RYDER CUPOctober 1, 2010

Interested Observers

Corey Pavin and Colin Montgomerie will be credited or blamed for events mostly beyond their control

Europe's play in session three gave captain Colin Montgomerie plenty to smile about.

Europe's play in session three gave captain Colin Montgomerie plenty to smile about.

NEWPORT, Wales -- Whatever influence captains can impart on the outcome of the Ryder Cup -- a dubious proposition, or at least immeasurable as a practical exercise -- appears to be further mitigated this week after weather forced a change in the playing schedule.

Hands are tied. Options limited. Sometimes in this high-pressure biennial competition it seems that the contestants might require straightjackets by week's end. Now the captains have agreed to be put in them.

That was the upshot of Friday's decision to reconfigure the schedule and force all 12 players from each side onto the Twenty Ten Course for the remaining foursomes and four-ball matches after heavy rains washed away seven hours of competitive daylight on Day 1. All 24 players have been legislated into playing at least three matches, leaving many fewer decision to captains Colin Montgomerie and Corey Pavin.

This, undoubtedly, gives an advantage to the American leader. It's the only logical conclusion considering that it's now well established that Montgomerie is brilliant and well-prepared while Pavin is a dunce mailing it in. Or at least that's what the chattering class here would have you believe.

Oh, yeah, and don't let the 6-4 lead the U.S. team owns after Saturday's proceedings dissuade you from that premise.

Reinforcing these impressions have been the two men's dispositions throughout the week. The corpulent Scotsman has been pithy and entertaining in press conferences; Pavin cautious, reserved and very stiff-upper-lipped. Monty hasn't forgotten one of his players during introductions at the Opening Ceremonies. Nor has he outfitted them with rain suits and golf bags that, "have not performed up to expectations."

Monty might be inclined to invoke similar sentiment about his favored home team or that Pavin could well chirp that the Yanks have to this point perhaps exceeded expectations. But this reality in no way reflects the two men's level of competence. Or so we hear.

Nevertheless, the British tabloids have taken to calling the American captain, "Crazy Pavin." But only when they tire of making him out to be a warmongering sort. They don't much tire of it, however; on Saturday we read fresh criticism of Pavin for inviting an Iraq war veteran to speak to his troops … er, players.

The faux news is four days old and yet the Brits still can't seem to dig up relevant facts about Major Dan Rooney other than that he is a former F-16 pilot. They ignore niggling details like Rooney being a golf professional and member of the PGA of America (you know, one of the two governing bodies of this event) and whose Patriot Golf Day charity initiative has raised more than $5 million. And they really have only a rudimentary and piecemeal grasp of what the decorated pilot had to say.

Monty, meanwhile, is author of a "masterstroke," that of enlisting Ryder Cup legend Seve Ballesteros, battling brain cancer, to speak to his European team via telephone. Monty was seeking an infusion of passion, which he got. What he also needed was more birdies.

He was getting that late Saturday when his charges unsheathed their compasses and aimed many more putts due south. Prior to the late session, he took players aside individually and exhorted them to play better and get the fervent crowd more energized. No truth to the rumor he was carrying a cattle prod.

Whether good captains make good players play better is a debatable point. "I can control some things, but not everything," Montgomerie had to admit Saturday.

But good players sure can make captains look good.

The outcome at Celtic Manor is far from certain with six team matches to be completed Sunday and Europe, ahead in all of them, set up for a comeback. Singles follow, but who knows how much more genuine Welsh weather will pour unneeded broth into this strange stew.

With fewer variables for captains to consider Saturday and none remaining after determining the order of singles play, the figureheads would appear to figure even less in the final tally. But you do have to wonder if the dye isn't cast among Old World minds. America will either lose because of Pavin or win in spite of him.

Straightjacket, please.