Ryder Cup Review: Final grades and thoughts from Medinah
The 2012 Ryder Cup is in the books, and even though I’m sure Europe is still celebrating their massive comeback victory, here are my final grades for each player, along with some parting shots about the event as a whole. I’ll start with Team USA, followed by Team Europe.
- Captain Davis Love: The role of the losing captain is often a tough one to play, but as usual, Love was classy to the end. Still though, there will be much debate over his captain’s picks, as both Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker wilted under the pressure when it mattered most on Sunday. Brandt Snedeker played well the first two days, but was soundly beaten on Sunday by Paul Lawrie as well. Sitting Phil Mickelson on Saturday afternoon was a request by the player, so no fault there, but Keegan Bradley should have been out there, regardless of what Phil was doing. Final grade: C-
- Keegan Bradley (3-1): Couldn’t ask for anything more out of Bradley in his Ryder Cup debut. He was probably the team’s best player from start to finish, and he managed to get the most out of Mickelson with his infectious attitude and demeanor. Final grade: A
- Jason Dufner (3-1): Another Ryder Cup rookie, Jason Dufner was exactly what we expected. Calm and steady, Dufner’s emotion level rarely gets above that of a corpse, but even he got into it on Sunday, as he tried to get the crowd fired up. The comparison to Ray Floyd is apt, and he’s going to be here for a long time. One of only three Americans to gain a full Sunday point. Final grade: B+
- Jim Furyk (1-2): Another Sunday to add to Jim Furyk’s 2012 boulevard of broken dreams. His performance on the final two greens on Sunday completely shifted the momentum to Europe, going from giving them a chance, to making it seem likely that the comeback was going to happen. Anyone who watched Furyk this year could have told you that was coming as he stood over those two putts, taking an eternity to read the greens and asking his caddie, Fluff Cowan, for more help than should have been required for a pair of putts that totaled no more than 13 feet. As much as the US Open and WGC Bridgestone hurt, I have to think this one feels worse, and it’s going to be interesting to see how Furyk bounces back from this latest meltdown. Final grade: D-
- Dustin Johnson (3-0): Paired with Matt Kuchar for the first two days, Johnson picked up a pair of points despite only average play. Kuchar was really the star of the pairing until the 17th in Saturday’s fourball when Johnson hit a lengthy birdie putt to put the Americans in front by one. Sunday was a battle of the big hitters as Johnson took on the “Belgian Bomber” Nicolas Colsaerts, and it was a good back and forth until Johnson pulled away with three straight birdies on 14, 15 and 16. Definitely proved his worth as a captain’s pick. Final grade: B
- Zach Johnson (3-1): The former Masters champ had a great first two sessions paired with Dufner, picking up a pair of points before being upended by the runaway train that was Ian Poulter on Saturday afternoon. That would be Johnson’s only loss of the event, as he easily disposed of Graeme McDowell in the Sunday singles with a 2-up victory. Final grade: B+
- Matt Kuchar (2-1): Typical performance by Kuchar this weekend, with a bunch of solid play. He carried the pairing of him and Dustin Johnson to a pair of wins in the Friday and Saturday fourball before dropping his singles match on Sunday to Lee Westwood. The only issue with his play was the way in which he lost to Westwood, finishing with a 3-down defeat despite being all square through 11 holes. Final grade: B+
- Phil Mickelson (3-1): Phil Mickelson’s weekend is pretty much the epitome of what happened to the American side. He started out hot with Bradley as his partner, dominating the likes of Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, before asking to sit out the Saturday afternoon session so he could be rested for his Sunday singles match. After a slow start against Justin Rose, Mickelson got it together and took a 1-up lead to the 17th tee. He finished with a pair of pars, but it wasn’t enough as Rose hit a ridiculous 40-footer for birdie on 17, and followed it up with another solid birdie putt on 18 to close it out with a 1-up win. Still though, a great performance from Mickelson, especially considering his Ryder Cup record coming into 2012. Final grade: A
- Webb Simpson (2-2): A solid Ryder Cup debut for the 2012 U.S. Open champion. Him and Bubba Watson were a formidable duo in foursome/fourball play, with Simpson nailing putts all over Medinah. His only problem came when he ran into Poulter, losing Saturday’s morning foursome and then in Sunday’s single match. Simpson did have the lead on Poulter through 11 holes though, and was all square heading to the 17th tee before losing 2-down. Final grade: B
- Brandt Snedeker (1-2): Snedeker carried Furyk at times in their pairings against McIlroy and McDowell, but his massive miss on the 18th tee in Friday’s foursome proved to be very costly. They had just got it back to level pegging with the duo from Northern Ireland on the previous hole, but Snedeker’s drive was nowhere near the fairway, causing a layup by Furyk. Conversely, McIlroy’s tee shot got a lucky bounce and caromed off a tree and back into the fairway. They got a measure of revenge on Saturday, beating McIlroy and McDowell, but Snedeker collapsed on Sunday, getting beaten soundly by 1999 British Open winner Paul Lawrie 5 & 3. Final grade: C
