BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Odds and ends on the eve of the Ryder Cup:
First the odds: I make the Europeans 11-10 favorites to retain the Cup. Remember: A 14-14 tie at the end of the matches Sunday means the Euros get to take the Cup home with them across the Atlantic. Because of that, they have a virtual half point lead before the matches begin Friday morning. The Americans need 14 1/2 points to recapture the Cup last won by them in 1999 at The Country Club in Massachusetts. I set the odds of the U.S. emerging victorious at 5-4.
Caveat: I am not a bookmaker. I do not promote or encourage gambling. But I am not Mary Poppins either. I don't find office pools morally reprehensible. Anyway, those are my odds.
On the subject of form: It's overrated. In 2002 England's Lee Westwood arrived at the Ryder Cup with his game in tatters. In the eight tournaments leading up to the matches at The Belfry, Westwood missed four cuts and produced a grand total of one top 40. So what happened when the bell rang Friday morning? Westwood got hotter than a whistling tea kettle, teamed with Sergio Garcia and won three huge points for the Europeans.
If Hal Sutton decides to pair Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods in foursomes, I'd love to be a fly on the wall when the two decide which ball they will play.
Sam Torrance, the Euro captain two years ago, famously said this at those matches: 'Out of the shadows emerge heroes.' Two of those heroes were Paul McGinley, who made the winning putt Sunday, and Philip Price, who took down Mickelson in the singles even though he wasn't ranked in the world's top 100 at the time. If you're looking for one of those heroes this time on the Euro side, try rookie Luke Donald. Oakland Hills is more than a ballhitter's course, it's an iron player's course. Donald may be the best pure blade striker on either side.
And as to the question of which player on either side would you choose to make a 10-foot putt Sunday with the entire Ryder Cup outcome hanging in the balance? That's easy for me. Give me David Toms for the Americans and Colin Montgomerie for the Europeans.
On Golf Central Wednesday night I argued that the 'captaincy' is overrated. The captains--Hal Sutton and Bernhard Langer--are not overrated. It's impossible to overstate the importance of their roles. But they are more managers than captains or coaches. This is a little bit of semantics here. The main point is this: Captains can't hit any shots. Although by Sunday night some of their players may wish Sutton or Langer--two longtime Ryder Cup warriors--could have played a match or two.
The winner? I am sticking to my guns. I predict a 14-14 tie with the Europeans retaining the Cup. As an American, I root for our side. As a journalist, I root for the story. The best story for the U.S. team would be Tiger Woods winning the final match Sunday to beat the Euros by half a point. The best story for the Europeans would be Montgomerie doing the same to Woods.