If I Was Ryder Cup Captain

It’s interesting to see how each Ryder Cup Captain manages their team, and how they pick players to play together for the team matches. I’ve always wondered what I would do in their position. I think Ryder Cup Captains get a bit too much blame when things go wrong, and perhaps a bit too much praise when they go well. Having said that, it’s clear that the job of captain is integral to the success of the team. So while listening to Curtis Strange comment on a question about Tiger Woods and his status for the Ryder Cup team, I started wondering how I would handle things as Captain this year. To start out, lets look at the current Ryder Cup points list as of August 1st:

Pos Name Points
1 Phil Mickelson 5,768.749
2 Jim Furyk 3,418.942
3 Steve Stricker 3,402.676
4 Jeff Overton 3,277.848
5 Anthony Kim 3,238.309
6 Lucas Glover 2,980.874
7 Matt Kuchar 2,938.419
8 Dustin Johnson 2,936.138
9 Tiger Woods 2,773.305
10 Hunter Mahan 2,643.754
11 Ricky Barnes 2,610.171
12 Ben Crane 2,533.929
13 Stewart Cink 2,394.033
14 Nick Watney 2,297.974
15 Rickie Fowler 2,259.370
16 J.B. Holmes 2,219.010
17 Bubba Watson 2,202.319
18 Bo Van Pelt 2,156.334
19 Sean O’Hair 2,122.574
20 Zach Johnson 2,118.397

The 2010 team will be selected from the top eight players in the points list, and Captain Corey Pavin will have four other selections, or “Captain’s Picks”. So lets talk about the current state of affairs…

Jeff Overton1. Jeff Overton is a liability. Keeping in mind that as of today (August 6, 2010) there are still 55 days remaining before the matches, the first thing about the current points list that jumps out at me is that Jeff Overton is in 4th position. Overton has been playing very well this year, and last week finished second to Stewart Appleby’s final round 59. However, it is Overton’s behavior on the course last week at the Greenbrier that concerns me as Captain. On the 17th hole Overton missed a short birdie putt that would have tied him for the lead. Instead, the putt slid by the hole and Overton proceeded to spend the better part of two minutes whining and complaining about how the ball hit a spike mark, and how unlucky he was and that his life is terrible. In my opinion, this despicable show of immaturity and lack of emotional control cost him the tournament. On the par 3 final hole (which is nothing but an 8 iron to a huge green) he hit his approach a full club short, and two-putted for a second place finish. Clearly he felt robbed and clearly he was still mumbling about the missed putt on 17, when he should have been thinking about the wonderful opportunity he had to make a final hole birdie and ruin Mr. 59’s party in the playoff. Overton is a fine young player, but it’s clear to me that he isn’t ready for the mental rigors of Ryder Cup competition, where every shot is filled with the type of pressure he felt on the back nine last Sunday. As Captain, I’ll make sure he plays with a veteran – someone that can have a calming effect on him like Steve Stricker or Jim Furyk.

Tiger Woods2. Tiger isn’t a shoe-in for the team. The second thing that stands out about the list is that Tiger Woods currently sits in 9th position, which means he won’t make the team on points unless he picks up his level of play. Most people would say “So what? tiger is a sure thing for a Captain’s pick!” I disagree completely. As Captain, I would call Tiger and tell him honestly that I have no intention of using a Captain’s pick on him. I want him to step up as a leader and make the team on points. If not, he’s out. Most people will disagree with me on this one, but this year it may be best with him left off the team. By his own admission, he’s played horribly this year, and clearly golf isn’t his number one priority. He even said so in his press conferences this week before shooting rounds of 74-72 at Firestone – a course he’s won on 7 of the 10 times he’s played there. Tiger will have a very hard time in the team room, not only with the other players, but with all the players’ wives and girlfriends around. Can you say “awkward”? During Ryder Cup week it’s all about golf, and Tiger doesn’t appear ready to focus solely on golf again. Many would argue that even his “c” game is enough to beat most players, but as Captain I say you have to show you really want to be there, and earn your spot. In the words of Snoop Dog – “Step yo game up!”

Rickie Fowler3. Rickie Fowler is on my team, one way or another. I hope Rickie makes my team on points, leaving me another Captain’s pick, but either way he’s on my team. Rickie’s amateur record speaks for itself, with a Walker Cup record of 7-1. The Walker Cup is sort of the Amateur version of the Ryder Cup and the highest level of international golf you can play as an amateur. Rickie has already come close to winning as a 20 year old rookie on the PGA Tour, and nothing seems to phase him. I love players with home-taught swings, and Rickie fits in this category. He plays by feel and doesn’t need a small army of swing doctors and mind shrinks constantly tweaking this or that, he just goes out there and hits shots. I think being on the Ryder Cup team will be a great experience for him, and he’ll have a great record, especially if paired with another young gun like Rickie Barnes, Anthony Kim or Dustin Johnson. I’m calling it now – The Rickies (Barnes and Fowler) will go undefeated!

2010 Ryder Cup Team Captains4. Match-ups on paper don’t mean anything, but still… On paper, it appears that the European team will have a very strong lineup and the home course advantage, even if most of the front runners for the Euros skipped the Celtic Manor Wales Open this year despite that was played on the same course that will host the Ryder Cup. The US team will benefit from four Captain’s picks this time, which is good, because there are several proven players that aren’t in the top 8 and would require a Captain’s pick. Hunter Mahan, Ricky Barnes, Stewart Cink, J.B. Holmes, Zach Johnson and Nick Watney are all potential choices. On the European side, Segio Garcia has been in golf la-la land since being dumped by Greg Norman’s daughter. His play has been uninspired and he looks generally unhappy to be playing. That’s good for me, since Sergio has been a killer in past Ryder Cups. Regardless of his recent play, Captain Montgomerie will probably pick him anyway. Also look for young guns Rory McIlroy and Ross Fisher to make their rookie appearances for Team Europe, and maybe even Chris Wood.

Nobody said being a Ryder Cup captain is easy, and your success as a Captain depends largely on how your players do on the course. I would like to see successful Captains come back, rather than having this revolving door policy where we have a new captain every four years. I hate to say it, but the Ryder Cup Captain talent pool is starting to get a little thin on both side of the Atlantic. Why not bring Tom Watson back as a Captain? Hell, he damn near could make the team at 60! I’m not trying to take anything away from Corey Pavin and Colin Montgomerie, but lets face it – everyone would rather see a Captain match-up like Watson vs. Jacklin. By the way, Jacklin captained four straight European Ryder Cup teams between 1983 and 1989, and won 3 out of 4.

So, with that off my chest, we’ll sit back and watch the teams develop and the drama unfold. I certainly hope the contest is a good one.

Please take the opportunity to leave me a comment and let me know what you think, or what picks you would make and why/why not!

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