Ryder Cup Secrets From Undercover Pros
Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America via Getty Images
Editor's Note: This story in Golf Digest's September issue was reported prior to the Ryder Cup teams being finalized. The Americans who qualified on points were Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, and Brandt Snedeker. Four more players will be selected via captain's picks. The final European roster consists of Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Andy Sullivan, Danny Willett, Chris Wood, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, and Thomas Pieters.
How do you beat the other guy in the Ryder Cup? What are his strengths? Perhaps more important, what are his weaknesses? To get answers, Golf Digest interviewed dozens of players, caddies, coaches and other keen observers of the game for their candid observations. And boy, were they candid.
"If there is a worse lag putter in the game," said one, "I've yet to see him." Another player is known for this: "He enjoys pissing the other team off." Dealing with another opponent's gamesmanship? "You have to give it right back to him or ignore him. And if you do give it back to him, it can affect him."
This isn't just jingoistic chirping about the enemy. In some cases, it's Americans critiquing Americans, or Europeans burying Europeans: "It started with slightly dodgy mechanics," said one, "and it has developed into a full-blown mental problem." Another player's weakness is highlighted: "Over a bunker to a tight flag is his worst nightmare. It's not pretty." And this: "He's well capable of giving up. ... If he's not in the mood, he's just not in the mood."
The makeup of teams based on points wasn't to be finalized until Aug. 28. Captains' picks follow—the final U.S. selection won't come until Sept. 25, the Sunday before Ryder Cup week—so we sought comments on a wide selection of players who had a chance of making the teams.
Time to connect the dots on what everyone's saying.
OBSERVATIONS ON U.S. CANDIDATES
● ● ●
Keegan Bradley (4-3-0)
INTERNATIONAL TAKE: "He's pretty wound up, so all you have to do is wait for something to go wrong, or remind him that something just went wrong. Which is what Miguel Angel Jimenez did [at the 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play, when Jimenez questioned a drop that Bradley took]. Keegan is very close to losing emotional control when he's playing his best. He's right on the edge. Sergio was like that early in his career. I bet Jimenez would never admit he did it on purpose, but he definitely did. When Keegan was getting his ruling, Miguel instinctively knew that going over there and offering his opinion would be something Keegan wouldn't be too happy about. And that was a great time to make him unhappy." Bradley admitted as much afterward: "I got schooled by a great gamer."
AMERICAN TAKES: "It doesn't look like the putter has transitioned, and it hasn't for a while. Where is he in the World Ranking? [Bradley was 107th after the Open at Troon.] He hasn't won in four years. He's completely disappeared, which is sad, because he's been a spark plug for the U.S." . . . "Whether you fear his game or not—and his game isn't great right now—you fear his focus and his determination in a Ryder Cup setting. He's like Ian Poulter. If he's in a regular tournament, do you think Ian Poulter is the man to beat? Same right now with Keegan. But put either of them in the Ryder Cup, they're very tough." . . . "The question is how he views himself as a putter, and you have to believe he's vulnerable there mentally."
● ● ●
Jason Dufner (3-1-0)
AMERICAN TAKES: "A lot of times he looks like he's thinking about his second putt before he hits his first one, and that's no way to play in the Ryder Cup." . . . "He'll ball-strike you to death, but then he still has to beat you on the greens. Maybe he does, and maybe he doesn't. He tends to make enough putts, though, that he's a tough out. Not a lot of emotion, obviously, but you need some guys like that." . . . "He looked like he had promise, but he's where he should be with four wins. He's really an overachiever."
● ● ●
Photograph by Russell Cheyne/Reuters
Rickie Fowler (0-3-5)
EUROPEAN TAKE: "Not the greatest at anything, but OK at everything. There was a rumor at Gleneagles that the McIlroy/Fowler game was pre-arranged, and Rory thumped him [5 and 4]. If I'm Davis Love, I won't want to repeat that. I don't think Rickie thinks he's as good as Rory, and I know Rory thinks he's better than Rickie."
AMERICAN TAKES: "You can pair him with anyone, but you look at his Ryder Cup record and it's like his career: good, but not many wins." . . . "Everybody likes him and everyone wants to be his partner, but he's clearly struggling a little bit. If he falls out on points, would you pick him? Probably. But you'd want to see some better form." . . . "Maybe he's too nice at times. I mean, you want the tour full of guys like Rickie Fowler, but does his personality get in the way of winning more?" . . . "A hell of a player. He used to putt it great, and then he goes cross-hand—clearly there's an issue there.". . . "He can't play from the rough like D.J. or Jason Day, so if he's missing fairways, he might hit the green, but he won't hit it close." . . . "This won't be a popular theory: The guy is a marketing genius with social media, but he seems more worried about that stuff instead of dialing in his game. He's insanely talented, but turn off the social media and just concentrate on golf."
