The last time heads rolled like this, Marie Antoinette let them eat cake.
The Storming of the Bastille might seem like a massage compared to the potential bloodletting this weekend, as the U.S. Ryder Cup team looks to win on foreign soil for the first time in 25 years. With a murderer’s row line-up, chemistry everywhere you look, and a golf course that looks more made for the Americans than the Euros, the U.S. isn’t poised to just win, but dominate the Europeans from start to finish.
This year, in particular not only is the U.S. team deeper 1-12 (nine of their players are ranked in the top 20 in the World compared to just six for Europe) but they have terrific pairing options. For example:
Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson (the God Squad) with Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, (who are 4-1-2 when paired together in the Ryder Cup).
Tiger Woods and Brooks Koepka with, perhaps, Dustin Johnson and Tony Finau (all the weightlifters and body-builders together. The “Mr. Atlas Pod…”)
Finally, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler and Juston Thomas.
Chemistry is everything in doubles formats, and the Ryder Cup is about 60% doubles. For decades the European team trounced the U.S. in both alternate shot and fourballs, but since the inception of the Pod System that was so successful in 2008 and again in 2016, the U.S. has been, over time, far stronger than in the past. The Pod System focused on chemistry within pairings over the entire event. This added stability, predictability,and best of all trust among teammates.
Seriously…who’s gonna say “Boo!” to a Koepka/Woods fourballs pairing? Especially first off number one at Le Golf National’s Albatros Course on Friday morning? (Only Dustin Johnson, who might want to at least play a round or two with his former PrezCup partner, Brooks.)
Moreover, juicy rumors are swirling, what with Tiger and Phil practicing together one day, and then Tiger practicing with DeChambeau the next.
But no matter what, Captain Jim Furyk has options…plenty of them.
By contrast there are five Ryder Cup rookies on the European team: Alex Noren, John Rahm, Tyrell Hatton, Thorbjorn Olesson, and Tommy Fleetwood. (The U.S. has just two: Finau and DeChambeau.) That’s a lot of ground to cover for just seven veterans. Plus, Henrik Stenson, a critical piece, has been hobbled by injuries this year. Potential pairings could be:
Ian Poulter and Paul Casey, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and John Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesson (a rookie paring that could be exploited), and Francesco Molinari with Tyrell Hatton.
They just don’t have the horses to keep pace with the Americans.
As for singles, of course everyone wants to see Reed-McIlroy II, but I’d also like to see Garcia-Mickelson II as that match (where they each shot 63-64) finished with an exciting, but somewhat unsatisfying halve. Send ’em out again!
As for the Albatros Course at Le Golf National, consider the layout and set-up a draw. With ten water holes, three of which are par-3s over water, and two island/peninsula greens the course looks like the illegitimate child of Medinah and Valhalla rather than the French countryside. Plus the fake mounding screams Robert Van Hagge. Toto, we are not at Valderrama this time. When it comes to Ryder Cup golf courses, we choose old golf courses, the Europeans sell hotel rooms.
The course was redesigned in 2014, though it has hosted the French Open since 1991. The scant familiarity advantage that the Euro Tour players who played it already is balanced out by the designers producing a course that looks and plays like a modern American one.
Other than that, keep it simple. In team events like this,potentially five exhausting, grinding rounds in three days, you won’t play great all weekend, you just have to play well in the clutch. The U.S. players are better conditioned right now – stronger,
Projected final score: U.S. 15-1/2, Europe 12-1/2
FRIDAY MORNING FOURBALL PAIRINGS
Rose and Rahm v Koepka and Finau
McIlroy and Olesen v Johnson and Fowler
Casey and Hatton v Spieth and Thomas
Molinari and Fleetwood v Woods and Reed