October Mailbag: Ryder Cup and the Reeds

Hey, an actual post! If you want to jump in on the next mailbag, hit me up on Twitter, or send me an email: adamrsarson@gmail.com

So, this wasn’t technically a mailbag question, but it’s actually what started me down the path of wanting to post something. Bill’s right: I was quiet for Ryder Cup week, but moreover, I’ve been super quiet both here and on Twitter for most of 2018, and he’s actually not the only one who has asked me about it. There have been a few reasons for my “absence” over the last few months.

About a year ago, my new job at theScore gave me more responsibilities, and frankly, I would come home and just want to relax instead of jumping on here and writing about golf. I’ve picked up some more duties recently as well, and on top of that, my interest in the professional game has waned on some level. I still love golf, but the weekly grind of the pro game lost some appeal recently, and I actually wasn’t watching as much as I had been over the past few years. That said, I’m still tracking my top 100 stories of the year, and watching a lot, but it has taken more of a back seat than it had previously.

I’m attempting to do more stuff in the coming weeks and months, and it may not always be golf related. We’ll see what happens, but my hope is that I’m not so quiet going forward.

Also: download theScore! Our golf section is p good.

“International Presidents Cup team” is a weird way of spelling “American Ryder Cup team”, Steve.

I’m one of the first ones out there to defend the Internationals, mostly because I love watching some of their top players. If you can’t find something to like about watching players like Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, and Marc Leishman that says WAY more about you as a golf fan than it does about them. Having said that, when you look at their options as they sit right now for the squad, it’s, uh, not looking great. These are the top 12 International players according to the OWGR as of today:

  1. Jason Day (11th)
  2. Hideki Matsuyama (21st)
  3. Marc Leishman (23rd)
  4. Cameron Smith (32nd)
  5. Louis Oosthuizen (36th)
  6. Kiradech Aphibarnrat (40th)
  7. Adam Scott (41st)
  8. Branden Grace (45th)
  9. Byeong-hun An (47th)
  10. Satoshi Kodaira (48th)
  11. Haotong Li (55th)
  12. Si Woo Kim (56th)

Greg Norman ain’t walking through that door. Jumbo Ozaki ain’t walking through that door. Hell, Charl Schwartzel isn’t currently walking through that door. There is no scenario in which I see this being a competitive match, as much as I’d love it to be that way. The good news though? Even if it isn’t overly competitive, golf fans should be thrilled that they will get to see two things during the event: Royal Melbourne, especially if it plays firm and fast, will make any event fun, and almost as important as one of the best courses in the world is that this guy will be taking part:

Embed from Getty Images

So, here’s the thing about this question: Justine Reed will absolutely be entertaining, up to a certain point. Based on what we saw from the (alleged) Twitter account on the weekend, there would be a whole lot of defending Patrick Reed to the very end, which I understand. Now, how much of that you want to believe is really up to you, but my guess is that you’d basically be able to ask a ton of questions, and fill as much air time as you’d need.

With Patrick, I feel like it really, really depends on the types of questions you ask. Clearly, he’s not afraid to speak his mind, and if you ask questions that he’s willing to answer, I’m guessing that you’d get some sweltering, barrel fire takes. Having said that, if you asked one question that he didn’t like, I get the sense that you’d get your Jim Rome / Jim Everett moment, which would be tremendous #content, but would cut the interview off right there.

The real answer to this question? Get both of ’em! I would legitimately pay for an episode of the Shotgun Start where Andy and Brendan launched question after question to the Reeds. It would nourish my soul.

First off, we don’t really have a great understanding of what did, and didn’t happen when it comes to the Reed and Spieth pairing. Reed clearly has his side of the story, and I’m willing to guess that Spieth, Furyk, and some of the American team has a version that differs. Secondly, the Reed / Spieth pairing has been really good, but the way that Reed has spun it in the days since the event ended would make it seem like the two were the second coming of Seve and Jose Maria, when the sample size has still been kinda small. This idea that the two should be joined at the hip because they’ve had success in two Ryder Cups is incredibly faulty, especially since some of the criticism that Furyk has received in the aftermath was that he was being too rigid with his lineup.

You can believe multiple things at once here. Furyk may have handled the situation poorly, and Reed may have a right to be upset about how it all played out, but at the end of the day, Reed was awful in his two matches prior to Sunday, and if he had played better in helping the Americans to a win, this would have been a non-issue. Having said all that, there have been a number of things that have come out in recent days that may suggest that Furyk didn’t have the best control of the situation, and may have made some questionable calls. We haven’t heard the last of this by any means.

It’s definitely possible. As good as Reed has been in this event prior to last weekend, he’s not in the same pantheon as players like Spieth, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, and Dustin Johnson as the guys who are supposed to be the cornerstones of this roster. After this weekend, are any of these guys going to want to play with him? My thought would be no, and while you can’t avoid that if he makes the team on points, if it comes down to him and someone that you know will be malleable, and won’t rock the boat, you’d have to leave Reed at home. Even if he makes the team on points, there’s no rule that you have to play the guy before Sunday. He can get the full Jarmo Sandelin treatment.

Ultimately, it comes down to this for me: I just can’t bring myself to feel sorry for a guy who got to play two matches with arguably the greatest player of all time, and looked like he was a six handicapper while doing it.

