Thursday, September 27, 2012

Don't Hold Your Breath For A Woods-Mickelson Ryder Cup Pairing

Source: BBC
We are a few hours away from Davis Love III announcing the opening pairings for tomorrow morning's foursomes matches at Medinah.  And the partner derby, which has been running fast and furious all week, is reaching a fever pitch.

Who will play with who?  Looking at the media this week, these guys have had more partners than Wilt Chamberlain.  But with all of the speculation about the pairings, one you will almost certainly not see is Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Why not?  Well, for starters, the two have spent the better part of their careers as each other's main rival, so that relationship has not led to the two having the warm fuzzies for each other (although that has seemingly thawed as of late, and rumor has it that they have been spotted as ping pong teammates in the team room this week).  Second, previous history shows they may be better off finding Ryder Cup marital bliss in the arms of another.  When Hal Sutton tried to pair the dynamic duo in 2004, it was an unmitigated disaster.  The pair lost twice on Day 1, helping to pave the way for America's pasting at the hands of the visiting European squad (18.5-9.5).  The two clearly were uncomfortable playing together and Woods' facial expressions and body language on that day were pretty easy to read.  He was sending Phil a mental message, and it was not one that you can repeat on TV.

Good Ryder Cup pairings generally rest on two things: 1) team chemistry and 2) having games that complement each other.  Unfortunately, Woods and Phil don't really click on either account.

For an example of greatness in the first category, see Seve's perennial pairing with current European Captain Jose Maria Olazabal.  They had a connection that was on another level - Olazabal's caddie recently said that during the Ryder Cup the caddies had nothing to do because Seve and Jose would figure everything out themselves.  The Spaniards could will each other to victory.

For a great pairing in the second category, see Tiger's comfortable and frequent pairing with Steve Stricker - Tiger can bomb it off of the tee but is wild and at times loses his feel with the putter.  Stricker is a solid and consistent ballstriker (though not terribly long) and is one of the best 5 putters on the planet.  The pairing just works.

But as for Tiger and Phil, on many days neither of them could find the fairway with a GPS device.

But we can all dream, right?  It would be a huge stunner, but a Tiger-Phil pairing, if successful, could really energize the U.S. team and absolutely ignite the crowds at Medinah.  It would lead to some of the loudest golf roars of all time if they got it going.  I have this dream scenario running through my head where Tiger and Phil go to Davis Love on Friday night and say to him - "We want to play together tomorrow and we will deliver" - and then they go out and paste two European teams.  It would be one of the coolest golf stories of the year!



  

Overview of Ryder Cup Rules and Format

With the biggest and best spectacle in golf starting tomorrow, I thought it would be helpful to go over some of the ground rules for the event for those of you who may not have followed it closely before.  Think of this like how right before the season premiere of the best shows on TV, there is the one hour recap episode that gets you ready for the big event.  Can't wait to tackle that very episode of Revenge shortly in my DVR, but that is a story for another day...

-Each of the European and U.S. teams have 12 people each.

-There are 28 total points up for grabs.  Since the European team won the last Ryder Cup, they only need to get 14 points, or halve the matches, to retain the Cup.  The U.S. will need 14.5 points to win back the Cup.

-The matches begin on Friday morning at 8:20 a.m. Eastern.  ESPN will have the TV coverage on Friday from 8 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.  On Saturday, NBC will air the matches from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.  On Sunday, NBC will be back on the air from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

-The format consists of 8 matches on both Friday and Saturday followed by 12 matches on Sunday.  The morning matches will be 4 foursomes matches, meaning each two man team will play an alternate shot format.  The afternoon matches will be four ball matches, meaning the teams will take their best score from the twosome in each match on each hole. Sunday's 12 singles matches will cap the event.

-There will also be live coverage on www.rydercup.com.

-Ladbrokes has installed the U.S. team as a slight favorite, putting their odds of winning at 4/6; the odds on a European victory are 6/5.

Counting down the minutes - less than 24 hours to go!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Swing Thought Paralysis

So I am finally ready to emerge from my two month work-induced blogging hibernation to get back to writing about our favorite topic.  It was like the work groundhog came out of his cave in July and predicted two more months of all-nighters.  Work is but a distraction from enjoying the finer things in life, like the feel of a well-struck golf ball.  Or sleep.  But I digress...

Before I get into some Ryder Cup posts later this week (I am so pumped for the event I can't stand it!), I wanted to talk about swing thoughts and my own recent experience with them.

I know that many of you, like me, spend alot of time thinking about mechanics and how you can tweak your swing in a way to get more consistent results.  The amount of time I spend thinking about my golf game could stun a team of oxen.

But when you are standing over the ball, too much thinking can get you into trouble.  I have had some problems focusing over the ball during the last couple months because I had too many swing thoughts going through me head.  Think of swing thoughts like a fine glass of single malt scotch - one or two are great, but anything more than that and you are going to feel like crap and hate yourself in the morning.

My head was too cluttered over the ball - I was thinking about taking the club away on the right plane, bracing my right leg and coiling around it, starting my downswing with my hips and not my arms, and staying in a balanced finish through impact.  It is hard enough to hit the ball as it is - with all of this running through my head it was damn near impossible.

I knew I needed to simplify this. But the big question was what swing thought should I have?  The answer came in a recent Golf Digest article I read that highlighted Jason Dufner.   He said he focused on his right shoulder - moving it away from the ball on the takeaway and then at the start of the downswing moving it directly toward the ball.  I took this sole swing thought onto the course with me a couple times and played two of the best rounds I have had all summer.

So the moral of this story is this:  if you are one of those people who have a zillion things running through your head over the ball, try finding one single swing thought that you can focus on and committing to it.  Simplicity begets scoring!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Love Makes Ryder Cup Selections

Ending months of speculation and jockeying for position, U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III made his four Captain's Picks this morning to round out the rest of the U.S. Ryder Cup team.  Love chose Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker to complete his squad, which will take on their European foes later this month.

While Love would have gotten criticized no matter who he picked (and this is a far more meritorious debate than who is the first team left out of the NCAA tournament), I think that he found the right balance with these guys and the U.S. team will head into the Ryder Cup as slight favorites.  Stricker and Furyk are veterans who have been there before and know how to perform in the pressure cooker of the heated international competition.  Johnson, who played in the last Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, is playing very well right now despite missing much of the PGA Tour season with a back injury.  And Snedeker has been rock solid all year long, and is one of the best putters on Tour.

So let the countdown to the Cup officially begin!  I can't wait for it to get started!