Ryder Cup: The Tale of the Tape

Enough of the Golf Channel niceties people. The Enthralla at Valhalla is about to tee off tomorrow morning, so it’s high time we got all scientific on this international golf wang dang doodle. The scorecards please ...
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↵THE CAPTAINS
↵Nick Faldo for the Euros, suave, accomplished, the finest player of his era, the James Bond of golf. Paul Azinger for the Yanks, brash, obnoxious, a human pit bull who eschews the lipstick (in public at least). Seve Ballesteros once famously referred to the ’91 American Ryder Cup team as “11 nice guys and Paul Azinger,” and rumor has it that The Zinger took it as a compliment. ↵

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↵Faldo, meanwhile, may have already inadvertently revealed his Friday pairings, a ham-handed gaffe if ever there was one in this high-stakes game of golfing espionage. Then again, maybe it was a decoy to throw the pit bull off the scent? Faldo is unquestionably experienced in this spy hustle, and something tells me his je ne sais quoi is going to prove more valuable than The Zinger’s esprit de corps.
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↵Euros win the hole. ↵

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↵THE STARS
↵In terms of high-wattage, Europe’s stars burn the brighter for once in a blue moon. In the absence of Tiger Woods, Paddy Harrington has a claim on golfer of the year, although as a major force on the Euro squad, he is far from their most decorated Ryder Cup warrior with a lifetime 7-8-2 Cup record. The big guns for Europe really boil down to Sergio Garcia, with a brilliant 14-4-2 Ryder Cup mark, and Lee Westwood, at 14-8-3. These two, teamed together, have been all but unbeatable the past few Cup outings. ↵

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↵On the American side, of course, there is Sir Phil, world number two, owner of three majors (one more, I might add, than Europe’s entire team), although a spotty Ryder Cupper, 9-8-3 in his career. Justin Leonard and Jim Furyk are probably the biggest names for the U.S. after Mickelson, each the proud owner of a single major and a dreadful Ryder Cup record. There’s really no getting around it -- in quite a turn of events, the octane is in the European tank in Valhalla. ↵

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↵Euros win the hole. ↵

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↵THE SCRUBS
↵Lot of “who the hell are you?” to be played this weekend, and most of it on the American side. As a golf enthusiast but far from a diehard, I can tell you that there’s only one name I don’t recognize on the Euro side of the ball – Oliver Wilson. Granted Henrik Stenson, Soren Hansen and Graeme McDowell aren’t exactly household names, but they’ve been knocking about for a while, and I’ve seen them make cameos on various leaderboards over the years. Wilson, however, is a new one. The Ryder Cup website tells me that he is 28, agonizingly handsome and otherwise unspectacular in about every way. In other words, the poor man’s Justin Rose. ↵

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↵As for the Americans, there are three names that I’m only vaguely familiar with, and what great names they are -- Hunter Mahan, Boo Weekley and Anthony Kim. The only things I know about any of these dudes is that Kim won a couple of events this year, and it was really moving when Boo Weekley saved Scout at the end of To Kill a Mockingbird. Plus, he gives us this gem of a quote about the U.S. team’s Ryder Cup duds: “The pants I’ve got on are probably the most expensive thing I’ve ever owned. They feel like a pair of silk underwear when you’re getting ready to go hunting.” Also, I think I beat Hunter Mahan up one time in this abandoned lot behind the country club when me and the rest of the Greasers fought the Socs after the sock hop. Anthony Kim -- I got nothing on him, other than the fact that for some reason he’s giving me a good vibe. Final analysis -- I’m giving this one to the Yanks on name chutzpah and quotability.
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↵Americans win the hole. ↵

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↵THE SECRET WEAPON
↵If you have to ask who the Euros’ secret weapon is, well, then you obviously didn’t watch the Americans get klobbered at the K Club in ’06. Paul Casey, mate, remember that name. This Clark Kent turns into The Man of Irons come Ryder Cup time, and at the 2006 Cup, he had a 4-0 outing including a win over Furyk in singles. ↵

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↵As for the U.S., there are a few players that have secret weapon potential, but Ben Curtis seems the most likely to me. He’s a Cup rookie, he’s quiet, he’s steady, and he feels like the kind of guy who will emerge on the Ryder Cup stage. In fact, I’m feeling him so strongly that I’m calling this one a push despite the fear that Killer Casey strikes into my heart.
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↵The hole is halved. ↵

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↵INTANGIBLES
↵Two big intangibles to be mentioned here. ↵

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↵1. The Europeans have beaten the bejabbers out the Americans in the last two Cups, humiliated them, stolen their dignity, left them for dead. That type of thing will get in your head a little bit. You don’t believe me, just ask the Mets. ↵

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↵2. They’re playing on American soil. The front nine of Valhalla is a very links-style set-up, which will help the Euros feel at home, but with a bunch of drunken Kentuckians razzing their every step, they’ll certainly be aware that they’re not in Kansas anymore. ↵

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↵Maybe I’m being optimistic on this one, but I’m calling the intangibles a halved hole as well. I know the psychological weight of two consecutive nine-point defeats will be a heavy collective bag for the Yanks to carry round the course, but I’m counting on the Kentucky golf community to rise to the challenge and make all of us loutish, jingoistic Americans proud. ↵

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↵The hole is halved. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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