2018 Ryder Cup: A full recap of Saturday’s matches, Sunday singles predictions
It’s probably too late for the Ryder Cup to go back to basics, but such an approach would certainly assist Team USA. Forget the guaranteed guys like Phil and Tiger, forget making a killing off the event (half a killing will do), and just get back to guys who bleed and sweat and cry and growl for their side. As for Europe, well done in making your captain’s selections.
Anyway, onto what happened at the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in France, where the rough is thick and the fairways tight.
Remember the success that Team USA had on Friday morning? It went away. To the tune of 1-3 on Saturday morning. Only Spieth and Thomas saved a second consecutive washout with a 2 & 1 win over Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm. This one is interesting, psychologically, so we’ll look at it first. Is Jon Rahm the first Spaniard to struggle in Ryder Cup environs? Think about Seve, Sergio, and Jose Marie; tremendous trio. Ian Poulter inspires everyone who partners him, but he couldn’t carry Rahm to victory. Rahm just might be better suited for the USA team: hits it long, gouges wedges, but dare I say, not so clutch.
I suspect that the last USA captain to truly say “these are the pairings and this is how it is going to be” was Tom Watson, and you know how that worked out. But for the “task force” to pair Tiger and Reed against the European juggernaut of Molinari and Fleetwood was foolish, and the Euros kept cruising, to the tune of 4 and 3. Tiger has been inspirational in team settings, so he is valued at little more than Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson. That’s a lot of baggage to carry into a team match that you are supposed to contest and dominate. Knowing that Tiger and Bryson had a connection all season, why the USA side went so long with Tiger-Reed is inconceivable. Reed is more similar to Mickelson in passion, so THAT should have been the Friday morning pairing. Back to Saturday.
Finau and Koepka were 5 holes down through 8 holes. Johnson and Fowler were 3 down through 11. Woods and Reed were even through 10? So what happened? Simply, Team USA cannot mount a comeback and Team Europe seems capable of mounting a charge at will. How else to explain the inability of the first two sides to battle back, compared with the indomitable will of the later to win 4 of 5 holes on the inward half, to stun Woods and Reed? Europe averaged 6 victorious holes in its three morning triumphs, and had just 3 in its loss. As for the USA, just 13 holes went red in the AM, and five of those came in the lone victory. That, dear readers, is putting.
The French Open was played at Le Golf Nationale in late June this year. With apologies to the Quicken Loans National (played the same week) Justin Thomas jumped a plane and went to play. He was the only USA team member or contender to do so. He had 4 days of competition, plus practice rounds, over the golf course. Might that play just a bit into his comfort and success this week? The brain trust of Ryder Cup USA might have done a bit more to encourage American golfers to head to Gaul a few months back.
A Jordan Spieth birdie gets Justin Thomas FIRED UP! Match is AS.
— Ryder Cup USA (@RyderCupUSA)
This result qualifies as a session win for Team USA. Not losing any ground to the opponents was the cup-holders’ only hope for boarding a flight Sunday night with a few more pounds in their luggage. The unlikely pair of Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson mounted what will hopefully be the sternest and most successful comeback since Pelayo began one in the Picos de Europa. The ugliest hole of them all, the one halved in triple-bogey six, ignited the southeastern duo’s games, and they held off Sergio Garcia and Alex Noren by 3 & 2. Sergio played a bit more like mid-season Sergio, instead of Iberian-version-of-Poulter Sergio, and Noren played like the RC rookie that he is. This allowed the American pair to even its record at 1-1. This was a good thing, because the lead pair of Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka played like lame ponies yet again.
Quality approach from Webb. They go 2up.
