MY TEAM, MY PICKS: European captain Nick Faldo surprised many Sunday when he finalized his team by skipping over Darren Clarke in favor of Ian Poulter and Paul Casey for his two Ryder Cup wildcards.
The real surprise is: Why would anyone be surprised? Faldo gets his kicks on chapping everyone else’s hides. He loves to show that he’s in control, even if it could be to his detriment. Clarke deserved the spot, but Poulter got it. If Europe wins again, it won’t matter. However, if they don’t …
END OF AN ERA?: Also left off the European team was Colin Montgomerie. The Scot, who has a 20-9-7 career Ryder Cup record, was not selected by Faldo, and did not qualify on his own merit, thus ending his streak of eight consecutive Cup appearances.
Monty is a smart man, and given his history with Faldo he had to know that he stood no chance of being called. Faldo could have had 12 picks to form his team and Monty might not have gotten one. To add a bit of insult to injury, Faldo felt the need to take a swipe at Montgomerie at his press conference Sunday, saying he was “watching football or shopping” when asked if Faldo had tried to contact Montgomerie to give him the bad news. Classy.
ENGLISH STANDARD: The big news early last week came out of the LPGA camp, where it was reported by Golfweek that the tour was going to require all of its current members to be proficient in the English language by the end of 2009. Players will have to pass an oral evaluation or face possible suspension.
As expected, this set off quite a firestorm. In an online poll, GolfChannel.com readers believed 57% to 43% that this was a necessary step for the LPGA to take, given the dominance of the South Korean players recently. We’re not disagreeing; in fact, it makes business sense. But even Count von Count couldn’t reel off the number of things wrong with the way Carolyn Bivens and company went about things: 1) Why did the LPGA invite only Korean players, and not all international players, to their initial meeting to reveal its plan. 2) What are the parameters of the oral evaluation? 3) Why suspend a player who has the talent to compete (and probably win) on tour instead of fining them? 4) What happens to someone with speech impairment should she earn her card? What if Nell could play golf?
SHOW ME THE MONEY: Tiger Woods was in Dubai on Monday, saying that he wasn’t sure if he would be able to return to defend his title in early 2009, but that his $1.1 billion golf course project was right on track. He then flew back to the States to host a release party for his Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09.
The project’s chief, Abdulla Al Grug, wouldn’t say how much Woods is being paid for lending his name and ideas to this plan, but it probably includes fuel costs to and from Dubai. Seriously, how much is Tiger Woods really worth right now? Does he even know how much money he has? Where does he keep it all? If Tiger gave every person who read this week’s feature $10,000 he wouldn’t even miss it. If we, the Backspin, gave everyone who read this week’s feature 10 cents we wouldn’t be able to eat for a month.
WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?: Ben Curtis will have a new caddie on his bag for the Ryder Cup. Veteran looper Tony Navarro, who has worked for Greg Norman and most recently Adam Scott, will get his first taste of the biennial competition since 1987.
Curtis’ regular caddie, Englishman Andrew Sutton, said his loyalty was with his countrymen (and continentals) and not his employer. Said Navarro: “I’m sure I would have caddied for my player. … I want the person I am caddying for to win every match.” Navarro has twice caddied for Raymond Floyd and once for Ben Crenshaw in the Ryder Cup. Unfortunately for the U.S., the Yanks have a 0-2-1 record when he participates.
PICKING ON POULTER: Prior to Nick Faldo revealing his captain's picks, there was a bunch of verbal sparring going on between the hopefuls. England's Nick Dougherty accused countryman Poulter of knowing that he had already secured a selection when Poulter opted to skip the Johnnie Walker and compete in the Deutsche Bank Championship, all-but guaranteeing that he would not qualify for the team. Montgomerie then said Poulter had a "hotline" to Faldo, which really rubbed the latter the wrong way.
Poulter railed on Monty and Dougherty – and the media – after missing the cut in Boston. He blamed all the negativity on his poor play. "I'm sick and tired of all this nonsense," he said. Hey, Ian, look at the bright side: you're the big winner because you got the nod over both your detractors – and thanks to the Deutsche Bank being your 15th PGA TOUR event of the season, you don't have to play in the Fall Series in order to secure your membership.
DON'T FORGET ME: Amidst all the Ryder Cup talk in Scotland, Gregory Havret walked away with the Johnnie Walker Championship title, defeating Graeme Storm by one stroke.
Also not to be overlooked are the performances by Justin Rose, Soren Hansen and Oliver Wilson. All three men were in jeopardy of losing their automatic spots on the European Ryder Cup team entering the week, and all three men did enough to earn a trip to Valhalla for their first Cup experience.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee said he intends to stay an amateur in order to play in the 2009 Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship … Sergio Garcia, taking advantage of the Deutsche Bank’s Friday start, played some tennis with French Open and Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal at the U.S. Open … Adam Scott’s lingering health problems may lead to getting his tonsils removed when he returns to Australia … Jeff Sluman won the Wal-Mart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach by five strokes.
“I got to play those major tournaments before I die,” Lee said … Nadal has won five Grand Slam titles, including four at the French. If they ever play golf on clay, watch out for Sergio! … Let’s hope the surgery doesn’t affect his speech or he may never get to play on the LPGA … Even if it’s on the Champions Tour and not on the PGA TOUR, winning at Pebble is really cool.
Contributions from writers and editors on the Golf Channel Digital team.
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