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Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Examining DL III's Ryder Cup Picks
Ryder Cup captain, Davis Love, made his 4 captain’s picks on Tuesday. They
Jim Furyk Dustin Johnson Brandt Snedeker Steve
Before I delve further into the picks, I have a few general
guidelines for quality captain’s picks:
A good pick will be a player who does not do 1 or 2 things
exceptionally well or is very inaccurate off the tee. In the future, I would be
against using somebody like Phil Mickelson or Bubba Watson as a captain’s pick
because they are too difficult to pair up with somebody in the alternate shot
format. In the case of a Mickelson or Watson (both of whom made the team
outright), it’s too difficult to pair them up with a player that is not used to
having to play tee shots that they hit off the grid. Mickelson and Watson can
play them because they are used to playing that bomb-n-gouge style of golf. But
somebody like Zach Johnson would probably be a very poor fit.
Furthermore, I would be a bit skeptical in putting them in the best ball
(aka low score) format because it adds pressure to a golfer when their partner
is out of the hole off the tee. That being said, Paul Azinger showed in the ’08
Ryder Cup that you can pair an extreme bomb-n-gouger up with a great, pure
ballstriker with success. Azinger did this with Boo Weekley, one of the greatest
ballstrikers in the past ten years and JB Holmes, one of the longest hitters in
the last ten years. Weekley hits it long and straight and would tee off first,
routinely blasting it past Lee Westwood and split the fairway. Once he did, JB
Holmes could let the shaft out and hit drives 375+ yards long. It’s a real
nightmare for an opponent.
Versatility is important because the captain
will likely have to make some adjustments on the fly. Perhaps riding a hot hand
and knowing when to bench a player who is cold. Or possibly stumbling across a
pairing that works great or abandoning a pairing that doesn’t gel. For the most
part, I think Love did a very good job here.
you look at the history of the Ryder Cup and the best players, typically they
have been very good putters. Recently, the unstoppable Ryder Cup player has been
Luke Donald, the greatest putter on any Tour for the last five years. Before we
had great Ryder Cuppers like Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal, Raymond
Floyd and Billy Casper; all of whom known as great putters.
My guess is
that this level of play, a pairing can usually get one of the players to hit a
quality shot and thus putting becomes the deciding factor. Believe it or not, I
think Love has done a good job here as well.
AVOIDING BOGEYS OVER
One thing people don’t realize is that the best
players on Tour typically do a good job of avoiding bogeys. However, there are
certainly players who are more in the mode to make a birdie than to avoid a
bogey. But the key for the average Tour player, year in and year out, is to do a
better job avoiding bogeys than making birdies. Put it this way, Phil
Mickelson’s best seasons were when he did a better job of avoiding bogey than he
usually has done, rather than making more birdies than he normally
Again, excellent job in the picks from DL III when it comes to
this part of the game.
FIND PLAYERS WHO ARE PLAYING WELL GOING
INTO THE RYDER CUP
To me, this is a tried and true philosophy. All
players on Tour tend to go thru little streaks of good play, then go into a
stanza of fairly average play, then have some struggles and eventually cycle
back to a good streak of play. I believe the key for Tour success is to still be
able to make cuts when going thru the bouts of mediocre play.
But for the
Ryder Cup, I think it’s paramount to find players who are playing well. Again,
this was a good job by Davis Love III, who decided against the popular Rickie
Fowler, who has struggled mightily over the past 2+ months.
IN DOUBT, YOUTH OVER EXPERIENCE
The problem with experience is that
it does not do you much good if the player is an experienced, but poor Ryder Cup
player. All a captain has with an experienced poor Ryder Cup player is a poor
Ryder Cup player. IMO, captains should strive to avoid these guys because they
KNOW that this player has been unsuccessful instead of the UNKNOWN youthful
player who may be an excellent player. I think Love made a bit of a questionable
pick in Furyk, but I will go into that in a moment. Also, I like youth because a
captain won’t have to worry if they need a player to play 36 holes in a day or
if a player on the team suffers an injury.
Total Driving Rank: 37th
Putts Gained Rank: 31st Short
Game Rank: 25th
Bogey Avoidance Rank: 2nd
Zone Rank: 79th Safe Zone Rank: 38th Danger Zone Rank:
Furyk’s lack of success in the Ryder Cup has been an enigma because
his metrics tend to look similar to this year after year. He drives it well due
to his uncanny accuracy. Hits it well from each zone, particularly the Danger
Zone. He’s got a very good short game and is typically a fine putter.
