#AskAlan, Vol. 16

Tunneling deep into next week’s Ryder Cup

By Alan Shipnuck

Why do we all care so much? And we do all care a ton! It’s just three days and our boys don’t care as much as we do. @KYECHSPORTS

Yeah, they’re probably healthier and better adjusted than the rest of us! We care because of Seve and Payne, Ollie and Zinger. Justin Leonard’s putt. Christy O’Connor’s 2-iron. Calc’s shank. Big Jack’s concession. Rose’s 50-footer. Ballesteros’s 3-wood out of the bunker. Lanny Wadkins’s wedge. The tears streaming down Darren Clarke’s face whilst being serenaded by the crowd. Poults embracing his son after beating the world number one. Mickelson detonating Watson in front of the world. Moliwood. The Battle at Brookline. The Miracle at Medinah. Choke Hill. The War by the Shore. “I can’t hear you!” “I have a good feeling about this.” “Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce the finest golfers in the world.” FORK OFF. I mean, I’m getting pumped just typing this!

Does Tiger arrive Saturday night for a pep talk in the locker room? @Jminis13

Gawd, I hope so. That would be utterly epic. No offense to George W. Bush riffing on the Alamo, but can you imagine how hyped the boys in red, white and blue would be? It has to happen.

If Brooksy can’t go, who gets the nod? Or do you sit him and take the Steve Pate half on Sunday? @JedDeMuesy

It has to be Billy Horschel, doesn’t it? He won the bloody WGC-Match Play this year! He has a gritty, Poulter-like personality that will drive the Euros batty. And at this exact moment, with a limited sample size, he’s the hottest golfer in the world. Otherwise, I’d go with Kevin Na. 

Did Horschel spoil his chances by expressing his disappointment at not getting a phone call from Stricker the first time around? #AskAlan @pkeen52

If that’s the case, Steve Stricker is softer than Wisconsin brie. I was a little surprised Horschel aired his grievances publicly, but that’s who he is: passionate, fiery, politically incorrect. I like that he brought the spice. Isn’t that the kind of guy you want on your team?

Is this Ryder Cup the moment when Europe goes to the well one too many times with this core of players? #AskAlan @TheSecretDuffer

Well, if Capt. Harrington had taken Justin Rose over Shane Lowry, we could say that more definitively. Even so, Europe is now missing two of its 21st Century cornerstones in Rose and Henrik Stenson. Part of the drama of this Ryder Cup is that it could very well be the last stand for the core group of Lee Westwood (age 48), Ian Poulter (45) and Sergio Garcia (41). Given the youth on Team Europe, Harrington pretty much had to take Westwood, who has been playing great for a long time, and Poulter, who has been sneaky-good this year. Garcia was more debatable, but at the Ryder Cup, Sergio is Sergio: still dangerous and sure to gin up the Yanks. 

#AskAlan Do you see the Americans ever forming a “team feeling” the way the Euros have? Also, with so many Euros moving to America, do you think that connection they develop by traveling the continent may be lost eventually? @wadster13

For sure, the Euro Tour is a more collegial place, and that plays a part in the fabled chemistry of the team that is sent to the Ryder Cup. But the players are bound together by much deeper factors: language, culture and the shared national teams that groomed them. Paul Azinger’s celebrated pod system sought to replicate the small, tightly knit groups the Europeans naturally have because of their various nationalities.

Shane Lowry and Rory Mcllroy come from the same small, tribal island and have been competing alongside each other most of their lives. Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia can talk smack about their opponents in Spanish. Two generations of English blokes on the team were groomed for this. America is a huge place that celebrates rugged individualism, so the Americans will never have the same chemistry as their opponents. But they can still build a common cause and a team chemistry that has been sorely lacking.

In an effort to combat the monotonous and robotic U-S-A U-S-A chants, I humbly submit:

 U-S-A! Aaalllllllll the way!

 U-S-A! Aaalllllllll the way!

Just a subtle change that I think the fans can handle. Far from the fun of the Olé Olés. But baby steps. #askalan @MuirFalls

You have my everlasting support. Can’t we get Bruce Springsteen to write a few jingles for Team USA? Or maybe it’s time to bust out the college fight songs. Anything would be an improvement.

If the U.S. somehow manages to lose this one, at home, on a very long golf course, with no European support, with the highest-ranked team in the modern era — will it be the worst #rydercup loss of all? @ProGolfAnalyst

Well, when you put it like that … The challenge of ranking the U.S. losses is that there have been so many embarrassments. But don’t sleep on this European team: Rahm is a certified killer; Rory is Rory and capable of overwhelming excellence; Poulter will go down as one of the handful of greatest Ryder Cuppers ever; Garcia, Westwood and Paul Casey are warriors who are almost never out of a hole; Tommy Fleetwood was a keynote player in Paris as a rookie; Viktor Hovland will be a load, especially in alternate shot; Lowry has a ton of game and brio. The U.S. is going to have to bring it to beat this team. But to your point, if the Americans can’t win this time around, you have to wonder if they ever will again.

If this were an American football game, what would the point spread be? I’m thinking it would be USA -7.5. Do you think that sounds about right? Of course, we notoriously underachieve in these, so does the spread account for that? @harryarnett

That sounds about right, but I give the notorious underachievement more weight: USA -6.

