Watching the Presidents Cup Singles Matches was an exercise in golf viewing endurance. Going in with the expectation that the Cup would inevitably remain with the U.S. team, an interested viewer had to search for a hook. The Woods v. Weir and Mickelson v. Singh matches proved very watchable and there were boatloads of good shots all day long, but the suspense just wasn’t there.
In fact, the entire tournament seemed weird. It was friendly and sporting, which prompts the question: Is the congenial atmosphere a good thing?
Pro: It’s perfect if the matches are close and the actual golf shots are doing the talking. Not rude fans. Not digs from one team against the other. Not gamesmanship controversy. Golf is a gentleman’s game and the teams were led by two of the games most respected and accomplished players in the history of the game – Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. A congenial atmosphere makes for a great golf tournament if the matches are close.
Con: However, if the matches aren’t close there’s not much to talk about. By definition it’s difficult to remain friendly when controversy invades hitting a golf ball. The players aren’t used to team play, and that often leads to what some might call a robust “competitive spirit.” The thing about golf is that, unlike in hockey or football, trash-talk on the field of play rarely goes unheard. This years Presidents Cup could have used a little more “competitive spirit.”
The Presidents Cup has done what the Ryder Cup has failed to do – it has brought together players from around the world and allowed them play great golf and laugh together afterwards. When the week is done, egos are intact and knees not too bruised from first-tee jitters.
Golf is a game. A great game.
Charles Howell III, a.k.a. Chucky Three Sticks, has not played well the past few days, going 1-2 in his matches. Funny quote from the New York Times:
It was the first United States team meeting at the Deutsche Bank Championship, and Howell was sitting at a table with Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan and David Toms when Nicklaus walked into the room.
[Nicklaus] went around and said, “Zach, great job winning the Masters, green jacket, that’s fantastic, that’s awesome…David, another solid season, you are another steady, steady player. Hunter, you’ve really come along here lately, this is fantastic.”
Then he looked over at Howell, who has not finished in the top 10 since March.
“Charles, you need a lesson.”(link)
The U.S. team absolutely trounced the International team in foursomes this morning by winning every match to go up 12-5 in the overall Cup point totals. I’m stoked. Go U.S. of A. But, I also hope the Internationals can make a run this afternoon so the singles mean something tomorrow. Technically, the U.S. could win the Cup today by sweeping the afternoon Four-ball. Not likely, considering their play yesterday, but possible.
I’m disappointed that we haven’t seen a Woods v. Sabatini match-up during the first three days of play. Rory has been nipping at Tiger all year, and Tiger has been shutting him up with actual golf results. Still, it would be cool to see the two in the same match. Instead, Captain Player, when presented with the chance of creating such a pairing, choose to sit Sabatini out for the afternoon.
Is it ridiculous to suggest that Tiger Woods be benched for the the afternoon Four-ball? His Four-ball record is an abysmal 2-7 after yesterday’s beating, and while sitting him out would possibly lead to riots by a sold-out crowd who paid to see the best in the world, it could be the smartest move for the U.S. (Note: The pairs are already set for the afternoon, and Woods is playing with Toms.)
The Presidents Cup itself was the biggest winner today thanks to the International team making up a significant amount of ground and preventing the weekend play from becoming a mere formality. Nothing would have been worse than watching the teams go through the motions for the final two days of quality golf of the season.
The U.S. enters the weekend with seven points, two points ahead of the International team. The final total would have been closer but for Woody Austin’s solid play on the final three holes. After falling in the water after trying to hit out of the water on the 14th hole he went par-birdie-birdie-birdie to reduce the match to all-square from two-down and secure a half point.
The Stricker-Verplank combo was the only U.S. pair to win a match outright today, while the usually dependable Woods-Furyk pair got trounced by Singh-Appleby. I thought the Mickelson-Mahan duo would have performed better than they did. Down early, they fought back to all-square only to lose the final hole and the match.
Prediction for Day Three: The International team will put up more of a fight during the morning foursomes matches and takeover the overall Cup lead during the afternoon four-ball matches.
The U.S. team won five matches and halved one match today. That’s a pretty solid showing for a team that is generally perceived to have missed that day in first grade when you’re taught to play well with others.
Both teams’ performances looked unspectacular on TV. Are we seeing the effect of “FedEx Fatigue”? Or is it just first-day jitters? The fact that Tiger Woods popped-up his opening tee shot proves that this Cup still means something to the players. The first tee nerves wouldn’t be here if the players didn’t want to win this thing.
Hopefully the Int’l team will put some points on the board tomorrow and the atmosphere will tighten over the weekend. If not, Royal Montreal may be open for member play on Sunday.
The U.S. team will defeat the International team 19-16, but it will ultimately depend on the Sunday singles matches. The U.S. is notorious for playing slightly less than inspiring golf during four-ball and foursomes. And while the International team doesn’t have the same flare as the GB & I players in Ryder Cup years, they seem to gel better – probably because they have less “big” names, which translate into big egos. Lastly, I think the crowd will be largely neutral considering how close Montreal is to the U.S.
Former University of Michigan quarterback Brian Griese is taking over for the Chicago Bears quarterback, Rex Grossman. This means there will be two U of M quarterbacks starting for NFL teams – the other being Tom Brady for the New England Patriots.
Better yet, the Bears are playing the Detroit Lions in Detroit. Griese will be making his pro debut as a starter only 45 minutes from his alma matter.
What are the chances that the Bears and the Patriots will make it to Super Bowl XLII in Arizona? The Bears were in the Super Bowl last year and the Patriots made it to the AFC Conference Championship.