Monday, September 15, 2008

Five questions for Ryder Cup week

Five questions as Ryder Cup week begins:

1. Will the Americans finally win?

That's a definite maybe.

Considering there's no Tiger Woods -- even if he is 10-13-1 in the Ryder Cup -- maybe is better than no.

The edge going in belongs to the Europeans if for no other reason than they have Sergio on their side. He's playing great and he plays the Ryder Cup like he's possessed.

But I'm not as down on this American team as some may be. I like what Anthony Kim brings and Jim Furyk is always solid. If Phil MIckelson plays well and guys like Hunter Mahan and Kenny Perry are on, this might be the end of the streak.

2. How much do the captains matter?

Not as much as everyone believes.

Sure, they're high profile, particularly in this case with Paul Azinger and Nick Faldo the perfect foils for each other. And they get a ton of attention in the build-up because they're the ones waiting for their teams to come together.

Azinger and Faldo are both dominating personalities. It's been amusing to watch the mini-storm about the fact Faldo has just once assistant captain -- the wise Jose Maria Olazabal -- while Azinger has Olin Browne, Dave Stockton and Raymond Floyd.

Ultimately, both captains will make their own decisions.

And the winning captain, strangely enough, is the guy whose players tend to make the most putts during the week.

3. Aside from Sergio, do the Europeans have a secret weapon?

He's not a secret but beware Robert Karlsson. He won Sunday on the European Tour and has three top-10 finishes in major championships this year.

Karlsson has a great short game and a cool demeanor. Watch for him to be a big factor this weekend.

4. Who are some likely pairings?

Well, Faldo killed the automatic Lee Westwood-Darren Clarke pairing when he selected Ian Poulter instead of Clarke. It's possible Garcia and Westwood may go out together given their past success together in team play.

Padraig Harrington can play with anyone and Faldo may send him out early with a rookie, maybe Soren Hanson or Oliver Wilson, to help them get comfortable.

As for the Americans, Azinger may go with Kentucky boys J.B. Holmes and Kenny Perry together one time, banking on some bluegrass magic. The fact is most spectators at the Ryder Cup are from around the country, not around Louisville, so that emotional edge may be minimal.

5. Who will be the American team leader?

That's a question Azinger is probably asking.

On paper, it should be Mickelson and he'll try, though it may not be a role that fits him well. Furyk is a tough guy and he'll be a steady presence as will the underrated Stewart Cink.
As for a fiery guy, Anthony Kim is just a rookie but he may feel right at home.