Europe Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington made a heavy investment in the past by adding Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia to his team last week. Which of the two is the bigger risk?
Hawk's take: This is the ultimate toss-up. Both players own spectacular Ryder Cup records but are coming off relatively lackluster seasons on the PGA Tour. Garcia did win a weak-field event in Mississippi last October and made the quarterfinals at the WGC-Match Play in March. He failed to register a top-five finish in 22 other starts, however, and is currently 43rd in the Official World Golf Ranking, six spots ahead of Poulter, who hasn’t missed a cut in six months.
By any sensible estimation, neither one of these guys is a risk. Poulter has a 14-6-2 career mark vs. the Americans. Garcia is 22-12-7. We’re talking about two of the most successful performers (on either side) in the history of the matches, and Harrington has little reason not to believe in them this time around, but Sergio’s putting has proven particularly inept at times in recent years.
Poulter is a superb putter who brings a greater intimidation factor to every match in which he participates. That makes Garcia the bigger question mark. Ever so slightly.
Purk’s take: Everyone knows that Ian Poulter will go down as one of the greatest Ryder Cup players of all time. European captain Padraig Harrington was always going to choose Poulter, as long as he was physically able to play.
The evidence is that no matter how Poulter plays prior to the Ryder Cup, when the matches begin, he reaches inside and finds his most brilliant golf, becoming for a weekend the best pressure putter in the game. Granted, Poulter has performed like a Ferrari that he’s fond of owning but he’s dangerously high mileage. He’s almost 45 and that comes with its own physical — and mental – baggage.
Perhaps Poulter was chosen to be the emotional leader for the Europeans. However, it’s going to take more than inspirational speeches and wild-eyed screams to beat this uber-talented group of Americans. Poulter will need to produce inside the ropes. It’s said that every great fighter has one last great fight left. The question is: Has Poulter already used his?
Which team will win the 43rd Ryder Cup?
Hawk's take: The difference between patriotic optimism and common sense can be rather glaring in certain instances, but this U.S. squad has too much young talent—most of it unaffected by all those previous American losses—to think it will fail again on home turf. It would be a different story if these matches were held in Europe, where the youthful Yanks would be a lot more vulnerable to the intangibles.
With U.S. skipper Steve Stricker overseeing the course setup at power-friendly Whistling Straits, however, Uncle Sam’s collection of premium bombers should find an environment that plays to their strength. Add the boisterous, pro-American galleries and the proven level of success from a roster that has combined for 13 major titles….
The law of averages has to figure into the equation at some point, doesn’t it?
Purk’s take: It’s awfully difficult to pick against the U.S., especially with its talented, highly ranked lineup of the game’s stars. And it’s an American home game, to boot. But the Europeans love to come in as Ryder Cup underdogs and they are at their best with a chip on their collective shoulder. Analysts continually talk about how much the 12 members of the European team are invested in each other, which they believe is Europe’s secret sauce.
While that might be true, the bottom line is Europeans would rather beat Americans – in any sport – than eat when they’re hungry. And they have a different kind of hunger when playing on the road. That ravenous appetite is enough to win at Whistling Straits.
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- The astonishing story of Skip Alexander, the golfer with the bloody hands
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