We Know Player Histories, but Who Will Step up at Ryder Cup?
That odd event known as the Ryder Cup is coming up before very long, and at some level, we still don’t know what to make of it after all these years. Every once in a while, we switch from our touring stroke play, one against the world mentality, to match play, Then, unsatisfied with that, we extend match play to team play, which is a transcontinental series of matches. Finally, we add geographical and regional bias to it. Europe versus the United States – what a perfect way to celebrate and release feelings that are already tender from matters of international politics. We can’t guarantee anymore that on the surface of the raw nerves, we will make any effort to retain civility. The only saving grace is that the touring players often know each other, and everyone sees everyone else in other tournaments. Individual friendships save the day in the end.
The teams have some historical trouble beating each other on the other fellow’s turf, with glaring exceptions. At any rate, the U.S. finds itself playing in Europe this year, and would love to beat Europe on European soil. If Alexander the Great had carried golf clubs instead of spears, the mind set would be weirdly similar. The captains of the two continents have almost made their final picks to round out the teams. Jim Furyk has chosen Xander Schauffele, the 2017 Rookie of the Year. his name makes one wonder if he’s playing for the right team, but it just goes to show how truly European many of us are. Kevin Kisner finished second at the Open, played at Shinnecock, and thus gets the nod. The fact that anyone ‘finished’ at Shinnecock at all is impressive, so I’ll go with the choice. Brian Harman finished 6th at the Travelers, an has struggled since, which inspires somewhat less confidence. Brandt Snedeker has played on the last two victorious American Ryder Cup teams. Having been there before is good. Then came the captain’s picks, including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bryson de Chambeau. I feel better about these three choices, with a little reservation. Tiger went into exile from player to consultant, and is suddenly playing so well that he’s back. If he wants to play these matches the way he used to, I’m all for it. Phil Mickelson is fighting off the descending portion of his career, but make no mistake – he’s still got game. We just don’t know when it will pop out, since it doesn’t quite as often as it once did.
For the Europeans, qualifying began last summer from the Czech Masters, and went all the way to Made in Denmark Those that were chosen earned it. However, the captain’s picks make up the fun part here, too, and on a good day, this team is scary. Tyrell Hatton, I don’t know much about, but Justin Rose is a presence whenever something important is going on. Tommy Fleetwood has been “almost” winning everything in sight, and might choose this year’s Ryder Cup to make good on his threat. Francesco Molinari is an equally daunting figure, except that he has been winning a lot of important tournaments lately, and looking great doing it. John Rahm and Paul Casey? We’ve seen a lot of them on Sunday this year. The name of Rory McIlroy still scares people, even when the golf doesn’t, and Ian Poulter has gone from scratching and clawing to get his card back to playing like the Poulter of old.
The course for this version of the Ryder Cup is Le Golf National, presumably the Albatros course. It’s an odd name for a course, considering how difficult it would be to get near scoring one. By all appearances, the principal feature of Le Golf National is bodies of water put in dangerous places. Well, at least it’s not in Florda. Then you’d have gators as well. Famous courses can often point to epic scenery, mountains and seascapes as rare backdrops for the game. This French course is the ultimate in “pastoral.” To look at it lowers one’s blood pressure and elicits an “Ah…” Playing it probably does not.
The Ryder Cup has gained attention in the last few meetings for the seeming permission to act as if one is at a wrestling match. Although I’d love to see a little restraint injected into the mind set, it probably won’t be. This is the age for self-expression, in any dialect or volume. I’d look for Tiger this time around, and if you’re European, perhaps Molinari or Fleetwood – just a hunch. The course is an extension of Louis XIV’s palace gardens. With that much talent and historical aesthetics, a good time should be had by all.