However, I can understand the pick because he has played very well in
the 2nd half of the season and it’s difficult to debate his metrics. Where I see
negatives are in his folding down the stretch in the US Open and in the
Bridgestone. Again, this is unique for a guy who has such a repeatable, homemade
I would probably look to pair him with a good, clutch putter.
Preferably somebody who is just money from 6-feet and in. Somebody who can
always keep the team in the hole, perhaps win some holes early on and give Furyk
the confidence to contribute. That being said, I would have picked Bo Van Pelt.
He’s younger, has struck the ball better and putted better this year and is much
longer off the tee.
Total Driving Rank: 25th
Putts Gained Rank: 52nd Short
Game Rank: 162nd
Bogey Avoidance Rank: 33rd
Zone Rank: 92nd Safe Zone Rank: 68th Danger Zone Rank:
I was iffy on Johnson a few weeks ago as he was still recovering
from his injuries early in the year. But, he’s finished in the top-10 in his
last 5 events, which those finishes being in the British Open, The Barclays
(held at a Major type venue in Bethpage) and Deutsche Bank
While he’s a bomber, he’s not a reckless bomber as he tends
to keep the driver reasonably in play due to his boring ball flight. Many
consider him the longest player on Tour into the wind. But where Johnson
appealed to me is that he’s simply putted fairly well for almost the entire
year. Since week 7, he’s been no higher than 77th and no lower than 50th in
Putts Gained. That resembles solid putting, week after week.
I would try
and pair Dustin with somebody who hits a lot of greens in the alternate shot
format, particularly from the rough, so you don’t have to worry about him having
to hit a chip or a pitch close. Perhaps somebody like Dufner (5th in GIR) or
Bubba (2nd in GIR).
Total Driving Rank: 90th
Putts Gained Rank: 1st Short
Game Rank: 31st
Bogey Avoidance Rank: 22nd
Zone Rank: 21st Safe Zone Rank: 63rd Danger Zone Rank:
Snedeker is #1 in Putts Gained and that gives Love 3 of the top-10
ranked players in Putts Gained. Had he picked Van Pelt, he would have another
top-10 ranked player in Putts Gained.
Snedeker picked up the pace in his
last 7 tournaments, with 3 top-10 finishes and having the lead on Sunday at the
British Open before collapsing. I would wonder how well he will hold up in Ryder
Cup in tense situations. But, if he can play well early on that could give the
US team an insurmountable lead and be good enough to lead the team to victory.
Here is how his rankings in Putts Gained have been over the last 12 recorded
his Danger Zone lay is a little worrisome, he has improved that dramatically as
well as only 5 weeks ago he was ranked 150th and he’s a fairly noticeable
improvement in the area.
In the alternate shot format, I would probably
pair him with a very good short game player to take care of any time that he has
a shot in the Danger Zone. However, in the best ball format I would stick him
with a very good Danger Zone player so the team has a shot on those long
Total Driving Rank: 75th
Putts Gained Rank: 45th Short
Game Rank: 155th
Bogey Avoidance Rank: 3rd
Zone Rank: 1st Safe Zone Rank: 11th Danger Zone Rank:
I think Stricker was a foregone conclusion given his stature in the
game and the only reason why he did not qualify was due to his light schedule.
However, if I were Love I would keep a close eye on Stricker as his putting and
Short Game play are not exactly what I would have expected.
alarm is the Short Game play. Not only is it where Stricker ranks worst, but he
was ranked 1st in Short Game play in Week 20. He then had a bunch of disastrous
weeks with his short game. Thankfully he hits it so well that he’s finished in
the top-25 in 7 of his last 8 tournaments, which included the US Open, British
Open and PGA Championship.
I don’t see any reason to not play him early
on, but I would be curious if his small downturn in his putting and his dramatic
regression in Short Game would affect how he plays with other partners. If he
were Steve Wheatcroft posting these numbers instead of Steve Stricker, I would
say that as it stands he should be paired with a very good and accurate driver
who racks up the GIR’s. And yes, he and Tiger look to be a good fit,
Overall, I'm satisfied with the picks because so far Love has not
relied on the 'they are good friends' or the 'they are from the same part of the
country' approach. He apparently has done some research on who is putting and
playing well and it happens to coincided with other favorable metrics. And even
with the Furyk pick, I can see some logic in it as he's playing well and there
was not a big pool of other players to choose from.
The key now become
how well the pairings work together and how well Love can make adjustments on