Ryder Cup Confidential: What would be a successful start for the U.S.?

Ryder Cup Confidential: What would be a successful start for the U.S.?

Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson will represent the U.S. in the opening match on Friday.
Peter Muhly/Getty Images

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 Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: If you’re Corey Pavin playing on foreign soil, what do you consider a successful Day 1? What about Monty — do the Europeans need to seize the early momentum?

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Pavin should be happy with a 2-2 split. I’m sure that would look like a loss to Monty. If the U.S. should somehow forge a first-day lead, let the second-guessing begin.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: Playing on the road, a 4-4 tie after the first day of four-balls and foursomes would feel like a huge win for the Americans. The longer the U.S. stays even with the Europeans, the tighter the Euros will feel, and the more likely an upset could take place. For Monty, success means winning at least five points, minimally.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The U.S. needs at least 4.5 points, maybe 5. The Euros have six rookies and the pressure of playing at home; if the Yanks are going to win, they need to capitalize on their opponents’ opening-day jitters.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: The only way the Americans have a prayer is if Tiger and Phil show up, so I’d say a successful first day will be if they combine for 2.5 points or more. No Tiger and no Phil would equal absolutely no chance.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: For Pavin: a split (4-4) would be huge. For Monty: 6-2 would be a success; 4-4 would be OK. Anything less, a major disappointment.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I think Pavin would be thrilled to be within a point, 4.5-3.5. Anything better than that is gravy.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Pavin is happy with a Day 1 draw if he gets good performances from Fowler and Woods. Worst-case scenario for Pavin is that Woods plays poorly and he’s faced with the drama of possibly benching him. Monty is looking for a Day 1 lead, but more important for him is that Lee Westwood is OK.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Agreed that if the U.S. can break even after Day 1, it will be as good as a win since the U.S. has trailed in five of the last seven Cups after the opening day. The Mickelson and Tiger morning duos need to play well and win; the other two pairings look a little overmatched, if such a thing is possible in an 18-hole match. If Phil and Tiger both lose in the morning, the Americans will need to play extremely well in the afternoon to overcome those two punches in the gut.

Godich: I don’t think there is any way Tiger gets benched. Watson and Overton won’t play in the afternoon. The same probably goes for Cink. And Pavin has this going for him with Tiger: It’s match play. He doesn’t have to play well for 18 holes. He can win matches with spectacular six-hole stretches, especially with such a rock-solid partner like Stricker.

Morfit: I’ve got to say I’m stunned by the U.S. anchors, Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton. You’d think Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington will win that one in about 10 holes, but obviously Pavin is of the belief that length is going to be a big advantage out here. Monty called the Watson/Overton pairing “strange” before retracting it and going with “surprising.” Quoth the Euro skip: “Luke Donald and Padriag Harrington would not have expected to be playing two rookies.”

Van Sickle: Right, Cam. Pavin rolled the dice on this one and is hoping a long shot can come in. Clearly means he hopes he can play all 12 guys the first day.

Godich: I love the Watson-Overton pairing. They could give the U.S. some real momentum going into the afternoon, with Furyk, Mahan and Zach Johnson rested and ready. Think Chip Beck and John Cook in 1993. Sure, they might lose 6 and 5, but they might make a slew of birdies, and if they steal just a half a point, the second-guessing will start about Monty’s taking Harrington as a captain’s pick.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Based on the pairings, it could go either way. I don’t really see a dominant team. We point to the long hitters, but they could also be a liability if they are feeling the pressure. But the match to watch in the morning is Mickelson/Dustin Johnson vs. Kaymer/Westwood.

Herre: The first-session pairings look like chalk to me — except Watson/Overton vs. Donald/Harrington, hence Monty’s surprise. He certainly didn’t expect it. I take that as a gutty move by Pavin and potentially a good sign for the U.S. Pavin surprised Monty on Day 1. If the gamble pays off and Watson and Overton, a couple of bombers, can take it to the more pedestrian Donald and Harrington in the last match of the session, it will lift the U.S. team. Of course, the Americans, both rookies, could also go south.