May 22, 2013
Ryder Cup starts today
by David Mackintosh
For the Herald
The question golf writers get asked all the time is — who’s going to win? As if we knew the answer — with inside track info we’d all be rich at bookmakers’ expense.
But the Ryder Cup should be different, right? Just two teams, twelve players and all of them easily identifiable from world rankings along with the record that got them onto their respective teams. Oh, if it were that simple. Just example last week’s Tour Championship and FedEx Cup and the greatly anticipated Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy showdown, when neither could break par on Sunday.
Yet in the Ryder Cup there are some keys to watch for as the matches develop. Remember the first two days are combinations of four-ball and foursomes (alternate shot) play, with just eight players from the squad of twelve participating in each session. And here’s the skinny. 1999 was the last time any team overcame a day-two deficit to win. That would be the Ben Crenshaw “miracle at Brookline.”
In fact, there’s a very clear reason Europe has won four of the last five editions of the Ryder Cup. Since 2002 Europe cumulatively lead the US 451/2 to 341/2 in combined two-man play. More tellingly, in the foursomes department the lead is 24 to 16, a huge differential when only four points are available at each foursome session.
Another fascinating statistic is that in the last four Cups, when it came down to the 12-man singles on Sunday, the first six matches have been equally shared 12-12. No side was ever more than a half point ahead by midpoint, whether leading or behind after the first two days play. That serves to remind captains’ player match-up strategies contribute greatly to victory, or defeat.
Recall Mark James in 1999, who soft-loaded the top end of his singles at Brookline, only to lose the first seven matches. James was also criticized, rightly or wrongly, for leaving three players cold on the bench until the Sunday duel.
The closest match this century was two years ago in Wales, where the marathon extended into Monday due to weather, and came down to a last-match duel between Graeme McDowell and Hunter Mahan, the Irishman muscling his way to the point that gave Europe the 141/2-131/2 edge.
True, the top stars will always attract most attention but in Ryder Cup play it is the middle-rankers who make the real difference. And although the US has four first-timers, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker, none lack big-time experience, whereas Europe’s only rookie, Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, may have to get accustomed to a new level of pressure.
Forecasting this year’s Cup is easy. It will be a very close-run thing. Picking the winner — now that’s the hard part.
ARGENTINE CHAMPIONSIP. Paraguayan Carlos Franco and José Monroy of Tucumán shared the lead after the first round of the 75th edition of the Argentine Championship of Professionals. Both players carded a 3-under 69.