Oh, Phil is absolutely taking some of the fire here, at least in the analysis I’ve seen in the last few days. Do I think that deep down, Phil knew that he didn’t have it last week? Without question, and he said as much afterwards when he basically admitted that he hadn’t felt right on the course since he had been picked, but folding and going home has never been his style, and it never will be. Should he have said something? I don’t think that’s really his place, honestly. He was selected for the team, and he was going to play when Furyk sent him out there. If anything, Furyk should have stood up and told Phil he was sitting because his game was a mess, not the other way around.

Phil’s like Kobe Bryant at the end of his run with the Lakers. Anyone watching him knew that he didn’t have it in the way he did years prior, but that didn’t stop him from chucking the ball 39 times a night in a 23 point loss on the road. It’s an organizational failing more than an individual one.

It was super weird watching Tiger last week, both on the course, and whenever he had a microphone in his face. He basically didn’t take the rain gear off all week, and it definitely felt like he was walking slower, and his swing looked far stiffer than it did the week prior at East Lake. He looked cold and uncomfortable from the beginning, and he sounded completely out of it whenever he was interviewed. Maybe he wasn’t sleeping well, or the Tour Championship took a ton out of him, but you’re right: something definitely felt off.

I don’t want to speculate or read too much into it, though. I’m guessing that we won’t see him again on the course until the Thanksgiving match with Phil, followed by the Hero, and we’ll see what he looks and sounds like at that point.

How are we defining ‘another down year’? If it’s similar to this one where he probably would be right around the auto qualification, than he’s absolutely an automatic pick. if he falls off the earth Bo Van Pelt style, that’s a completely different scenario.

Spieth would be the first to admit that things haven’t gone his way in 2018, but he’s also a great example of how thin the margin for error is at this level. Statistically, he was worse than we would have expected, but he was still pretty good. Spieth fell 31 spots in Strokes Gained: Total from 2017 to 2018, which sounds terrible at a glance, but do you know what that really means? It means that he was gaining about 1.1 shots per round more in 2017 than he did this year, which isn’t insignificant, but it’s not like he was awful, either. What it equates to though is zero wins compared to three in 2017, and nearly $7 million less in earnings.

Whether it’s right or it’s wrong, generational talents like Spieth have automatic spots on these teams until they prove that they are completely incapable of competing at the level required. He’ll be there.

So, I know you said that you don’t care about the top eight, but it’s kinda hard to only give captain’s picks, so here’s my best shot at identifying the teams from top to bottom:

Team USA Team Europe
Dustin Johnson Rory McIlroy
Brooks Koepka Justin Rose
Justin Thomas Jon Rahm
Jordan Spieth Tommy Fleetwood
Bryson DeChambeau Francesco Molinari
Rickie Fowler Tyrrell Hatton
Tony Finau Matthew Fitzpatrick
Xander Schauffele Sergio Garcia
Patrick Cantlay Alex Noren
Aaron Wise Thorbjorn Olesen
Webb Simpson Thomas Pieters
Cam Champ Thomas Detry

These are in no particular order, and I’m sure they’ll all be 100% correct in two years time! Some turnover on both sides, with the American team adding Schauffele, Cantlay, Wise, and the freakishly long Cam Champ to take on Whistling Straits. For the Europeans, Fitzpatrick is too talented to not make it back, and they’ve also re-added Pieters and fellow Belgian Thomas Detry. I wanted to find room for Viktor Hovland or Jack Singh Brar, but couldn’t really kick anyone out.

I mean, could it have gone any worse last week if a few Canadians were on the team?

The career grand slam!

I have no earthly idea. If you told me that he came back in 2019 completely rejuvenated from the Ryder Cup, and won a few tournaments, it would make perfect sense. It would also make sense if we didn’t see him do anything of value again until Whistling in 2020, where he’ll have zero form coming in and Padraig will still take him because he’s going to go 2-1.

My thought on guys like Sergio is always that you rely on the track record for a long enough time until it’s clear that they aren’t making it back. Sometimes, they never make it back, and it’s just kinda over. Ernie is a good example of this, but I don’t think Sergio is at that point yet, and even though we’ve been watching him forever, it’s worth noting that he isn’t even 40 yet, so there should still be plenty left in the tank. Usually, you worry about someone’s putting stroke going away as they age, but in Sergio’s case, the putting stroke was never really there anyway, so as long as some of the ball striking comes back to the levels we’ve seen over the last 20 years, 2019 should see some kind of bounce back.

I think he’ll be fine.

So, I think it would absolutely be easy for the Friday and Saturday sessions, but obviously it gets a little tricky with the Sunday singles with potentially twelve matches on the course all at the same time. I admit that this would be tremendous for the sickos reading this post, but I’m not sure that the cost would be worth it for a company like NBC in the grand scheme of things. For the most part, I’m guessing that the vast majority of people interested in the Ryder Cup are just fine with the viewing experience that they are currently getting, even if it doesn’t satisfy the needs of the hardcore fans like us.

If you were watching the coverage early on Friday morning, it was beyond terrible with all of the commercial breaks. It was basically like watching an NFL game where the sequence frequently goes: touchdown -> commercial break -> kickoff -> commercial break -> RB draw -> injury -> commercial break. There was no flow! It was better on the weekend, but people like you and I are tuning in anyway. They’ve already got us on the hook, so the incentive probably isn’t there to invest the time and resources, even though it would be an incredible product. Where this changes of course is if it reaches a point where the tape delay stuff did earlier this year, and there’s enough pressure from the public to change. If that happens, maybe we’ll see a better option. I hope so, as PGA Tour Live is really good, but I’m not overly optimistic.

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