Monday, May 7, 2012

A Look At the Ryder Cup Standings...

With the season at about the halfway point, I figured we'd take a look at the US Ryder Cup team. Here are the current Ryder Cup standings for the top 15.

1. Bubba Watson
2. Phil Mickelson
3. Hunter Mahan
4. Keegan Bradley
5. Jason Dufner
6. Steve Stricker
7. Tiger Woods
8. Brandt Snedeker
9. Bill Haas
10. Kyle Stanley
11. Johnson Wagner
12. Mark Wilson
13. Matt Kuchar
14. Kevin Na
15. Dustin Johnson

As I’ve discussed before, I believe that the Ryder Cup captain needs to get players who are better putters and Danger Zone players, along with good at avoiding bogeys (instead of making birdies) for the best Ryder Cup team. The trick parts are that he has to take the top-8 in the points standing and getting certain players to fit in the alternate shot format. I really believe that the main focus should be on the alternate shot format because I think the captain who smartly pairs up the alternate shot teams will have a large advantage and can gain valuable points.

Here’s a rundown of each player:

Bubba Watson – He’s going to get into the Ryder Cup. The question becomes how well will he putt the ball at the tournament. He’s currently ranked 159th in Putts Gained. However, he’s also ranked 1st in Adv. Total Driving and 5th in Danger Zone play. As it stands, I would play him in the low-score format and avoid him in the alternate shot format. And if you pair him with a player in the low-score format, make sure to find somebody with a good track record on par-3’s as Bubba is a weak par-3 player.

Phil Mickelson - Having a great year so far with the putter, 3rd in Putts Gained. His driving is still a problem (139th). You can have him in alternate shot, but you better find a good player from the rough to pair him with.

Hunter Mahan – He’s been able to get his driving back (8th) and has putted quite well the past couple of years (currently 39th). But, his Danger Zone play is still questionable (87th). I would probably try and pair him in alternate shot with somebody who finds a lot of fairways so at least when Mahan is in the Danger Zone, he has a much easier shot at hitting it close.

Keegan Bradley - A real superstar who is bound to pick up another victory soon. 15th in Adv. Total Driving, 52nd in Birdie Zone play, 93rd in Safe Zone Play and 106th in Danger Zone Play. But, he’s 28th in both Putts Gained and Short Game play. His iron play was a problem last year, but this year he started out on fire from each of the zones. Cooling off a bit, but that may be due to getting used to some swing changes. For right now, I would try to play him a lot.

Jason Dufner – Having a spectacular year. Known for his ballstriking, he recently made a climb up to 82nd in Putts Gained. Don’t be fooled though, this is the first time all year he’s been in the top-100 in Putts Gained. The reason he’s playing so well is his ballstriking and in particular, he’s 26th in Short Game play. So, he hits a ton of greens and fairways and if he misses a green, he’s great at getting it close. I would think a captain should use him quite a bit, but I would really play it round-to-round with him to get a feel for his putting. He’s probably better off in alternate shot than in low-score. However, you could put him in the low-score format with somebody like Bubba, let Dufner tee off first and pump one down the middle and then let Bubba go full bore and blast one 375+ yards. That would make things a lot tougher for US-killer, Luke Donald.

Steve Stricker – Typically, I would say the problem with Stricker is that he doesn’t play a lot of events, so it’s difficult to judge. However, he has good experience as he’s a proven winner in this format and has the game that makes for a great Ryder Cup partner. They’ll probably want to limit his play because of his age. I would then lean towards him in alternate shot because I think that’s more important.

Tiger Woods – I think his poor week at the Masters took the wind out of his sails, but he’s really having a nice year. Problem is that in the world of Tiger, a ‘nice’ year is the worst year ever for him. The big positive now is that he can hit the driver and hit it well, regardless of what Brandel Chamblee may tell you.

Brandt Snedeker – Notoriously great putter with a really good short game. He’s never been that great of a ballstriker outside his 2011 year and he’s sliding back into that below average ballstriker status this year. What is particularly concerning is his 141st ranking in Danger Zone play. Part of me likes him in alternate shot because he’s young and he has the short game. I would also look for a player who has a good short game to make up for his poor Danger Zone shots. Keegan Bradley may make for a really good partner in alternate shot.

Bill Haas – I wouldn’t want him on the team with the way he’s playing now. His 2011 season was due to great driving and great short game playing with average zone play. I think he does have a legitimately good wedge game, but he has not shown much and his driving of the ball has been very average. Currently ranked 9th on the Ryder Cup list, I would be surprised to see him make the team on points at the rate he is playing at.

Kyle Stanley – I could see taking a chance on him as a pick because he’s a great ballstriker who hits it long and is young. His putting leaves a lot left to be desired, but he does go thru some nice streaks of putting well. He would be about the equivalent of a 2008 Boo Weekley who paired with JB Holmes, threw the Euros fits in the low-score format as Weekley strikes it so well and long that he could out-drive Lee Westwood and still be down the middle, giving Holmes a massive free-rip at the ball.

Johnson Wagner – His ballstriking would make me a little nervous, but he has a great short-game. He has cooled off quite a bit with the putter, being a top-5 putter for some time and now ranked 37th in Putts Gained. I would definitely keep a close eye on him, but he would likely have to get hot again with the putter before I would put him on the team.

Mark Wilson – He’s slipped a little from earlier in the season, but is still putting up some good numbers. His lack of distance would bother me because it makes me wonder if he can play a course well that is US Open-esque long. That’s why I would look to see how well he performs at the US Open. However, in alternate shot he would need somebody that doesn’t miss many greens because he’s 159th in Short Game Play. Either that or a great 5-15 foot putter.

Matt Kuchar – Kuchar should be an obvious captain’s pick if he doesn’t qualify in points. That being said, the captain should hope that Kuchar does qualify so he doesn’t have to ‘waste’ a pick on a player who is obviously good enough to be a great Ryder Cup player. He’s having a great year statistically and should be in for a victory soon.

Kevin Na – Strange year from Na who is usually a weak ballstriker with a great short game. This year he’s a strong ballstriker with a weak short game. Could be in for a victory soon as you have to believe his putting will return to his normal form soon and that he just made enough swing changes that are finally clicking in his ballstriking. As far as captain’s picks go, he would be in my top-5.

Dustin Johnson – Obviously, he has a metric ass-load of talent. But, he’s a poor putter and where he typically excels in is windy conditions because he hits it so unearthly long without a high ball flight. With his injuries, he will probably not get a lot of playing time in and given his struggles on the putting green, I would not be too keen on the idea of selecting him and hoping that he stays healthy, that he isn’t rusty and that he can get the putter going.


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