- Steve Stricker (0-4): Stricker ends the 2012 Ryder Cup as the only American player without at least a half-point won for his side, and at times, it was an ugly performance. His pairing with Tiger Woods was supposed to be one made out of comfort, but the pairing led for a total of three holes in their three matches, and most of the quality play came from Woods on Friday and Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, Stricker got out to an early lead on Martin Kaymer, but gave it up on the sixth hole and never got it back. Costly captain’s pick. Final grade: F
- Bubba Watson (2-2): As mentioned above, Bubba and Webb Simpson were solid as a team on the first two days, dominating two of their three matches, but did lose to the red-hot Poulter on Saturday morning. Sunday morning was tough for Bubba, as he fell behind early to Luke Donald, and couldn’t get out of his 4-down hole. His pumping up of the crowd for his tee shots was fun to watch, and definitely gave a little life to the Chicago crowd. Final grade: B
- Tiger Woods (0-3-1): What can you say about Tiger Woods this week? As the big American gun, you have to hold him to a higher standard than everyone else without question, but he had no help from his partner in Steve Stricker as mentioned above. His half-point against Francesco Molinari on Sunday didn’t matter, as Europe had already clinched the victory. At the end of this, it’s just another event that leaves Tiger with more questions than answers, and as I’ve said before, that’s become the norm for him at this point in his career. Final grade: D-
- Captain Jose Maria Olazabal: I’m conflicted about this because to me, Olazabal didn’t do a great job as captain of this team. We know he’s the emotional leader, and he’s extremely well liked by not only his players, but by the media and everyone he meets, but I can’t speak to what kind of impact his speeches or motivational talks had on the team. What I can speak to are his decisions, and yes, he made the no-brainers of selecting Colsaerts and Poulter as his captain’s picks, but his benching of Poulter, Donald and Garcia for Friday afternoon was puzzling. I understand wanting to get everyone in on the first day, but surely there were other players to sit. At the very least, all three of them shouldn’t have been sitting down. Lastly, not sure how you can allow the world number one to arrive ten minutes before his Sunday tee time, and even though that’s more on Rory than Olazabal, it still came under his watch. But, he did captain the winning team, so you have to give him credit for that. Final grade: B+
- Nicolas Colsaerts (1-3): It was a tough debut for Colsaerts after his ridiculous putting display on Friday afternoon. He lost his next three matches when his overly aggressive putting cost him, with lipouts coming at pretty much every green. We also got what many people wanted on Sunday with Colsaerts going out against Dustin Johnson, but that match never got past all square. In fact, outside of that first match, Colsaerts never led at any point. Final grade: C-
- Luke Donald (2-2): It was a slow start for Donald, who lost both of his matches to start the event, but he came on strong winning his last two, including a convincing victory over Bubba Watson in Sunday’s opening singles match. In his last two matches, he never trailed, and improved his Ryder Cup record to a sparkling 10-4-1. More importantly, Olazabal clearly thought Donald was the man to set the tone in the opening match, sending out their most steady player as opposed to one of their more dynamic ones. Final grade: B+
- Sergio Garcia (2-2): Ah, Sergio, golf’s biggest enigma. He’s often said that his favourite event to play in is the Ryder Cup, and his record shows it. After going 2-2 this weekend, he’s now 16-8-4 in his career, but to be honest, I don’t think he played overly well this year. He was beaten pretty soundly in his opening two foursome matches and was helped along greatly by Donald in Saturday’s fourball against Woods and Stricker. Sunday’s singles match against Furyk was mostly up-and-down until Furyk missed a pair of par putts on the last two holes to give Sergio the 1-up win. Don’t get me wrong, Sergio got the job done at the end of it, but it certainly wasn’t the type of performance that we expected coming in. Final grade: C+
- Peter Hanson (0-2): The least talked about controversy of the weekend involved Peter Hanson complaining about sitting out both sessions on Saturday. Now I’m sure many of you are having your Pedro Martinez-Karim Garcia moment with this, but Peter Hanson is one of the best players in the world, coming in at #25 in the world rankings. Hanson and Kaymer were the only players on either team to only play two matches, so him being upset is understandable, but unfortunately for Hanson, his play didn’t really merit another shot. Him and Paul Lawrie were beaten rather easily in fourball by Watson and Simpson, never leading at any point, and even though he made it look competitive on Sunday against Jason Dufner, he never led in that match either. Final grade: D-
- Martin Kaymer (1-1): Everyone had Kaymer as Europe’s weak link, and in terms of an overall performance, Kaymer didn’t really do a whole lot for his side. However, he did hit the clinching putt for Europe, so there’s obvious credit to be given. Kaymer’s going through a swing change, and he has said in recent weeks that he’s feeling much better with where his game is. On a side note, Kaymer is known as one of the game’s “good guys”, so there were lots of people who were happy that it was him to put the nail in the American coffin. Final grade: B
