The rosters have been filled out and the waiting game has begun. Now the question becomes, who on the U.S. Ryder Cup team is under the most pressure to perform at Medinah? We asked our writers to weigh in. Here are their thoughts.
By JASON SOBEL
Every time we address one of these, “Which player has the most pressure on him…” questions, I ponder the possible answers and always circle back to the same one.
Such is life when you’re a 74-time PGA Tour winner, 14-time major champion and one of the world’s most recognizable faces.
Let’s face it: If Jim Furyk or Brandt Snedeker lays an egg at Medinah and fails to perform up to expectations, it becomes a source of consternation within the shallow walls of the golf world and its inhabitants, from players to media to fans.
If Woods stinks up the joint, though, it turns into worldwide headlines.
Call it the Mom Clause. If Furyk or Snedeker or any of the other United States team members individually spit the bit against the Europeans, will your mom even hear about it? Depends on whom your mom is, but probably not. If Woods fails in spectacular fashion, however, you can bet that Sunday evening phone call with mom will include a question about why that popular golfer in all the commercials didn’t help his country win the competition. The situation instantly turns from a few bad swings to an international incident.
And that, my friends, is what we called added pressure. When the eyes of the world are watching your every move – as they always are for Tiger – nobody else will have more of it resting on their shoulders.
BY REX HOGGARD
The rookies. All four them – Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner – will feel the most pressure later this month when they roll up at Medinah for their first Ryder Cup. They always do.
It’s the nature of golf’s most-intense event, where every match feels like a Sunday at major and every putt is handicapped by the pressure that comes with playing, not just for yourself, but for your flag and friends.
Although they were not rookies, it’s the kind of stuff that sent Mark Calcavecchia into the dunes at the 1991 matches at Kiawah and reduced Hunter Mahan to tears in 2010 in Wales. Nothing can prepare a first-timer for the self-inflicted pressure that waits on the first tee.
This year’s crop has the advantage of the friendly confines of Medinah, where the Chicago galleries will surely be whipped into a jingoistic frenzy. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
Sure Simpson played well in last year’s Presidents Cup and Dufner has been to his share of Auburn-Alabama games, but nothing can prepare them for the weight of playing for your partner, your team, your country.
Al Geiberger was a rookie on the 1967 Ryder Cup when then-captain Ben Hogan approached him with a simple piece of advice. “Don’t lose,” the Hawk hissed.
This year’s captain Davis Love III won’t have to make the same curt speech, his four rookies already know what’s on the line.
BY RYAN LAVNER
Already, there are cries of cronyism.
Jim Furyk got picked even though he is the only team member without a victory this season. (Snubs Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler each won in 2012.)
Jim Furyk got picked because he played on four Ryder Cup teams with Davis Love III. (Mahan and Fowler have combined to play three Ryder Cups.)
Jim Furyk got picked because he’s good in the team room. (Mahan and Fowler are popular, too.)
That’s such an interesting phrase, isn’t it? Good in the team room. What does it mean? That the player gives the best motivational speeches? That he leads the most boisterous cheers? That he is the team’s best conversationalist?
Whatever it means, whatever it entails, it’s the reason Furyk – and, to a slightly lesser extent, Steve Stricker – is considered an invaluable asset to the team, because he has Ryder Cup experience and because, yes, he’s good in the team room.
Love suggested that during a practice round, he could send out Stricker and Furyk with a rookie like Brandt Snedeker, and in one day, after just 18 holes, the first-timer would be fit to perform during the most pressure-packed three days of his life.
But that alone isn’t enough to justify a pick. This is Phil Mickelson’s ninth appearance. This is Woods’ seventh Cup. They’re veterans, too.
Furyk’s overall record in seven previous appearances (8-15-4) leaves little to be desired, and his point percentage (.37) is the worst among 2012 team members who have played at least two Ryder Cups, and teams he’s been on have gone 2-5 since 1997. Furyk is virtually assured of not playing four balls, given his 1-8-1 mark in that format, and his 2012 meltdowns (U.S. Open, Bridgestone) are still fresh.
So, is veteran savvy still that important? We’ll find out later this month.