Thursday, September 9, 2010

American Team

Earlier this week American Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin selected his four Ryder Cup captain’s picks. The wild cards for this edition’s team from the U.S. are Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink, and Rickie Fowler. These men will join the eight who qualified by points following the PGA Championship who are Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Jeff Overton, and Matt Kuchar.

Woods is an obvious selection. How could Pavin not pick possibly the best player in history? Even though 2010 has been a year Tiger would like to forget, he has two top five finishes in major championships this season. He has revealed glimpses of his old form in the past two weeks. His worst tournament in the Playoffs is tied for 12th, and his only missed cut this season came in his second event following an eight month hiatus. If his 2010 record had any other potential captain’s pick name attached to it, he would have been chosen. However, we are talking about a fourteen-time major champion who excels in match play and possesses experience in five Ryder Cups and six Presidents Cups. His name brings star power to a supposedly underdog team, and I believe his work ethic and raw talent must motivate his teammates to step up their games. To me, Woods is a no-brainer.

Zach Johnson is a lovable Midwest character who clearly desires to represent his country once again in team competition. His record this year is rather unsensational. He did get a win back in May at the Colonial, and he played very well at Whistling Straits, where he just missed a playoff. Outside of those two excellent performances, Johnson has not had any other incredible accomplishments lately. Even still, I agree with Captain Pavin’s pick here. Zach brings fire to the American side that lacks last Cup’s stars of Anthony Kim and Boo Weekley. He can also add in team play. His personality will fit with just about any other team member, and his game could help in foursomes and fourball. Johnson hits a lot of fairways, and he is an outstanding putter. In fact, he ranks 2nd on Tour in putts from 5-10 feet, making over 63%. If paired with a great ballstriker like Woods, Johnson very well could be a huge contributor.

Stewart Cink is an overall good player. However, I do not feel he was the strongest pick Pavin and the American co-captains could have made. Since winning the ’09 British Open at Turnberry and spoiling Watson’s opportunity to shine once again, Cink has not had a real good chance to win anything. He played well in this season’s Match Play Championship back in February, which I guess is a plus. But I do not think this is the ideal hot player Paul Azinger designed the new wild card selection rules to get. Cink has experience in team play, but his record is not exactly stellar at 4 wins, 7 losses, and 4 ties. The American list outside the top eight was not nearly as impressive as the European list, but I believe Nick Watney could have contributed to the U.S. team more than Stewart Cink. Watney did choke on Sunday at the PGA, but he also was able to get himself in that position during the first three rounds. He finished in 7th place at both the British and the Masters to go along with six top tens for the year with only one missed cut back before the Saints won the Super Bowl.

Rickie Fowler, the dubbed “surprise pick,” is a great idea. He infuses the U.S. team with youth and energy unlike any other teammate. He also increases fan interest. The stylish (I guess in some corners of creation) golfer out of Oklahoma State is extremely popular, and his usually aggressive style of play will hopefully work well with his pairings. Rickie has had success in the amateur version of the Ryder Cup, and I believe that success will translate to professional wins in Wales.

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