into the Ryder Cup, I looked back at successful and unsuccessful players in each
format of the Ryder Cup and wanted to marry that with some statistical
examination of what has historically worked well in the Ryder Cup versus what
has not worked well.
Some of the key conclusions I came up with is that
putting was very important in the Ryder Cup. Typically when I do my weekly PGA
Tour picks, I ignore the Putts Gained metric and any other metric with regards
to putting. The reason being is that it’s often completely unpredictable to
determine how well a golfer will put in a tournament. And what happens more
often than not is the golfer starts hitting approach shots closer to the cup
than usual and they get their confidence up and start seeing putts drop. Some
courses favor players who do well from certain zones than other zones. Some
courses tend to favor golfers who hit it far and are effective off the tee.
Other courses may favor effective drivers of the ball who are more accurate off
the tee than long off the tee. But as far as putting goes in regular PGA
Tournaments, there is no rhyme or reason as to who will putt well.
think that is different in the Ryder Cup. Particularly in the foursome
(alternate shot) format because players are inevitably going to be left with
some crucial and difficult putts and it’s best to go after those golfers who can
truly roll the rock. Also with the foursome format, I think captains need to be
careful and pair up golfers whose style of game fits each other. There is no
sense in putting somebody like Mickelson, a wild driver of the ball, with
somebody like Zach Johnson who is a poor ballstriker on shots from the rough. Or
putting somebody like Bubba with Furyk because Bubba is not very skillful from
the Danger Zone and on the long par-4’s, the short hitting Furyk may leave his
tee shots in the Danger Zone.
As far as the fourball format goes, I
looked more at scoring averages on par-3’s, par-4’s and par-5’s. In particular,
par-4’s are important because you will play about 10 of them in a Ryder Cup
tournament. Then we want to look at birdie and then bogey percentage. While
Furyk’s scoring averages have been good on par-3’s, par-4’s and par-5’s, he’s a
player that doesn’t make many birdies or many bogeys. That’s why he’s
traditionally been poor in the fourball format, he can’t make birdies. But, you
don’t want to give up holes with careless bogeys either.
As far as the picks go, I mentioned in a
previous blog post that I generally liked them. Unfortunately, they did not
produce points. But I do not blame a captain for not being to accurately predict
how well a player will do in the Ryder Cup. I think if they look at the metrics,
keep an open mind as to which players to consider and puts the picks in the
right formats with the right teammates, that’s all one can reasonably
I think Stricker, Snedeker and Dustin Johnson were relative no
brainers. Each had played well this year and DJ, who had injury issues early on
is too big of a talent and had been playing (and more importantly, putting) very
The Furyk pick came under criticism for his atrocious Ryder Cup
record. But, Furyk had very well in 2012, particularly in the 2nd half of the
season. I also ran thru the numbers and Furyk had the game that would work well
in the foursome format, which had plagued the US team for years.
my metrics had 3 of the 4 picks (which was a theme for the Ryder Cup). The only
pick I would have made was Bo Van Pelt over Furyk and mainly because Van Pelt’s
metrics have been fantastic this year and I think he provided the team with more
versatility to play either fourball or the foursome format.
said, the metrics I ran had Furyk as the 5th best player available. That was
part of DLIII’s problem that he inherited, he didn’t have a long list of players
to choose from. Rickie Fowler, who I am a fan of, has been downright awful down
the stretch. Hunter Mahan has not been awful, but at best mediocre. Same with
rookie John Huh who seemed to be a little out of place in the FedEx cup. Kyle
Stanley hits it well, but can’t putt. The options for DLIII were limited and
even Van Pelt was a streaky player.
In the end, Furyk played well in the
Ryder Cup. He and Snedeker beat what was thought to be the best European team of
McDowell and McIlroy. And they lost their first match against that duo on Friday
when Snedeker played poorly and hit a terrible tee shot on 18 to lose on the
At the recommendation of a friend, I decided to
run some simulations based on different teams and different metrics and in
different formats. The simulations would spit out a projected score for 18 holes
since running team vs. team simulations would be impossible as I don’t have data
with regards to most of the European teams.
All that being said, I do
NOT believe that a Ryder Cup captain should have a rigid set of picks. I think
the captain has to set out the picks for Friday morning and from there pick
teams based on who the hot players are. I would use my metrics to serve as a
guideline, but there is a bit of intuition and feel that the captain has to use
in the subsequent pairings.
For DLIII, I thought his main goal on Friday
was to play EVERY player on the team because he had the depth for it. Then
hopefully stay within 1 point after Friday and then on Saturday, determine who
the hot players were from there.
My picks for the Friday AM foursomes
Webb Simpson & Jason Dufner
Tiger Woods & Steve
Bubba Watson & Phil Mickelson
Zach Johnson & Jim
Instead, DLIII went with:
Jason Dufner & Zach
Furyk & Snedeker
Tiger & Stricker
Out of all of the simulations I had run, I didn’t love the
Bradley and Mickelson pairing in the foursome format. The simulations showed
they were not a bad team, but merely average. My problem was that I thought
there were much stronger pairings out there. The other pairings were not *the*
strongest, but fairly strong nonetheless.
the end, Keegan and Mickelson proved me dead wrong. So did Tiger and Stricker,
both of whom played awful on Friday morning. As Erik Barzeski
(www.thesandtrap.com) has pointed out, Tiger does not play well in windy
conditions and it was quite breezy on Friday.
