Ryder Cup Picks and Pans


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