PGA Tour Confidential: 2012 Ryder Cup preview

Chicago Golf Club
David Alexander/Getty Images
Of all the great courses in a fabulous golf city, Chicago Golf Club is the most private.

HOT SPOTS
VAN SICKLE: Where on the venerable Medinah course would you go to enjoy prime spectating?

SHIPNUCK: My new favorite hole at Medinah is one I haven't seen yet—the new 15th, which Rees Jones has redone. It was a nondescript par-4. Now it's a do-or-die drivable par-4 with water guarding the right side of the green. Rees said his model was the 10th at the Belfry.

ANONYMOUS PRO: That sounds pretty interesting.

SHIPNUCK: The Belfry's 10th became a quintessential Ryder Cup hole. Seve was the first who tried to drive the green every time, and you had to match him. It wasn't only about golf, it was about your manhood.

ANONYMOUS PRO: If I'm going to a Ryder Cup, I want to see birdies and eagles. Medinah has some long par-4s—they're tedious. I'd park at a reachable par-5 and wait for some fireworks.

GARRITY: Medinah has three par-3 holes over water—the 2nd, 13th and 17th. You can get a great view around one of those greens or even around the elevated tees. You can watch the putting from there with binoculars.

VAN SICKLE: Good point, John. I'd go with number 2, where the green is so close to the water, it looks like a boat ramp. The guys who nervously lose the 1st hole come to this tee, and all they can see is water. The last thing they want to do is splash one and suddenly fall two down after two holes. There should be some beautifully errant bailout shots at number 2.

BAMBERGER: If I could watch only one hole, I'd watch the 1st tee. Everything people say about 1st-tee Ryder Cup jitters is true. Guys make more practice swings, go to their towels, drink more water and look lost. It is different from the 1st tee of any other tournament, even the majors. It's psychological drama at its best.

SHIPNUCK: The 1st tee on Ryder Cup Sunday is my favorite hole in all of golf. The chants, the teammates coming out to watch, the captains, the occasional celebrity guest. It turns into a bit of a party. It's the only place to be.

THAT TODDLING TOWN
VAN SICKLE: Chicago is America's golf capital. Where would you sneak off to play golf during Ryder Cup week, not that any of us would ever do anything that underhanded. Right, Alan?

SHIPNUCK: Well, Chicago Golf Club has a little mystery to it. It's one of those great courses that really wants to remain private. They don't court course-raters or media. I've heard it's fantastic.

VAN SICKLE: It's the holy grail of Chicago golf, for sure.

GARRITY: I'm a big believer in public golf, so I'd make the pilgrimage to Cog Hill in Lemont. I've covered a few Western Opens over the years. I haven't been out there since it's been remodeled, to mostly bad reviews, but that's not the point. I'd be happy to play the other three Cog Hill courses, all of which are lovely and nicely maintained. It's important to go there to pay tribute to the Jemsek family, which has done so many fabulous things for Chicago golf.

VAN SICKLE: The Beverly Club is so exclusive that nobody even talks about it. I heard Lance Ten Broeck, a former Tour player turned caddie, had some legendary adventures there. The one time I was invited there was a rainout, and I've never been back. There's also Skokie Country Club, a frequent Top 100 member and a Donald Ross course. Need I say more?

BAMBERGER: There are scads of great and unique courses in Chicago. Among them is Bob O'Link, a men's club with no rules—well, except for that one—and where the golf is pure, so I've heard. The name itself is awesome. What happens at Bob O'Link stays at Bob O'Link.

VAN SICKLE: Mike Ditka used to practically live at that course.

ANONYMOUS PRO: I'm one of the few players who liked Olympia Fields when the U.S. Open was there [in 2003]. They ruined the 18th, but it had a lot of cool holes. I'd definitely go back.

SHIPNUCK: If I had a free day in Chicago during the Ryder Cup, I'd go to the SI at the Majors tent downtown at Navy Pier. That'll be the week's biggest attraction.

GARRITY: Well played, Alan. And very subtle.

STAR TURNS
VAN SICKLE: Who will be difference-makers in the matches?

GARRITY: Bubba Watson's scrambling and shot-shaping skills are suited to match play. He can be a real pin-hunter. Plus, he's a personality the fans will get behind when he hits those spectacular, creative shots he's capable of.

VAN SICKLE: I think Keegan Bradley is the U.S. team's new Paul Azinger. He'll take these matches personally, and he'll inspire his teammates. Also, Brandt Snedeker is going to be a surprise. As I've said for years, the Ryder Cup is a putting contest. Great putters like Snedeker or Ian Poulter or Steve Stricker or Graeme McDowell are tough to beat in match play.

SHIPNUCK: I was going to say Snedeker too. Remember how Chip Beck was a rallying figure for those early '90s Ryder Cup teams? Sneds is the same way.

VAN SICKLE: He's like the team mascot.

SHIPNUCK: Exactly. He's a big Labrador retriever. If he takes down a top European duo early on, the whole team rallies around him. You don't maybe expect him to be a cold-blooded killer, but when his putter is on, he makes birdies in bunches.

GARRITY: Another key guy is Jason Dufner. Deep down, maybe he's an emotional wreck, but my gosh, he looks completely unflappable. He could be that Ray Floyd--type whose seeming indifference or coolness intimidates the other side.

BAMBERGER: Phil Mickelson can play a huge role. He can help some young players, the way he has done in past Cups with Anthony Kim and Hunter Mahan. And Phil can show himself as a leader of men. This could be a tryout for his own inevitable Ryder Cup captaincy, possibly as soon as two years from now.

SHIPNUCK: Nicolas Colsaerts is interesting. He's a cool customer and a big hitter. He looks a little like Dolph Lundgren. With sunglasses, he has a badass look.

VAN SICKLE: Congratulations on the first mention of Dolph Lundgren in PGA Tour Confidential history. I'll see your Lundgren and raise you a Jean-Claude Van Damme.

GARRITY: In Tiger, Bubba and Phil you have three of the greatest shot shapers in the game right now. That may not seem consequential, but it could be big in alternate shot.

ANONYMOUS PRO: Everyone is so gung-ho about the Americans' having an edge in power off the tee. I've played Medinah a few times, including the PGA, and it's a funny course. The par-5s are long and awkward with tiny greens that are hard to hit. It's pretty tough to get to them in two, depending on how Davis Love has it set up. Lengthening a course doesn't necessarily make it a long hitter's course. On some of the par-4s all you can do is play to the corner of the dogleg anyway.

VAN SICKLE: Go back to the 1990 U.S. Open at Medinah, and who was in the mix? Not long hitters—Mike Donald, Nick Faldo and Hale Irwin. Luke Donald made a run at Tiger in the last PGA there.

ANONYMOUS PRO: Those guys are powder puffs.

GARRITY: Speaking of Luke Donald, why haven't we mentioned him more? He was recently No. 1 in the world, he's consistent week in and week out, and we don't seem to consider him an important factor. How come?

SHIPNUCK: You're right, John. Donald has had some fabulous Ryder Cups. He's been a calming influence on Sergio García. He has Chicago roots—he attended Northwestern, he lives in Chicago most of the year, and he'll probably play all five matches. It would be a mistake to overlook him. He could be Europe's best player.

GARRITY: There's a category of players I call great golfers who haven't won majors whose legacy is great Ryder Cup play. That's Luke, Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood.

SHIPNUCK: And Sergio.

BAMBERGER: Sergio's role is critical. He is showing a maturity this year that I've never seen. I think he'll be huge for Europe.

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