Who is one guy that is going to increase in value through a hot Ryder Cup performance? (Think Leona Maguire from the Solheim…) @aspoiledwalk

Tyrrell Hatton! He is an absolute lunatic, and I say that with abiding affection. If Hatton (above) can get so mental on a Thursday morning at a hum-drum stroke-play event, can you imagine what a raging inferno he’s going to be at the f’ing Ryder Cup! For all of his antics, Hatton has a lot of game. Other than Rahm and Poulter, Team Europe has pretty mild personalities; if Hatton plays well I can see him becoming a guy the blue and yellow rallies around.

As the PGA Tour does not run the Ryder Cup, do you think ‘security’ will be summoned if we call Bryson ‘Brooksie’?? @MrRyderCup2012

Who needs security? The frothing American crowds will toss your ass in the lake. This is the one week the crowd will be on Bryson’s side, and I don’t think any mindless heckling will be well-received.

Is Padraig Harrington going to regret bypassing Ryder Cup stalwart Justin Rose as a captain’s pick? @KOnocomment

Unless all three of his picks go 5-0, yes. Because second-guessing the captains is part of the fun of the Ryder Cup. I think Harrington understands that, but he’s not immune to regret.

Is Rory secretly overjoyed that he will not have to play Patrick Reed in singles? @tdshambaugh

Duh.

Who should be the LPGA equivalent of Bubba to show some in-person support at Kohler? @robmillertime

Christina Kim, obviously.

How many U.S. and European players do you see playing all 5 matches in the Ryder Cup? And is it more important for Europe to perhaps ride a few (Rahm, Rory) for five matches as opposed to the U.S. squad? #AskAlan @jameswoldbdc

Yes, by almost any statistical metric the U.S. team has superior depth. I doubt Stricker is game-planning for any of his guys to play all five sessions, though if a JT or DJ or Jordan comes out on fire maybe the U.S. keeps riding them. But I fully expect Rahm and McIlroy to play all five for Team Europe. The visitors need their studs to come through in a big way.

If you’re the Euros, you’re sending Rahm out in that first match, aren’t you? @Dropkick3points

Yep, pretty much every time. I think this Ryder Cup is when he becomes Europe’s team leader. McIlroy has the longer résumé, but Rahm has the duende.

Over/Under on how many sentences Padraig Harrington begins with “ehhh”?@MichaelSmyth

That is one of my favorite sounds in golf. I’ll set the O/U at a million, and I hope Padraig exceeds it.

Alan, I am attending the Ryder Cup as an American but like half a dozen European players more than I like my favorite American player. How am I to balance this fandom? #AskAlan @Sam_Beishuizen

This is the classic Ryder Cup dilemma. The Europeans are simply a jauntier, more likable, easier-to-root-for crew. But think of it like this: For the competitive integrity of the Ryder Cup, the U.S. has to win this one. So hopefully 51 percent of your heart can pull for the red, white and blue.

Why was Stricker picked to captain this? He’s only been in three Ryder Cups, and the only thing I remember about him during any of them is him and Tiger costing the U.S. the Cup in 2012. Is it because it’s in Wisconsin? #AskAlan @War_Eagle1991

Local Boy Makes Good is certainly a factor. But maybe, just maybe, Stricker will turn out to be the American McGinley: a guy with relatively light playing credentials who morphs into a spectacular captain. I’ve been impressed with everything he has done: staring down Phil and guiding him to a vice captaincy; getting Brooks Koepka to stand down in his embarrassing squabble with Bryson DeChambeau; giving Patrick Reed the unofficial suspension he deserves; and the learned approach Stricker brought to his picks. Obviously the toughest tests are still coming. But given all the bad juju around this U.S. team, maybe Stricker’s Wisconsin nice is exactly what this crew needs.

How tempted are you to double down this week? @BCRafferty

There is no doubling down. If you read my original column back in 2017, it’s a long-range prediction that will take a decade or more to play out. Paris wasn’t a great start, obviously, but if/when the U.S. wins this one that will be two out of three, with a roster boasting tons of young talent, just as Poulter and Westwood and maybe Garcia are being put out to pasture alongside Stenson and Rose. I still think I’m gonna be right, but unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until at least 2029 to know for sure. Gawd help us all.

5 thoughts on “#AskAlan, Vol. 16”

  1. Hello Alan. It will be Europe 16-12, as usual. And just please remember AMERICA is not the name of a country, it is a continent. Want to shorten? Say US, but America goes from alaska to Usuahaia and we from the other countries find this very disrespectful.

  2. From the column, “The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefiting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.” In greater context, this wasn’t the point of the column, but you did make a clear prediction. I think the “doubling down” question was a fair one!

  3. Longtime reader, first time commenter, because that “USA all the way” chant must be addressed. It’s absolute trash. You’re right that ‘USA-USA-USA’ needs to be replaced and/or complemented, but let’s leave rhyming couplets to second graders. We’re not like Europe (isn’t that the whole point of this?) so we aren’t going to suddenly start coordinating full songs like an English Premier League crowd. All you can do is hope a few semi-clever fans with loud voices start something relatively decent going around. The “I believe that we will win” thing can be fun. Jon Rahm looks like a thumb, maybe we can make something out of that? And if all else fails: “POUL-ter’s UG-ly” clap clap clapclapclap

  4. I am an American and am rooting for Europe. They are largely unspoiled, eager, and excited while the Americans exude apathy and disharmony (e.g. Koepka).

    Needless to say I will watch every minute I can. Only the Masters is superior on TV.

    BTW I love your writing.

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