● ● ●
Jim Furyk (10-20-4)
AMERICAN TAKES: "He calculates everything that he does, which is why what happened to him at Olympic [2012 U.S. Open] was shocking."... "He's been in every situation imaginable."
EUROPEAN TAKE: "For someone as good as he is, his record in the Ryder Cup is relatively poor. The obvious reason for that is his putting. Playing against Jim, you always feel like you've got a chance. He's liable to miss a short one just about any time. In foursomes, that must inhibit his partner—you can't have a go at any putt because you don't want to leave Jim the six-footer coming back."
● ● ●
Bill Haas (0-0-0)
AMERICAN TAKES: "You wonder why he doesn't come up big more often for as good as he is. What's holding him back might be just trying too hard. He drives the ball well, putts the ball well, good iron player, but just doesn't play at a high level as much as you think he should."
● ● ●
J.B. Holmes (2-0-1)
EUROPEAN TAKE: "If there is a worse lag putter in the game, I've yet to see him. I certainly wouldn't want him as a foursomes partner."
● ● ●
Billy Horschel (0-0-0)
AMERICAN TAKE: "He's the American version of Poulter. He acts as if every bad break is a personal insult."
● ● ●
Dustin Johnson (4-3-0)
EUROPEAN TAKE: "He's really poor from the sand, especially the soft, delicate ones. No bargain on chips, either. But his bunker play is where it shows up most. Look at how he imploded at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open. His problems all started around the greens, trying to add loft for that required height."
AMERICAN TAKES: "For what he did at Oakmont, maybe he just fooled us all. People thought he wasn't tough enough or too lackadaisical or too distracted, but to go through all of that and get it done, he's probably smarter and tougher than we think." ... "About the only guy who can really beat D.J. is D.J. Clearly the putter holds him back, because with his length he should be destroying everyone, but because of that he leaves the door open. He just doesn't make enough makable putts." ... "Tee to green he wears you out, but the more he gets it around the green, the more average he is."
● ● ●
Zach Johnson (6-6-2)
EUROPEAN TAKE: "Short off the tee, so you always have that advantage. And he can't hit it high enough because of his shut clubface. A long course that requires trajectory to firm greens is really not his thing. He likes firm fairways because that gives him some run; he hates firm greens because he can't stop the ball quickly enough. So if the pin is stuck behind a bunker, he has a hard time. His opponent will be hitting an 8-iron, and he'll be hitting 4-iron."
● ● ●
Brooks Koepka (0-0-0)
EUROPEAN TAKE: "I know he's worked hard on his putting stroke, to the point of revamping it completely. That still hasn't bedded in. So you can expect him to miss something in every round."
AMERICAN TAKES: "Experience is a question, but experience is probably overrated when our experience has been losing. He pairs up well with a lot of guys. He hits it 320 off the tee, keeps it in play. He's a decent putter. And he's hungry." ... "Talented and cocky, which is good in a Ryder Cup. Cocky can rub the guys on the other side the wrong way. He's a very nice guy, but he has this swagger to him. I like that he's one bad mother, and if he's paired with the right person, that can be distracting to opponents." ... "Great game, but still very much a work in progress. Kind of a one-tool player right now with his driving, but nothing else seems particularly great, and his game around the greens is below average." ... "He's a lot like Dustin in that he plays like he doesn't care a lot, which is actually an asset a lot of times."
● ● ●
Matt Kuchar (4-5-2)
AMERICAN TAKES: "He's the Joker from Batman. He smiles, but he'll kill you. If he hits it bad he has trouble scoring sometimes, but he doesn't hit it bad a lot. Mentally, he's a giant." ... "His demeanor and attitude is the one you'd want in every player." ... "He might be one of the most competitive guys on tour, but he doesn't show it. To be able to change his entire golf swing and come back, he's obviously a battler. He doesn't excite you, though, with his game." ... "He's simply not a great closer, and that suggests putting, because he plinks it down the middle of every fairway." ... "He does everything well, so the way you beat him is to outrun him and put pressure on him to make birdies. Under the gun, he doesn't seem like quite the same guy. That's not to say he can't handle pressure, but the steadiness goes away a little."