— Ryder Cup USA (@RyderCupUSA)
I have this gnawing notion: why would Captain Furyk and his lieutenants put Dustin barely breathing Johnson and Brooks half asleep Koepka out in the first pairing, any of these days? Wouldn’t you put Spieth-Thomas out first? You know, the guys who look like they care, who get pumped up, who play like they were kids and nothing else mattered? Johnson may be the only guy who has missed more putts than Tiger this week. I would count Phil, but his putts are usually for bogey or worse, not counting the putter he hit off the tee into the water … it was a putter, wasn’t it? If Stenson and Rose had played just half as well as they normally do in partnership, this match might have ended 10 & 8. Team USA hopes that World Number One and I’ve won two majors this year fare better on their own tomorrow.
Johnny Miller mused that Earl Pops Woods might have conditioned Tiger to play for individual glory alone. Doesn’t matter if his amateur analysis is correct; fact is, Tiger doesn’t win in partner golf. It would be interesting to see the Ryder Cup begin on Thursday with six singles matches, the only caveat being that those six golfers could not play on Friday morning. Talk about a win for the USA; get a point from Tiger on Thursday and sit him on Friday. Tiger and Bryson failed to live up to the anticipated success predicted by nearly everyone. They made a minor run with 2 consecutive hole-wins, to go from 5 to 3 down, but allowed Europe to win the very next one to rebuild a 4-hole advantage. In this lifetime, Tiger might be the individual GOAT, but he also carries the burden of being a mediocre-at-best playing partner, with a 9-19-1 record as a partner. Yikes.
Years ago, Shigeki Maruyama smiled his way to about 4 or 5 wins in a single Presidents Cup match. Molinari grins, while Fleetwood lets his luscious locks do the talking, but they are the unforgettable beasts of this tournament. Four wins to their name and have yet to see the 18th hole; they took care of Woods and partners three times (more brilliant USA thinking?) and Spieth/Thomas on morning number one. No idea what chromosomal material they share, these brothers from another mother have earned 4 of Europe’s 10 points. That’s a massive arrow to have in your quiver, if you are Thomas Bjorn. USA can only hope that they miss each other so much on Sunday (Fleetwood goes off 5th, while Molinari is 9th) that they falter in singles play.
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope)
Photo via Twitter
Here we go with predictions. Don’t risk any money on these hilarious insinuations.
Rory MCILROY vs. Justin THOMAS
Prediction: Thomas continues to play like a stud and defeats out-of-form McIlroy. USA down by 3
Paul CASEY vs. Brooks KOEPKA
Prediction: Casey and Koepka cannot find a way to defeat each other, so the match is halved.
Justin ROSE vs. Webb SIMPSON
Prediction: Rose plays like the former number one he is (number one for about five hours, right?) and USA goes 4 down again.
Jon RAHM vs. Tiger WOODS
Prediction: This one is also quite ugly, but Rahm’s RC debut is forgettable, and Woods finally gets a point. USA down by 3
Tommy FLEETWOOD vs. Tony FINAU
Prediction: F vs. F is a dramatic duel, but Fleetwood goes 5-0 and restores 4 match margin. USA down 4.
Ian POULTER vs. Dustin JOHNSON
Prediction: Sleepy Johnson awakens, defeats Poulter, Europe only up by 3.
Thorbjørn OLESEN vs. Jordan SPIETH
Prediction: Forgot that Olesen was on this team. Doesn’t matter. Spieth wins, Europe by 2.
Sergio GARCIA vs. Rickie FOWLER
Prediction: Now it gets interesting. Fowler returns to form and defeats Garcia. Only 1 point separates teams.
Francesco MOLINARI vs. Phil MICKELSON
Prediction: Oh, right, the other guy to go 5-0 is Molinari. Mickelson confirmed as 2018’s Lee Westwood. Europe by 2.
Tyrrell HATTON vs. Patrick REED
Prediction: Cap’n America returns for a time. Reed leads Hatton late but squanders edge and settles for halve. USA hopes wane.
Henrik STENSON vs. Bubba WATSON
Prediction: Stenson defeats Watson and ends all USA hopes of a win. Cup returns to Europe.
Alex NOREN vs. Bryson DECHAMBEAU
Prediction: Dechambeaur wins, doesn’t matter. Ouch.