Every day this week, writers and editors from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine will address one pressing question about the Ryder Cup in a daily version of PGA Tour Confidential, our weekly roundtable discussion.
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Things look grim for the U.S., but as Johnny might say, there’s a lot of golf yet to be played. So we are basically halfway through the Ryder Cup. What has surprised you the most to this point? I’ve been surprised by the fine play of Martin Kaymer. He’s been a rock for the Euros. Maybe he really is the best player in the world.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Sorry, but Lee Westwood is showing why he’s the best player in the world. I’ve been surprised by how well almost all of the rookies have responded. We saw a lot of quality shot-making and putting at the end of the second session, a lot of the sparkling play coming from rookies on both sides. That’s what makes the Ryder Cup so special.
Herre: Right, Mark. And the captains’ picks haven’t been too shabby, either. Cink has been carrying Kuchar.
Godich: True, but this morning Kuchar made the huge putt to win the 16th, hit a rock-solid tee shot at the 17th and negotiated the layup shot out of the rough at the 18th. If the U.S. wins, we may point to the Cink-Kuchar victory over McDowell-McIlroy as the biggest match of the week. The Americans were looking at defeat walking to the 17th green, yet they ended up with the victory. That was a huge two-point swing.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I can’t believe how bad Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson have been. Both should be monsters in match play, but they’re co-goats so far.
Godich: At least Dustin has hit some quality shots. That said, his putting has been atrocious.
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, GOLF.com: I’m surprised by the lack of leadership from the U.S. Who’s the team leader? It’s not Phil. It’s not Tiger. It certainly isn’t Captain Pavin. If someone doesn’t speak up, Europe will destroy them tomorrow.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The biggest surprise is that the Americans are going to bed with a 6-4 lead even though Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have pretty much looked lost on the golf course. You figured if the Americans were going to contend, those two had to play well. Tiger had Steve Stricker propping him up, but Phil has unfortunately been an anchor. The second biggest surprise is that it took until late Saturday for the Europeans to come roaring back, and they are.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, GOLF.com: I agree with Gary: it’s surprising it took so long for the Euros to get rolling, but they absolutely Mack-trucked the U.S. at the end of the day. Pavin’s boys need to flip some of those blue flags tomorrow morning, or this could quickly get away from them on Sunday afternoon.
Van Sickle: I’m surprised Pavin didn’t use some of his first-half timeouts Saturday afternoon just to stop the bleeding. It got ugly out there.
Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Kaymer is a rock. Pavin is a dud. The Euros want it badly. The Americans are tanking. But beware of the singles. The Americans have a history of jolting to life in those matches.
Herre: If the U.S. can pull out a couple of the close matches, we’re looking at a super Sunday.
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: I am surprised at just how well the U.S. rookie duo of Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton have played. When we saw that pairing on Thursday, a lot of people thought they’d be outclassed by Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington — ‘fraid not! Matt Kuchar has also been solid. I’m not surprised that Mickelson and Dustin Johnson failed to make anything happen. Johnson lacks a killer instinct, and as someone with arthritis I can tell you that playing golf in cold, wet conditions is not fun. Phil isn’t himself, and playing golf with a partner who can’t buy a putt with a Â£100 bill doesn’t help.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Overton surprised me big time. I had no idea he’d respond like that in the anchor match of the first session, which I consider a totally unexpected gift to Pavin and the U.S. team.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The biggest surprise to me is the U.S. unis. Where’s the red, white and blue? What happened to Old Glory? What’s up with this Saturday scheme, purple and white with a dash of red? Team USA’s identity has been subverted by the fashion police. Whatever happened to, These colors don’t run?
Dusek:The whole gear situation is embarrassing. First the rain suits fail, then there was talk about the golf bags leaking. I learned that 30 rolling duffle bags were emergency ordered for the team as well. Now we see purple sweaters?