- Paul Lawrie (1-2): Coming into the Ryder Cup, Lawrie felt like he had a lot to prove. After all, this was the first time he’s played in the event since 1999 when he won the British Open. He was handled easily in his first team event on Friday, and while he and Colsaerts made a valiant effort in Saturday’s fourball, they never led at any point, eventually falling 1-down to Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar. Sunday was Lawrie’s last chance at redemption, and he made the most of it, destroying 2012 FedEx Cup winner Brandt Snedeker, finishing 5-up. People will point to other matches as being the key on Sunday, but this was one that Europe was given almost no chance of winning, so it meant more than most will give it credit for. Final grade: B
- Graeme McDowell (1-3): As far as overall results go, this was the one that shocked me. McDowell, widely known as one of the most clutch and gritty players in the game, was rendered meaningless after Friday’s morning session. After dropping the par putt on 18 in his opening match to get Europe a point, not only did McDowell never see a lead again, he wasn’t even all square at any point. Fifty-two consecutive holes for McDowell were spent with him chasing the Americans. My money was definitely on him at the bar last night though. Final grade: D
- Rory McIlroy (3-2): What a whirlwind weekend for McIlroy. His results were good and bad, and if you watched him on Saturday, you definitely got the feeling that he was beginning to look worn down, and it took playing with Poulter to get him going again. But getting confused about when your Sunday tee time is? Having to be driven to the course by a state trooper? Those are new ones, assuming you believe that story. The one thing that you have to respect though is the way he handled the situation on Sunday. He got to the course and admitted that he made a mistake, even if he did blame the Golf Channel, and then took care of business beating the best player the Americans had all week in Keegan Bradley. That’s what the best players do when challenged. Final grade: B+
- Francesco Molinari (0-2-1): Molinari’s half-point didn’t end up making a difference, but for a long time, it looked like it might come down to him and Tiger to decide the whole thing. Give him credit for hanging with Tiger on Sunday, but his other two matches were bad, losing a combined 8-down. Final grade: D
- Ian Poulter (4-0): That old cliche about someone putting his team on his back and carrying them to victory? I don’t usually believe in that stuff, but after seeing Ian Poulter’s performance on Saturday, that might be the closest we ever come to seeing it, certainly in golf. I wrote about Poulter’s Seve-like performance on Saturday night, and looking back on it now, it’s still as impressive now as it was then. Poulter didn’t dominate any of his matches, with 2-up being his largest margin of victory, but it was the way it happened. With every shot and every passionate reaction, Poulter gave life to a sagging European team, and nowhere was that more evident than on the face of Rory McIlroy on Saturday afternoon. Poulter was already known as a great Ryder Cup player, but his performance at Medinah has made him a legendary one. Final grade: A+
- Justin Rose (3-2): Outside of Poulter’s brilliance, the lasting image of the Ryder Cup may be Justin Rose draining the long birdie putt on the 17th green to tie his match with Phil Mickelson. He followed it up with another birdie on 18 to stun the Americans, and take his career Ryder Cup record to 6-3. He alternated wins and losses, and while he did play with Poulter for two of his wins, he put on a solid performance throughout. His two losses were a little rough, but he really came through when it mattered most. Also one of only two players (McIlroy) in the entire event to play all five matches. Final grade: B+
- Lee Westwood (2-2): Of all the players in the event, Lee Westwood probably had the most up-and-down play. Dufner and Zach Johnson beat Westwood and Molinari to start. Then, Westwood and Colsaerts survived a tough matchup against Woods and Stricker before Westwood and Donald were demolished 7-up by Bradley and Mickelson. Westwood then came back on Sunday and comfortably beat Matt Kuchar in their singles match. That’s pretty much been the way Westwood’s season has gone, but again, he pulled it through when he needed to. Final grade: B-
- Spending much of my time on Twitter during the event showed how powerful the social network can be when a major sporting event is taking place. It seemed like everyone was talking about it, golf fan or otherwise, and it made the atmosphere even better.
- What didn’t make the atmosphere better was NBC’s poor job of covering the event. Saturday was littered with technical malfunctions, and so much of Sunday was covered by commercial breaks that it really broke up the flow of the event. The only good thing about these problems was that it gave a little less air time to Johnny Miller, NBC’s American flag waving commentator who always seems more interested in telling people how easy the game of golf is, than actually providing some level of tangible insight.
- There was some conversation about why golf doesn’t do more team events to try to replicate what we had on the weekend. The answer is simple: the special feeling that the Ryder Cup provided this year is special because it only happens every two years. I’m all up for ways to improve golf, and more team events could be the way to do it, but it won’t feel the same.
- The course was kept in immaculate shape this weekend as well. Medinah is one of the rare gems on the PGA Tour, and I wish we saw it a little more often.
- The final grade for the ghost of Seve? A+