EUROPEAN TAKE: "He clearly doesn't have many weaknesses, other than he lacks some length off the tee. He's pretty neat and tidy everywhere, with one exception: He really isn't very good at what appear to be straightforward 20-to-30-yard chip shots. It looks to me like his brain disengages a little on those. Plus, you have to ultimately question his temperament when the pressure is at its highest. He's won over $35 million and never won a major. That leads me to believe something vital is missing."
● ● ●
Phil Mickelson (16-19-6)
EUROPEAN TAKES: "Massive questions off the tee, as we've seen many times over the years. His driving can be all over the place. He's more comfortable moving the ball left to right than right to left. His big weakness, though, is his stubbornness. Even when it's obvious he's driving poorly, he won't stop hitting driver. Which means cheap holes for the opposition." ... "He has always been more capable than any other world-class player of missing from incredibly short range. His stroke gets too long sometimes. The forward press gets too exaggerated. So he ends up making a 15-foot stroke on a three-footer. Then he decelerates through impact."
AMERICAN TAKES: "He's great at ribbing the other team. He can piss somebody off, and he likes it. He enjoys pissing the other team off." ... "Wish he wouldn't be giving Justin Rose a thumbs-up after Rose made that putt at Medinah. After the Tom Watson deal at Gleneagles, there's pressure on him. He's going to be asked about it, and his time is right around the corner as a captain." ... "He's got every shot you can imagine, but the easy shots, the ones right in front of him, he tends to screw up. When he focuses his brain, he can hit any shot. He almost overthinks every shot. So in the Ryder Cup, focusing like he does, he's tough." ... "He probably hits more poor wedge shots from 80 to 100 yards than anyone of his talent level. They're too easy for him, almost." ... "If he doesn't play in the Tiger Woods era, how many more wins does he have? He's probably in the top five all time. Where is he today? Still really talented, but there's a roller-coaster aspect because he still is so aggressive. So he's going to win and lose based on that roller-coaster ride."
Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
‘Even when it’s obvious he’s driving poorly, [Phil Mickelson] won’t stop hitting driver. Which means cheap holes for the opposition.’
● ● ●
Patrick Reed (3-0-1)
EUROPEAN TAKE: "On the surface there isn't a lot to pick on with Patrick, but his putter has gone cold this year. He relies on that a lot. He's neither a great nor a consistent ball-striker. Maybe he's worked on that and neglected his putting. But he's holing nothing this year. From six to 15 feet, he's having a horrible year. That, of course, is in his head. And don't think the other players haven't noticed."
AMERICAN TAKES: "He's a bulldog. He proved that at Gleneagles. Can't think of anyone who wants to win more in those head-to-head situations." ... "Killer instinct in match play. He's very passionate to the point of almost building up hate for the opponent. His swing is still a bit under construction, but it's coming along." ... "He's got everything going for him but his temperament, and once he gets that figured out, he'll be even better. That seems to work for him in the Ryder Cup, but it makes him a tough pairing, too, because he ain't easy." ... "Total mystery why he's not playing better. No one wants to draw him in singles, but his ball-striking has fallen off, and even with his bulldog mentality in match play, that's too much to overcome."
● ● ●
Webb Simpson (2-3-1)
AMERICAN TAKES: "It depends on how he feels with his game that day, because he's been inconsistent. I think that all stems from switching from the belly putter. It's all he's ever known, and it has cost him some confidence."
● ● ●
Brandt Snedeker (1-2-0)
EUROPEAN TAKE: "His weakness is his driving. He's neither particularly straight or long. So he can be short and crooked. Under the ultimate pressure you have to doubt his ability to smash one down the middle when he really has to. And if he can't, his short-game strengths aren't going to come into play. Not sure I'd want him as a foursomes partner, which limits his usefulness to Davis Love."
● ● ●
Jordan Spieth (2-1-1)
EUROPEAN TAKES: "It's hard to question someone so obviously good, but Jordan's ball-striking is nothing like as good as those around him at the top of the World Ranking—nothing. There are people I know around the top of the game who call him 'the sclaffer; he can't hit it at all.' But he mis-hits straight, although he can lose it to the right, big-style. We've all seen that." ... "Yes, his putting is extraordinary, but when he stops holing 20 percent of his 20-footers—which no one has ever done for a sustained period—the question arises: Is he that good?" ... "The last Ryder Cup was interesting. He was well up on GMac [Graeme McDowell] early on, but there was always a sense that he was vulnerable, because he hits bad shots. GMac got at him [defeating Spieth, 2 and 1]. And Jordan succumbed to the pressure. In those situations, he's vulnerable. His head goes down. He gets frustrated, and he starts to call himself out. Given that, it's possible to get in his face. On the right day, that would get to him, and you could wind him up. All you have to do is wait for him to react." ..."When he won the Tour Championship last year, he played with Henrik [Stenson], who was shaking his head at the end. He had flushed it, and Jordan had hit the ball quite poorly. 'Quite poorly?' Henrik asked. 'He holed everything.' " ... "He relies on his putter to an unhealthy extent. His stats from tee to green are not that great, which means he can't ever dominate the game. Jason Day and Rory are both capable of being No. 1 for five years. Jordan just isn't. He cannot do what he does well for a long time. The greens are not that pure. You cannot hole that many putts. We'll find out how good he is when he stops doing that."
