Dear captain Davis Love III,
So, you’re going with the “wait and see” thing the next two weeks, confident in your side’s ability to let this play out according to the preordained script.
Let the chips and Ryder Cup points fall where they may, make sure the rain gear is actually, well, rainproof and get your dozen on the charter to Medinah in time for this year’s matches.
What could go wrong?
Paul Azinger had a similar idea way back in the summer of 2008. He’d picked apart the Ryder Cup selection process like few could or would, put a “corporate team builder” on retainer and turned his west Florida home into a makeshift “war room” filled with personality profiles and ShotLink data.
Yet as Valhalla inched closer and his teamed failed to materialize as expected ’Zinger was haunted by an unnerving thought, “If I was looking for a hot hand, I wasn't finding it among the Americans on the tour,” Captain America wrote in his post-Ryder Cup book “Cracking the Code.”
At the end of the day, to use a worn-out Tour axiom, it was ’Zinger’s team who decided who would land at least three of the four coveted captain’s pick, and at the rate the U.S. team is shaping up this year you may be thinking of a similar populist strategy.
With a fortnight remaining to grab one of the eight qualifying spots you likely awoke Monday morning to a list that has changed little the last few weeks and doesn’t exactly have that “it’ll all work out” feel to it.
Nos. 1 through 8 seem rather straightforward, starting with Tiger Woods, who will not need to be a captain’s pick for the first time in three years, followed by Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan.
But like it was for Azinger, the automatic qualifiers aren’t the problem. It’s the next half dozen or so names that will likely keep you up late the next few weeks until you announce your picks on Sept. 4 in New York City.
The line in press circles is that you have four captain’s picks and would rather have none, while European skipper Jose Maria Olazabal has two picks and would rather have 12. One man digs true-false exams; the other is all about multiple choice. Neither option is wrong; it’s simply a personality deal.
We know that given the choice you’d rather pick Nos. 9-12 and be done with it. It’s clean and controversy-free, but unless that list gets an ultimate makeover the next few weeks there will be hard decisions to make.
Without Stricker, for example, who will be Woods’ go-to partner? Without Furyk, a seven-time Ryder Cup player who hasn’t missed a match since 1997, who will be the calming force in the locker room? Who will be your utility man?
Do you pass over potential Ryder Cup rookies Bradley and Snedeker, a major champion and arguably the Tour’s best putter, respectively? Both were overlooked for last year’s Presidents Cup at Nos. 11 and 20, respectively, and it wasn’t pretty.
Or are Johnson, who missed much of this season with injury, and Fowler, whose breakthrough this year at Quail Hollow was impressive but who has broken 70 just once in his last dozen rounds on Tour, the odd men out?
There are no easy answers, but you knew that when you took the gig.
Like ’Zinger, you seem inclined to a captain-by-committee approach, at least as it applies to your four picks.
“It's going to be the U.S. team and not going to necessarily be my team, and I'm going to try to get everybody together on the same page, on the same team,” you said earlier this summer.
But the decision, ultimately, will be yours, it’s why you get the colorful golf cart and walkie-talkie; and why – as hopeful as you may be – the wait-and-see approach may not work out.
When the last putt drops next week at Kiawah all the pieces may, in fact, fall neatly into place. But if history is any guide, you may want to have a “plan B.”
Your unsolicited advisor