The biennial event between America and Europe is a storyline that can be trotted out practically any time: after an up-and-comer breaks through to win, a la Patrick Reed, or when there is team dissension that could affect on-course symmetry, a la Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy.
For the most part, we keep the slightest grasp on what’s going on — who the captains are, where they’re playing the event — until the event inevitably sneaks up on us and the golf world gets its equivalent to the World Cup. Patriotism exudes and guys you may have an affinity for whether it be because of their style of play or because they’re on your fantasy team become the enemy.
“Graeme McDowell is a nice and affable guy. I hope he does well,” becomes “Wipe that stupid smirk off of your face, GMac, you smarmy prick.” Call it nationalism (continentalism?) or just competitiveness, there is nothing in the golf world that compares to the side-taking of a Ryder Cup.
And here we are, just under 60 days away from pegging it at Gleneagles. So, what do we know? Turns out, not a whole heck of a lot. Here’s how both teams’ standings stand as of this morning:
There are a few sure things on either side. Bubba, Furyk, Walker and Fowler, you have to think are locks. DJ, Kuchar and Spieth are knocking on the door of automatic. From there, between Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley, who is in 16th place, the margin is just 500 points, aka $500,000 in earnings. Keep in mind that players stop accruing points at the PGA Championship — a major, which awards double points.
Then there’s the matter of captain’s picks. We’ll get to that in a moment.
The European points system is understandably more complicated. Understandable in the sense that the PGA Tour is the big leagues and the best players play Stateside meaning that they won’t accrue European Tour points as readily as guys who play primarily in Europe. The caveat being that WGCs and major championships are co-sanctioned, so you’ll see guys who perform well in those high on both lists — McIlroy, Stenson and Dubuisson, for example.
Like the US points system, the European Tour points system is based off of money (Euros) won, but unlike the US system, points are only accumulated within the last 12 months — US Ryder Cuppers can earn points from the 2013 major championships whereas Euros can’t. The World Points list is calculated using number of OWGR points earned over that same time period. The top four on the European Points list, along with the top-five on the World Points list, not already qualified, will make up the nine automatic picks for the European team.
At this point, if we’re calling seven of the nine US members quasi-locks, we could likely do the same with McIlroy, Stenson, Garcia, Rose and Kaymer, with the first three mentioned being stone-cold locks and the latter two being near automatic. Dubuisson and Donaldson are both in good position on both lists as well, meaning that Thomas Bjorn and Luke Donald are the two Euros playing for their respective Ryder Cup lives over the next month.
Also worth noting for the Euros is that their point-earning possibilities stretch through Aug. 31 (as opposed to Aug. 10 for the Americans), which is equals out to three more European Tour events after the PGA Championship.
Earning a place on the respective teams on merit is solely up to the players themselves, obviously. What is more interesting to prognosticate, however, is for whom Capts. Tom Watson and Paul McGinley will use their three respective captain’s picks. These decisions are made much easier by players with strong Ryder Cup pedigrees playing themselves onto their rosters, but there are only so many spots for each team automatically awarded.
Sticking with the Europeans, a name not on the auto list that Americans would surely not miss at Gleneagles in September is Ian Poulter (7E, 12W) . Similarly, the aforementioned McDowell (13E, 10W) sits on the outside looking in. Both seem, given their pedigree, to be atop McGinley’s list for selections should they not play their way onto the squad.
That leaves an interesting pool of talent grappling for that third and final selection. There are vets like Miguel Angel Jimenez (11E, 13W) and Bernhard Langer (96E, 120W) who have made claims recently as well as fresher faces like Stephen Gallacher (12E, 11W), Francesco Molinari (14E, 14W), Joost Luiten (10E, 15W) and McGinley’s fellow countryman, Shane Lowry (16E, 19W), who have shown form of late.
For the Americans, pedigree — albeit not great results — sides with Phil Mickelson (11) and Tiger Woods (70). Mickelson has a good shot to still play his way onto the team while Woods, playing in his third and fourth tournaments since back surgery over the next fortnight, is still shaking off some rust. The overwhelming thinking is that both players will get nods from Watson based on reputation alone, but that would leave out some strong names.
Patrick Reed, currently in 10th place, has won three times this year and looks to be going the way of Hunter Mahan circa 2012. Brendon Todd, Chris Kirk, Ryan Moore, Webb Simpson, Bradley, Harris English, Kevin Na, Matt Every and Erik Compton round out the top-20.
If Watson and the PGA of America hold to form, decisions on the US captain’s picks will be made following the first two events of the FedEx Cup playoffs, in essence giving players two more weeks worth of auditions after point-earning has ceased.
Let’s get into some randomness to wrap up today, shall we? The last two days have been pretty topic specific, so let’s see what we’ve missed:
- I love Sir Charles. He’s the most honest broadcaster in the business, in my opinion. Here’s his response to a caller asking him about his (ex)friendship with Tiger Woods and Barkley’s thoughts on why Tiger is so unavailable.
- It would seem that President Obama still has the golfing bug. A Instagrammer found some Titleist 44′s with POTUS monogramed on the side in the woods off of No. 1 at Congressional Country Club. Whether or not the ball came off of Obama’s club is anyone’s call, but as I pointed out on Twitter yesterday, it’s fitting that the trees off of No. 1 are on the left.
- The field is set for next week’s PGA Championship with the exception of the two winners from this week’s events. Odds are Jerry Kelly and Pat Perez are hoping the guys who win this week are already in the field.
- NBC News’ Mark Koba took the popular, oft-echoed stance that golf is failing as a business because Tiger Woods isn’t playing well or often. Disagreeing, Ryan Ballengee at the Golf News Net let the numbers do the talking, arguing that golf’s popularity really never had anything to do with Tiger. My opinion: did Tiger Woods help golf? Yes. Is he the sole reason or even a major reason for the boom and subsequent tapering off of partcipation? Na, baby, na.
- If Rory McIlroy wants to win the career grand slam next year at Augusta, he’s going to need to putt well. For that, he’s enlisted the help of a guy who beat him there in competition: Augusta National member and guy with the luckiest job ever, Jeff Knox. The marker shot 70 to McIlroy’s 71 in the third round this year and the three-time major champion came away impressed with his green knowledge. The two will be doing some practicing together before next April.
- Karen Crouse of the New York Times always does good work, but she put out a couple of pertinent pieces over the last week that are important for very different reasons. First, she wrote about St. Andrews University principal (aka President) Louise Richardson’s plight in gaining entrance into the Royal & Ancient Golf Club — something that will likely be rectified in the next two months — right down the street from her office. Secondly, if you’ve ever traveled with your golf clubs, Crouse examines the most terrifying part of it all: losing them. Turns out, pros have the same problems, too, especially when heading to Open Championships through London’s Heathrow Airport.
- I go on a few golf getaways a year. Mostly weekend trips, but it’s never occurred to me to do something like these eight friends from Australia. According to the description, the song took 68 tracks and 1,379 sound files to complete. The least you can do is click on it.