A panel of SI golf experts—senior writers Michael Bamberger, Damon Hack, Alan Shipnuck and Gary Van Sickle, and special contributor John Garrity—along with a PGA Tour pro (who participated on the condition of anonymity) answer these and other questions
This is an article from the Sept. 20, 2010 issue
The Wild Ones
Van Sickle: The captains have made their picks. What's your verdict?
Bamberger: Corey Pavin is clearly going at this in a different way than Paul Azinger, who wanted hot players. Corey had no hot players—well, no one hotter than Charley Hoffman, and he didn't take Hoffman. He went all the way down to Rickie Fowler, who maybe isn't cold but certainly isn't hot.
Hack: I see how you could say Fowler was a bit of a reach, but he has a relationship with Pavin. They're kind of close; they're both from Southern California.
Van Sickle: And that's how you pick guys for the Ryder Cup?
Hack: Maybe. Maybe it speaks to the lack of U.S. depth. Hey, there were no slam dunks out there. You could question the picks, but I'm not going to bang my fists on a table and say it should've been Sean O'Hair or J.B. Holmes.
Garrity: One thing in favor of Rickie is that he likes attention. He dresses to get attention, he likes being the focus inside the ropes. That's a great quality for a young guy in a Ryder Cup. The guys who don't like attention tend to tighten up.
Anonymous Pro: Picking Rickie, I kind of get that. They must've picked him because they have someone in mind to pair him with. Unless you're an idiot, you make your picks in relation to who's going to be his partner.
Van Sickle: It won't surprise me if Fowler turns into a legit star in Wales, but he hasn't had a top 30 finish in his last five starts.
Anonymous Pro: For me, it had to be Hoffman. You want to get the most confident players, and who's more confident than him? He just shot 22 under. I think Rickie will be a good pick, but if I'm Hoffman, I'm disappointed. The other three picks—Tiger, Zach Johnson and Stewart Cink—were locks.
Van Sickle: Colin Montgomerie had the opposite problem of Corey Pavin. Monty had 20 pounds of manure for a five-pound bag, as the old saying goes, and Pavin had a 20-pound bag for five pounds.
Garrity: I liked every European pick except Padraig Harrington, which is hard to say because I love Harrington as a player and a personality. People say, You can't leave off a three-time major winner; he's in that Tiger Woods category. But I don't see how that's relevant. Padraig is struggling, and he has a bad Ryder Cup history.
Hack: Paddy is a team-room guy. Luke Donald and the Molinaris will see Padraig in the room—that résumé, that character. You pick him for who he is. You had to.
Van Sickle: It's difficult to say who got hosed the worst. Who's the one guy who should be at the Ryder Cup but isn't?
Hack: It has to be Paul Casey. He's ranked seventh in the world and plays great at the British Open.
Anonymous Pro: That's noteworthy, for sure. Europe has two studs sitting at home—Casey and [Justin] Rose—and the Americans aren't really missing anybody.
Van Sickle: Let's talk captains. Does one of these guys have an edge, like Azinger did last time over Nick Faldo?
Garrity: Whoa! I'm going to stop you right there. I'm in a minority, but I don't think Azinger or Faldo had anything to do with [Sergio] García and Harrington sucking last time.
Bamberger: John, are you dissing Azinger's pod system?
Garrity: Not at all. I simply go on record every two years that the overemphasis on the captains is ridiculous.
Anonymous Pro: John, you're a genius. I agree, captains aren't that big of a deal. All they can do is set up their players to succeed. The captains don't hit any shots, but they do create an attitude for the team, which is important, and they make the pairings.
Van Sickle: I wonder if any Americans who were on the team last time are going to react to Pavin's moves by thinking, Why aren't we doing what worked two years ago?
Anonymous Pro: That won't be a factor. The players have to realize that each captain will do things his own way.
Garrity: I agree with the part about me being a genius. That aside, I like Monty. He's a loose cannon. He's stirring controversy, whether it's in his private life or golf. He'll thrive on that. Based on that Jim Gray controversy, Pavin revealed that he's pretty thin-skinned. I don't think he'll handle everything as well, even with his wife, Lisa, guarding his flank.
Bamberger: I'm with John. I like Monty. By being a lightning rod, Monty takes all the pressure off his team. Monty is really smart. I believe he'll be really good.
Hack: In Monty's favor, it's a home game. If this Ryder Cup were at Valhalla or Oakland Hills or anywhere near New York, it might be a different story. Monty can be Monty in Wales.
Shipnuck: Monty's force of personality playing to the home crowd and home press corps will be tough for Pavin to overcome. Anyone can come up with the matchups, unless you're Mark James, but as far as managing crowds and handling the media, Monty will do a better job. Pavin may be overwhelmed by all of it.
