Monday, November 21, 2011

Will U.S. carry good vibes into the 2012 Ryder Cup?

Observations from watching the Presidents Cup:

-- What is it about the Presidents Cup that seems so easy for the American team as compared to the Ryder Cup, which sometimes resembles a collective nervous breakdown?

That's the mystery captain Davis Love III will try to solve between now and the Ryder Cup matches next fall at Medinah outside Chicago. Whatever captain Fred Couples has done the last two times worked beautifully but Jack Nicklaus had similar success.

It helps when putts fall. Just ask Tiger.

-- Webb Simpson's breakout year got even better at the Presidents Cup where he won three early points, teaming with Bubba Watson. Simpson looked totally comfortable at Royal Melbourne, seeming to thrive in match play.

He's likely to be a fixture on U.S. teams for the next decade so it's encouraging to see him play so well. Wonder if Love has already penciled in Simpson and Bubba together at Medinah?

-- It was a nice touch to see Tiger Woods get the winning point in the Sunday singles, given all the controversy surrounding Couples' early decision to add him to the team.

Tiger didn't get a lot of help from his partners Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson in the foursomes and four-balls but you can see his game coming back. He made six birdies Sunday -- more than anyone in singles -- and looked like a guy who was happy to be there. That was good to see.

-- Team MVP honors belong to Jim Furyk, who turned his lost season around and posted a 5-0 mark in the Presidents Cup. He's never been flashy -- and watching Furyk and Phil Mickelson reading putts together can be patience-testing -- but Furyk has been one of the best players of his generation. Last week at Royal Melbourne just reconfirmed that.

-- Royal Melbourne was beautiful proof that golf courses don't have to be 8,000 yards long with knee-deep rough to challenge the game's best players.

It was filled with short par-4s and medium-length par-3s and stood up to the best players in the world. The greens are magnificent, a perfect blend of speed, firmness and contour, demanding imagination, nerve and touch. The bunkering is spectacular and, as others have suggested, why can't more courses here groom their bunkers like those at Royal Melbourne where shots carom off bunker slopes and gather at the bottom?

-- With a good blend of young players and veterans, the U.S. should be strong when Love captains the Ryder Cup team next year. A couple of names may change but the bulk of the Presidents Cup roster will probably be at Medinah next fall. That should put a smile on Love's face.

Photo: Bill Haas of the U.S. team and teammate Webb Simpson of Charlotte pose with the Presidents Cup trophy Sunday.  David Cannon - Getty