AMERICAN TAKES: "Best player in the game, but he's high maintenance. I think the way you beat him is to rattle [his caddie] Michael Greller, if that's even possible. Jordan wears him out." ... "Jordan knows this as well as anyone, but his iron play is fairly weak. He's squeezing it. He's squeezing it with the left hand coming down, and with that bent elbow it's leaving the clubface open. That says he's forcing it, and he's pressing just a little, maybe playing with a little more anxiety than a year ago." ... "He's been one of the best players in the world for a few years now, but sometimes you wonder about his attitude. What we see on TV takes away from how good he is. That's not fair to him because he has every camera and microphone on him, but the way he comes across is a bit whiny. He's too talented for any of that."
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
‘You cannot hole that many putts. We’ll find out how good [Jordan Spieth] is when he stops doing that.’
● ● ●
Jimmy Walker (1-1-3)
AMERICAN TAKES: "I don't know what's going on there. He's too talented to have this recent drop-off. He's having trouble getting into the mix. He works hard, but he's not getting the results." ... "Great short game, but everything depends on his tee ball. He can be wild off the tee. When he finds fairways, he's ridiculously good." ... "He stopped winning when he put lighter shafts in his irons. I don't know why he did that, but his iron play has become very erratic, and he isn't the straightest driver. That combination puts a lot of pressure on his putter."
INTERNATIONAL TAKE: "Jimmy would be tough to play match play against. He's a great driver and a good putter. And a nice guy. It's hard to dislike him. Maybe the only chink is that he can miss it right sometimes with the driver."
● ● ●
Bubba Watson (3-8-0)
EUROPEAN TAKES: "His head is his weakness. He talks a lot about 'energy levels.' He has to feel energized to perform. And because of his personality, he finds that difficult to do. In a Ryder Cup, where you play multiple matches in a short period and there's a lot of pressure, you can see him getting mentally fatigued quite quickly. And so his performance level drops off." ... "His driving is long but wild. So there is always the potential for him to hand a hole to his opponent. He can go out and beat you, 5 and 4, but you could do the same to him. I wonder how much fight he has in him when he's 2 down after five. Is he coming back? Probably not. He'll more than likely fold up." ... "He's easily upset, too. The crowd can get to him. He doesn't like being touched. So he has so much vulnerability."
AMERICAN TAKE: "If he's into it, if he loves the golf course, he isn't easy to beat, but the question is, can you get him into it? Attitude is everything with Bubba, because he has all the shots. If I'm Europe, I'm pointing out all the trouble at Hazeltine and letting Bubba chew on that."
OBSERVATIONS ON EUROPEAN CANDIDATES
● ● ●
Rafael Cabrera Bello (0-0-0)
EUROPEAN TAKES: "He's improved a bit this year, as his results show, but his chipping is really dodgy. Under Ryder Cup pressure, I can see him falling apart when he misses a green. Would be surprised to see him playing foursomes for that reason. The pressure on his partner to hit the greens and not have him chip would be too much to ask of anyone." ... "He's all right on the flop shot, or anything where there's some grass under the ball. But give him a tight lie, and he's always going to struggle. A bit of that is technical—he gets the club too much to the inside going back—but a lot of it is mental. He had a period maybe a year ago when he had what looked like the yips. He was dreadful. He duffed so many straightforward shots from tight lies where he couldn't get the club under the ball. But he has been better this year."
● ● ●
Jamie Donaldson (3-1-0)
EUROPEAN TAKE: "He's struggling with his swing. He has a mechanical issue that he and his coach can't seem to fix. It leads to a hook more often than not. Sometimes a block to the right. And he can't stop it. And he's waiting for it to happen. Which is no good."
