Playing With Matches

By Brian HewittSeptember 18, 2008, 4:00 pm
LOUISVILLE, Ky. ' Now is the time for all good golfers to come to the aid of their country..or continent.
The picks are in for Friday mornings four foursomes matches that will kick off the three-day adrenaline rush that goes by the name of the Ryder Cup.
Europe has won five of the last six of these biennial golfapalooozas. And one of the key common denominators is the fast starts the Euros have gotten off to in all five of those victories.
To whit: In each of the last five Ryder Cups, the Europeans have led after the first days matches. That includes the four fourball matches that, at Valhalla Friday, will be played in the afternoon.
The combined first day total of points in those five Ryder Cups is Europe 26 -U.S. 13 .
American captain Paul Azinger and European captain Nick Faldo are acutely aware of those numbers. So what follows is an analysis, in order of the Friday morning matches (the pairings for afternoon play wont be announced until late Friday morning).
MATCH 1, 8:05 a.m.: Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim (USA) vs. Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson (Europe):
THE SCOOP: Faldo said Thursday he thought about putting Sergio Garcia, 8-0-0 lifetime in foursomes, in this spot. But he deferred to Harringtons stature as the reigning two-time British and one-time PGA champion. Pretty tough to beat a three-time major champion out of his seat, Faldo saidAzinger said six different guys asked for rookie Kim as a partner. He awarded Kim to MickelsonLast time Mickelson went out first on Friday in Ryder Cup was infamous 2-and-1 loss partnering with Tiger Woods against Harrington and Colin Montgomerie at Oakland Hills four years ago.
THE EDGE: Europe.

MATCH 2, 8:20 a.m.: Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan (USA) vs. Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey (Europe):
THE SCOOP: Leonard and Mahan close Texas friends. Both disciples of Dallas teacher Randy Smith.Leonard 0-3-5 career in Ryder Cup and desperate for a full point..Stenson and Casey, both bombers, better matched off tee than Mahan and the shorter Leonard..Mahan and Leonard both better putters, on paper, than the Euros here..Casey one of five Englishmen on Englishman Faldos team and even Stenson has a Faldo connection: His caddie, Fanny Sunesson, used to carry Faldos golf bag.
THE EDGE: Europe.
MATCH 3, 8:35 a.m.: Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell (USA) vs. Justin Rose and Ian Poulter (Europe).
THE SCOOP: Steady as she goes for both Cink and Campbell in alternate shot and both are perfect in this spot with Ryder Cup experience..Rose is a talented rookie who has lacked closing power in stroke play events.Poulter has become something of Faldos teachers pet in the lead-up to the matches and the pressure may be greater on him than any other player on the European squadLook for Cink to play all five matches. Ditto for Kim, Jim Furyk and Mickelson.
MATCH 4, 8:50 a.m.: Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk (USA) vs. Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia (Europe).
THE SCOOP: Garcia and Westwood are Europes best team by far in this event. And to repeat, Garcia is 8-0-0 lifetime in foursomes. Which makes this an absolutely great nothing-to-lose spot for native son Perry to pull off the upset that would set the galleries on fire. Remember, Tiger Woods is no longer the player at these matches with the biggest target on his back. The player now, on either side, with the bulls-eye on him is Garcia.Steady Furyk is the perfect partner for Perry in alternate shot although hes 2-5-0 career in Ryder Cup foursomes..Westwood is, and always will be, an underrated player until he wins a couple of majors..His poker face is a perfect complement to the voluble Garcia.
THE EDGE: Halve.
FINAL THOUGHTS: A lot of people are surprised that long-hitting Kentuckian J.B. Holmes isnt playing Friday morning. But, upon closer inspection, it was the right move by Azinger. Holmes game is built for fourballs not foursomes. And look for Azinger to send him off first in the afternoon matches to get the Valhalla crowd into the afternoon session right off the bat. Boo Weekley would be an engaging choice as Holmes partner.
The other big surprise Thursday was the emotional state of the normally-steely Faldo at the press conference where he announced his team. Faldo was near tears at least twice and confessed to it. I need to get it out somewhere, Faldo said, adding, This is really the best experience Ive ever had inside, outside the ropes, as a non-player, inside, outside the ropes. This is the most special moment, week of my life right now.
And the matches havent even begun.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Related Links:
  • U.S. Report Cards
  • European Report Cards
  • U.S. Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • European Ryder Cup Team and Records
  • Full Coverage - 37th Ryder Cup
  • Getty Images

    Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
    Getty Images

    Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

    Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

    Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

    Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

    Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

    12/1: Dustin Johnson

    16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

    20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

    25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

    30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

    40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

    50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

    60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

    80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

    100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

    Getty Images

    Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

    If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

    Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

    Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

    Updated Official World Golf Ranking

    There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

    There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

    Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

    John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

    Getty Images

    Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

    By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

    Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

    Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

    Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

    “I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

    But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

    “I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”