Still, I would have been
ecstatic after the foursome matches if I were DLIII. The US was tied with Europe
2-2, which included a THUMPING by Keegan and Phil over Sergio and Luke Donald,
both of whom were dealt their first loss in Ryder Cup foursomes. Even Furyk
& Snedeker made Rory and McDowell sweat it out and Furyk played very well on
the back nine which would have given me confidence in the pairing for
After the Friday morning foursomes, I
recommended the following pairings in the afternoon:
Bubba and Webb
Mickelson and Bradley
DLIII’s pairings almost matched my recommendations, except he had
Stricker and Tiger go out again in place of Dufner and Zach. In the end,
Stricker and Tiger were the only team to lose in the Friday afternoon as they
were snake-bit by Nicolas Colesaerts hot putter and Stricker was horrendous. The
rest of the teams won in convincing fashion, particularly Webb and Bubba, which
according to my simulations was only behind Bubba and Tiger in fourball
I thought DLIII did a very good job on Friday.
He got every player on the team playing, so he could judge who to play on
Saturday. He also had a 5-3 lead and one could just get the feeling that
Mickelson and Bradley were unbeatable and Bubba and Webb were unbeatable in the
I recommended the following AM foursome
Keegan and Phil
Dufner and Zach
Webb and Kuchar
I figured that Furyk and Snedeker showed some
fight on Friday. The rest of the players were a bit of slim pickings, but my
simulations had Webb and Kuchar as the next strongest foursome
But once again, DLIII hit 3 of my recommended pairings, this
time opting for Webb and Bubba instead of Webb and Kuchar. Bubba is a bit of a
difficult foursome pairing because of his wildness off the tee. I would not
label Webb and Bubba as an awful foursome pairing, but they were mediocre and
actually well below what the simulations had for Webb and Kuchar. And they were
the only team that lost, putting the US up 8-4.
In the afternoon fourball
Keegan and Phil
Bubba and Webb
Zach and Tiger
And once again, there was one team DLIII went against and that
was going to Tiger and Stricker once again.
don’t think Tiger has the mentality for the foursome format. He’s built his
entire career on making success for himself and from the sounds of it, he never
played truly team sports growing up whereas guys like Keegan, Phil, DJ, Kuchar,
etc grew up playing sports like baseball, basketball, tennis doubles, etc.
However, Tiger played well in fourball and it took a lot of guts for
DLIII to bench Tiger in the morning foursomes simply because it’s Tiger and he’s
never been benched in the Ryder Cup before. Stricker didn’t play well in the
foursome or fourball format on Friday. Furthermore, Ryder Cup captains really
need to junk the theory that President’s Cup play correlates to Ryder Cup play
because it doesn’t. It’s about as relevant as Johnny Miller saying everything
will break towards Lake Merced.
Anyway, DLIII went with:
DJ and Kuchar
Stricker and Tiger
Zach and Dufner
and Dufner duo simulations had them as a ‘good’ fourball team. However, they
lost along with Stricker and Tiger. And while people harped on Tiger and
Stricker pairing up, I harped more on benching Phil and Keegan because they were
so dominating that I think they could have had the match won just by showing up
on the first tee. Furthermore, they only played 12 holes in the morning and
should have had more than enough energy. I think that cost the team at least
1-point, maybe 2-points if they pair Tiger with Zach Johnson. And the US Team
could have been up 12-4 going into Sunday.
That being said, anytime a captain gets the team
leading 10-6 into Sunday, they have at least done a very good job (unless they
make crazy picks that make no sense and they got lucky). I think the team left
2-3 points after Saturday, but there’s no guarantee that a different pairing
here or there would have a positive effect or even the same effect.
one would think that the US team should be able to win 4.5 points in 12 singles
matches. For that, I cannot blame DLIII for the loss and in general, thought he
was a very good captain and I would give him a grade of B+.
As per usual, the golf
media tends to spoil the fun for everybody. No, this is not the greatest
comeback in Ryder Cup history. The 1999 win at Brookline was. That US team was
DREADFUL going into Sunday and Ben Crenshaw was acting like he had a chemical
imbalance. I honestly don’t think Justin Leonard could have beaten me going into
Where the similarities between both comebacks is that the
eventual winner seemed to be in great spirits going into Sunday. Just like Hal
Sutton’s interview with Justin Leonard before Sunday, you could sense the same
type of confidence coming from Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell.
other golf media buzzkill is their incessant desire to paint US crowds as bad.
Even the European golf fans that I talked to thought the US crowds were fine.
Because the European fans act the SAME way.
world of golf tends to never figure out is that golf works best when parts of
the game and the traditions are rare and exclusive. That’s why the Masters works
so well, they have certain things going on that no other course or tournament
have. Golf is not about moderation, it’s about quality and rarity. That’s why
Donald Trump’s insistence of having manmade waterfalls on his courses fall flat.
It’s not that the waterfall is not beautiful, it’s just not rare and it comes
off as tacky. Often times in golf, less is not only more…but much much
If we had Ryder Cup crowds at every tournament, I think it would
take away from the game. But once every two years between fans and two sets of
12 golfers that have a GENUINE tension between each other, it makes for a
special occasion. Even if the US team