played competitively since November. But he ended a disappointing 2017 on a slight uptick, and his Torrey Pines record includes three straight top-10s from 2013-15 that ended with his victory three years ago.

    3. Justin Rose: Rose ended last year on a tear, with three victories over his final six starts including two in a row in Turkey and China. The former U.S. Open winner has the patience to deal with a brutal layout like the South Course, as evidenced by his fourth-place showing at this event a year ago.

    4. Rickie Fowler: This tournament has become somewhat feast-or-famine for Fowler, who is making his ninth straight start at Torrey Pines. The first four in that run all netted top-20 finishes, including two top-10s, while the last four have led to three missed cuts and a T-61. After a win in the Bahamas and T-4 at Kapalua, it's likely his mini-slump comes to an end.

    5. Brandt Snedeker: Snedeker has become somewhat of a course specialist at Torrey Pines in recent years, with six top-10 finishes over the last eight years including wins in both 2012 and 2016. While he missed much of the second half of 2017 recovering from injury and missed the cut last week, Snedeker is always a threat to contend at this particular event.

    6. Hideki Matsuyama: Matsuyama struggled to find his footing after a near-miss at the PGA Championship, but he appears to be returning to form. The Japanese phenom finished T-4 at Kapalua and has put up solid results in two of his four prior trips to San Diego, including a T-16 finish in his 2014 tournament debut. Matsuyama deserves a look at any event that puts a strong emphasis on ball-striking.

    7. Tony Finau: Finau has the length to handle the difficult demands of the South Course, and his results have gotten progressively better each time around: T-24 in 2015, T-18 in 2016 and T-4 last year. Finau is coming off the best season of his career, one that included a trip to the Tour Championship, and he put together four solid rounds at the Sony Open earlier this month.

    8. Charles Howell III: Howell is no stranger to West Coast golf, and his record at this event since 2013 includes three top-10 finishes highlighted by last year's runner-up showing. Howell chased a T-32 finish in Hawaii with a T-20 finish last week in Palm Springs, his fourth top-20 finish this season.

    9. Marc Leishman: Leishman was twice a runner-up at this event, first in 2010 and again in 2014, and he finished T-20 last year. The Aussie is coming off a season that included two wins, and he has amassed five top-10s in his last eight worldwide starts dating back to the Dell Technologies Championship in September.

    10. Gary Woodland: Woodland played in the final group at this event in 2014 before tying for 10th, and he was one shot off the lead entering the final round in 2016 before Mother Nature blew the entire field sideways. Still, the veteran has three top-20s in his last four trips to San Diego and finished T-7 two weeks ago in Honolulu.

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    Davis on distance: Not 'necessarily good for the game'

    By Will GrayJanuary 23, 2018, 6:28 pm

    It's a new year, but USGA executive Mike Davis hasn't changed his views on the growing debate over distance.

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    "The issue is complex. It's important, and it's one that we need to, and we will, face straight on," Davis said. "I think on the topic of distance, we've been steadfast to say that we do not think increased distance is necessarily good for the game."

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    "But at the same time, we know there are pressures on golf courses. We know those pressures are going to become more acute."