Let’s lighten the mood from all of this talk about the economy, gas prices, stalled participation and bad weather and discuss instead golf as a game instead of golf as a business.
It is, after all, the game that drew us to this business and, even if many of us don’t get to play as much as we’d like, the Ryder Cup is dead ahead and will draw the attention of pros, owners, members and even celebrities on the weekend.
“I’ve got to go with the underdogs,” said six-time Grammy winner Justin Timberlake the other day. “I’ve got to go with the Americans. I’m hoping (Phil Mickelson) can play well in match play. He seems to step up a little bit more when he’s one on one.
“It’s tough, man. The Europeans, their team play is pretty amazing. I mean, they have one of the hottest golfers in the world right now with (Padraig) Harrington, so we’ll have to see. Sentimentally, I’m going to obviously go with the Americans,” he added.
Don’t dismiss Timberlake’s opinion as fluff. He’s a single digit handicapper who is lending his name to the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, a PGA Tour event that will be played in mid-October at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas.
Timberlake will participate in a Celebrity Pro-Am on Wednesday, Oct. 15 and headline a special concert along with other celebrities two days later in Vegas and while he may be better known as a singer/songwriter, he isn’t far off the mark by going with the Americans.
Personally, I’ll go with the favoured Europeans, but won’t be as surprised as many others will be if the Americans pull off an upset at Valhalla.
A sad 1-5 record in the last six Ryder Cups and being on the dark side of a combined 37-19 score in the last two competitions has knocked the American team from its familiar position as favourite. Being without the injured Tiger Woods just underscores the word “underdog.”
American captain Paul Azinger will have to find a way to inject his players with the grit he displayed over his entire career and in his battle against cancer. He has the talent at his disposal to win, but the U.S. side will have to get past the popular theory that it can’t pull together as a unit.
So, Azinger has his team’s underdog status, theories about why they can’t win the Ryder Cup anymore and Woods’ absence to use as rallying cries. There’s nothing like a few blows to the ego to motivate underachievers and, with six rookies, half the team isn’t haunted by the ghosts of Ryder Cups past.
Azinger has already done a masterful job in manipulating the team selection process, schedule and course set-up in his favour and is even bringing in legendary college football coaches for pep talks with his team. He may be guiding a twisted train wreck, but he’s doing a good job so far as conductor.
His European counterpart, Nick Faldo, faces much more pressure as captain of the favourites, who will need outstanding efforts from Harrington and Sergio Garcia, two players who allegedly don’t like one another.
There is some grumbling about the selection of Ian Poulter over inspirational leader Darren Clarke and concerns about Lee Westwood’s health. Also missing from this year’s European team is traditional leader Colin Montgomerie.
Azinger may be enjoying his time in the bushes waiting to jump all over the Europeans in front of a home crowd, which seems to get more pro-American in tough times such as economic challenges and war, both realities facing the U.S. these days.
While the Europeans may again work their magic, don’t expect this year’s Ryder Cup to be as lopsided as the previous two and there is every possibility that the Americans may prevail.