Leave it to Johnny Miller to call ‘em as he sees ‘em, and he sees this year’s edition of the U.S. Ryder Cup team with an uphill battle -- even with home-field advantage at Medinah Country Club -- against the Euros.
“We suck in the Ryder Cup,” NBC’s lead analyst declared during Wednesday’s conference call with reporters ahead of the network’s upcoming broadcasts of the Tour Championship and the biennial U.S. vs. Europe matches.
Maybe not over the long haul, but with Europe pounding the bejesus out of the Americans in six of the last eight tilts, Miller, a two-time member of the U.S. squad, knows whereof he speaks. Golf’s version of The Mouth That Roared backed up his controversial statement with some suggestions as to how captain Davis Love III ought to fill out his lineup card: eschew the traditional route of pairing newbies with grizzled vets and let the youngsters do their thing.
“I'm not a big believer in doing anything historical, because historically, we suck in The Ryder Cup,” Miller said. “I like new blood. The bottom line is it shouldn't always be, you know, the ones ‑‑ I would say obviously Tiger and Stricker are really good, but besides that, you ought to just go with your gut feeling. The U.S. just has not played well, except for 2008.”
Miller advised Love to ignore conventional wisdom and let guys like, say, Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker, team up to take it to Rory McIlroy and his mates.
“I don't know if you can do anything historically. People say, you have to pick people with experience; I don't want a guy on my team with losing experience,” Miller said. “I'd rather have a guy that's fresh and says I'm going to win.
“I like the young blood personally. I like it when the young guys sometimes get paired together instead of throwing them in with a veteran that's lost five straight Ryder Cups....Something we got to do different.”
Should Love follow Miller’s prescription, the only certain pairing would be Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, who are 6-2 in team competition. He would not pair Woods (12-14-2), Bubba Watson (1-3-0), Phil Mickelson (11-17-6), Dustin Johnson (1-3-0), or Jim Furyk (8-15-4) with rookies Dufner, Snedeker, Keegan Bradley, or Webb Simpson. Only Zach Johnson (3-3-1), Matt Kuchar (1-1-2), and Stricker (3-3-1) have non-losing Ryder Cup records.
Mickelson, by the way, has lost more times than anyone in U.S. Ryder Cup history, with Furyk a close third (Raymond Floyd lost 16 times). Tiger Woods comes in fourth.
Such stats were not lost on Brandel Chamblee, who can give Miller a run for his money in the brash-statement category.
“I think the U.S. side is getting let down by Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, certainly Jim Furyk,” said Golf Channel’s Chamblee, who opined that Woods “intimidates” his playing partners.
“I think [Woods will] be different this time and I think Phil Mickelson will be different this time, but I still wouldn't pair Phil Mickelson in the foursomes,” Chamblee added. “I certainly would not pair him in the foursomes the first day because it hurts the morale. And I would be very careful about pairing Jim Furyk and who I paired him with.”