Van Sickle: One problem is that Pavin has a tough act to follow. I thought Azinger truly raised the bar for all future American captains. Faldo paled by comparison, perhaps because of the result.
Bamberger: Faldo got himself a couple of points when he added Ian Poulter, a great pick. I don't think Faldo butchered the last Cup at all. But Monty can be a way better captain than Faldo because Monty has a lot of warmth and charm, and at the end of the day Faldo is really still all about Faldo.
Bamberger: I think the strength of this U.S. team is that it's so weak, expectations are so low, that all they can really do is be loose and be a surprise. That's how the Europeans won in the early '90s when it looked on paper like the Americans would trounce them. Now it's the Americans' turn to be the underdog, play loose and win.
Anonymous Pro: The U.S. team is anything but weak. The strength of the team is the same thing it always is—intimidation through power. This is a murderer's row of big hitters, probably the longest-hitting Ryder Cup team ever. Tiger, Dustin [Johnson], Phil and Bubba [Watson]. Jeff Overton kills it. So does Hunter Mahan. Stewart Cink flies it 295, but nobody ever talks about his power. They're going to hit wedges into the par-4s and mid-irons into the par-5s and pick the place apart. And every guy on that American team has balls. Can I say that in print? Say what you want about how Tiger is playing, he's still the best in the world and no one has bigger balls. Dustin Johnson is a baller. He'll cut your throat. You know who on the European side wants to play Dustin Johnson in singles? Nobody, that's who.
Shipnuck: I agree. The Americans simply need their best players to play better in the Ryder Cup. The U.S. still has the three best players in the world—Phil, Tiger and Steve Stricker. If those guys bring their A games, it won't matter what Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler do.
Garrity: I disagree with the pro. The Americans lost Ryder Cups when Tiger was great and won when he was hurt. Why do we think they're going to win with Tiger at his absolute worst? To me, everything about Tiger's involvement is a negative. He's a distraction.
Shipnuck: At the Presidents Cup, when Tiger, Phil and Stricker were on their games, the Americans rolled. Obviously, a lot has changed in Tiger's life since then. They found the template, though, and found Tiger the right partner in Stricker.
Garrity: I think Stricker is the right partner for Tiger, but I'm not sure Tiger is the right partner for anybody right now. Here's a guy who's thinking about whether his wrist is cupped at the top of his backswing. That's a difficult situation to try to play competitively.
Van Sickle: Well, Tiger doesn't have to play all five matches. He could sit out alternate shot if his ball striking is off.
Shipnuck: Tiger has been trying to piece together his swing with Sean Foley. Now he has almost a month. We know he'll put in long days. He has his very clear goal and finish line to the season—the Ryder Cup. He'll get way more reps with his swing. It's quite possible he'll show up and play like the old Tiger.
Garrity: I don't buy that he's changed. You've got a pathological narcissist in your team room. The fact that he's been humbled doesn't change anything in Tiger's personality. He can play-act the role of team guy, but his whole thing is domination and humiliation and looking out for Number 1. I don't see him playing the Paddy Harrington role.
Bamberger: That was a different scenario. That was the grumpy Tiger who didn't want to play team golf and wasn't getting anything out of it and had more money than God. He'll see this as a tremendous marketing opportunity to reclaim his name and his image and win valuable cash prizes later.
Shipnuck: Maybe Tiger hasn't changed, but everything around him has—the circumstances, the meaning of the Ryder Cup. This could be the key to Tiger's reclamation. If he's out there giving Pavin a piggy-back ride, makes the winning putt, waves the Stars and Stripes, it could be a huge week for him.
Van Sickle: Sounds like we should rename this Ryder Cup Tiger Woods: Extreme Makeover.
Van Sickle: We have to discuss the host course, Celtic Manor. What do you know about it?
Shipnuck: The course is so important in stroke play because they're all playing the course. In match play they're playing the opponent. The course doesn't matter, it's just kind of there. Yes, if it were Royal Porthcawl, it would add another element, but Celtic Manor isn't Royal Porthcawl. They rejiggered the course to have some risk-reward water holes, but in the end no one is going to care about the course.
Van Sickle: It's another version of an American-style course, like the K Club. If Celtic Manor were an honest-to-god links, somebody might have an edge.
Garrity: I disagree. I say the course will favor Edoardo Molinari. His two wins came at Loch Lomond and Gleneagles, two essentially British parkland courses like Celtic Manor.
Shipnuck: The European tour just had a tournament there so they'll have a higher comfort level at least.
The front nine measures almost 4,000 yards, while the back, with a trio of par-3s and a closing par-5, could provide plenty of Ryder Cup highlights.