Alan Shipnuck's Mailbag: Dream Ryder Cup matchups, McIlroy-Tiger dustup, more

Alan Shipnuck’s Mailbag: Dream Ryder Cup matchups, McIlroy-Tiger dustup, more

Dear gentle reader: If you’re not burnt-out on the whole Q&A thing I will be hosting a Twitter chat at 2:30 p.m. EST on Friday, Oct. 1, coming to you live from Celtic Manor. Be sure to tune in, because it’s never too early to begin second-guessing the Ryder Cup captains and speculating as to whom will be the biggest goat. Your pairings?
—Ivan Bulic, Viena, Austria
I salute Ivan for his brevity. Actually, he had a good editor, as I lopped off a few paragraphs of his prattling. Anyway, from the practice rounds it seems that each captain has identified a couple of powerhouse teams. I love the Flying Molinari Bros., the Irish Big Macs, Tiger/Stricks and the shock and awe of air-headed bombers DJ and Philly Mick. I expect this Cup to be tight heading into singles, so let’s focus on that. Here’s my dream matchups, in this order:
1. Tiger-Rory. Think this leadoff match would send a charge through the golfing world?
2. Phil-Westwood. Two team leaders in a huge momentum decider.
3. Dustin-Francesco Molinari. Big guns who can overpower a golf course and have a profound effect on the crowd.
4. Zach-Kaymer. A pair of clever, creative, scrappy players with world-class resumes.
5. Overton-Poulter. Lotsa fire in both of these cats. It would be an upset if this match stayed civil.
6. Bubba-Peter Hanson. Middle of the draw is the place to hide weak links.
7. Cink-Ross Fisher. Ditto.
8. Rickie-Luke Donald. Fire and ice. It would be compelling to watch the clash between their different styles and personalities.
9. Koochi-Edoardo Molinari. Putting wizards who come in as two of the hottest players in the world.
10. Stricker-McDowell. Rock-solid all-around talents who quietly are fiercely competitive.
11. Mahan-Jimenez. Stylish swingers sure to make a bunch of birdies. Each is cocky enough to want to decide the Cup.
12. Furyk-Paddy. This Cup could very well go down to the last match, so best to save a couple of studs for the 12-hole. Both of these gritty warriors will fight to the death. Any suggestions for guys who would be good captains but won’t ever get the job (too fun, too honest, too drunk)?
—Anonymous, via Twitter
You would think that golfing acumen and leadership qualities would be the only qualifications to be a Ryder Cup captain but the PGA of America has made it clear that it wants the shot-callers to be around 50 years old with long resumes that include multiple Ryder Cup appearances and a mandatory major championship victory. This knocks out a bunch of intriguing candidates. I’d love to see Brad Faxon as captain–no active player is as passionate about the game’s history and traditions, and he’s a cerebral guy who’d make all the right calls. But Faxon hasn’t been relevant for years and he lacks that major championship. Paul Goydos’s record is even skimpier but he’d be a hoot as captain; definitely the press room MVP and Sunshine would surely keep the troops loose. Rich Beem would be good fun, too, and he’s charismatic in a goody, Freddyesque way. There’s no more fiery personality on Tour than Jerry Kelly and he bleeds red, white and blue. Downside: he would definitely create an international incident by cross-checking the opposing captain. Among this current batch of Ryder Cuppers my personal choice would be Bubba Watson. He brings a dewey-eyed patriotism and his aw-shucks naïveté plays well with the European press. Put it this way: he certainly won’t outsmart himself. Why the need for four vice-captains? It seems to me the Ryder Cup’s gotten severely over-analyzed/micromanaged.
—Bert Stewart, Philadelphia
The Ryder Cup captaincy has become an arms race of accoutrements, with each captain trying to top the other in an effort to appear hyper-prepared. You have a sound-proof team room? I’ll raise you a New Agey psychologist. You bring in an air force major for a rah-rah pep talk? I counter with a dying Spanish legend. And on and on it goes. Paul Azinger had three assistant captains because he wanted one to monitor each of his 4-man pods during practice rounds. I’ve heard Monty say he likes having four manservants so one can trail each of the matches during the team play. Surely someday we’ll have 12 assistant captains, one to fuss over each player, like an overbearing wet nurse. On the topic of Rory McIlroy saying he’d rather win a WGC event than a Ryder Cup, it brings up a couple of thoughts:
1. The reason Tiger Woods never gives a straight answer to the media is he’d get ripped like you ripped Rory. Soon young Mr. McIlroy will learn not to speak the truth either, and he’ll become boring also. I wish you guys could show some self-restraint.
2. Golf is an individual sport. As much as it’s fun for writers to rip golfers for wanting to get paid, they are creating all the value at the Ryder Cup and don’t get compensated for it. It’s one thing to play for charity, but when others are profiting it hardly seems like they should give their time for free.
– Dan McCann
Irvine, CA
I salute Rory for his honesty, just not his acumen. He’s going to win many tournaments in his career, and a random WGC will not stand out. But the Ryder Cup can define a player’s legacy, particularly for a Euro who doesn’t play much in the U.S. Ask Seve, or Monty, or Sergio. Your second point is well-taken, given what a overhyped spectacle the Ryder Cup has become. Certainly the European Tour is not shy about prostituting the Ryder Cup to suck up every possible corporate dollar. But while the competitors don’t get paid directly, the Ryder Cup has huge value for them, and not just in the $200K in charity money they get to disperse. Representing the U.S. gives each player tremendous exposure and stamps them as one of the best in the game. For an Overton or Fowler or Bubba this represents a major upgrade in their career, which can only help them in the marketplace. Play this game please; you are only able to attend/view the action at East Lake or Celtic Manor. Which would you choose and why?
—Steven Hartung
It’s particularly delicious that these two events are so close together on the calendar, highlighting their differences. The Tour Championship was pretty good fun but ultimately the FedEx Cup is nothing more than a monument to conspicuous consumption, a cynical exercise dreamed up in a corporate boardroom and lorded over by computer nerds who control the all-powerful logarithms that determine the winner. The Ryder Cup has its flaws but remains, quite simply, one of the greatest experiences in sport. I can still hear in my head the “Ole’, ole’, ole’, ole,’oooolleee’!” chants from Valderrama, still remember that the closing moments in Brookline were so tense I was having trouble breathing properly. When the Ryder Cup is closely contested it produces intensity and emotion that is completely foreign to any other golf event. I woulda swam to Wales to cover this one.

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