● ● ●
Victor Dubuisson (2-0-1)
EUROPEAN TAKE: "For this guy, golf is all about mental engagement. Is he in the mood or not? If he makes the team, he'll need to be treated differently. No obvious weaknesses in his game. But get him at the right time, and he won't exactly be battling. He's well capable of giving up. He walked off in China earlier this year for no reason other than he didn't fancy it. So he just went. If he's not in the mood, he's just not in the mood."
● ● ●
Matt Fitzpatrick (0-0-0)
EUROPEAN TAKES: "He's solid enough, but not really that good at anything. Whenever I play with him I always think I'm better than he is. Nothing impresses that much. I suspect the Americans will feel the same way." ... "For me, he's not quite ready for the Ryder Cup. He claims his swing is 'a work in progress.' To me, that means he's struggling with changes."
● ● ●
Sergio Garcia (18-9-5)
AMERICAN TAKES: "More than any of their guys, Sergio likes to mess with you. He likes to play little b.s. games, and he's comfortable winning playing those b.s. games if he can't beat you with his clubs. It's totally chickenshit, and you have to give it right back to him or ignore him. And if you do give it back to him, it can affect him." ..."You can get in his head the easiest, but he still seems tough in the Ryder Cup. If you really wanted to try to rattle him, make him putt everything." ... "If you need to have the last point of the Ryder Cup, you'd want to see Sergio playing for their side." ... "Sergio isn't a choker, but has he ever made a putt in a major when it really counted at the end? That's why you feel like he can be beaten." ... "He can go dark, and his body language is going to tell you a lot about where his head is at. And if that happens, then you have the opening to try to put him away because he might have checked out. He can go haywire in the head, yeah."
EUROPEAN TAKE: "Sergio is so streaky on the greens. Sometimes he actually looks OK. And his stats are better inside eight feet. But he doesn't win nearly as often as he should. And that can only be because of his putting. He stands up there just not believing they're going to go in, an attitude that soon becomes clear to an opponent. Having said that, he has holed some terrific putts in the Ryder Cup. But look what Anthony Kim did to him at Valhalla. Sergio was putting poorly, and armed with that knowledge, Kim hammered him [5 and 4]."
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
‘[Sergio Garcia] likes to play little B.S. games, and he’s comfortable winning playing those B.S. games if he can’t beat you with his clubs.’
● ● ●
Martin Kaymer (4-3-3)
EUROPEAN TAKES: "Martin has the heebie-jeebies on his chipping. He can play the flop shot, but he has trouble with relatively straightforward chips from tight lies. It started with slightly dodgy mechanics, and it has developed into a full-blown mental problem." ... "He tends to get the club coming into the ball on a bad angle. He tends to move his body forward and gets a bit steeper. Then he starts 'scooping' with his hands to create loft. Generally it's that lack of loft that leads to problems for most people." ... "The irony is that he is starting to look really good again from tee to green. And his putting is warming up. But he has to resolve his chipping problem. I see him standing there trying to hit the wrong shot because he just doesn't have the right shot." . . . "All of which makes him difficult to use in a foursomes match. But he is such an asset in every other way. If he can get his mechanics better, the confidence might return."
AMERICAN TAKES: "You'd want him not driving it well, but he's obviously incredibly solid when he's on." ... "I'd like to see him get tied up with all the angles and swing planes while he's trying to deal with Ryder Cup pressure. The angles get off, and who knows?"
● ● ●
Soren Kjeldsen (0-0-0)
EUROPEAN TAKES: "His game is built on accuracy, consistency and his ability from 100 yards in. He'll make a good foursomes partner, but length is a problem. He simply can't hit it high enough or long enough to compete on some holes. But he won't go away. He's a determined little sod." ... "He's very cautious. When there is, say, water up the left, he'll play way right to avoid it. Even to the extent that he'll hit into the rough on the right and maybe not be able to reach the green. He doesn't seem to trust himself as much as he should. So on really tough holes, he's suspect."
● ● ●
Shane Lowry (0-0-0)
EUROPEAN TAKE: "He has one of the best short games on the planet, so you can never quite count him out of any hole. He has beautiful soft hands and a great rhythm on the short shots. He is, however, a little hot and cold with the putter. And, for such a great driver, his iron play is really not that good. He just doesn't hit it close that often, despite playing from the fairway so much."
● ● ●
Graeme McDowell (8-5-2)
AMERICAN TAKES: "He might be the weakest player they have. He could rise to the occasion in the Ryder Cup, but does any part of his game really impress you at the moment?" ... "Yeah, he doesn't have a great swing, and he's inconsistent, but he's so strong mentally that it's almost irrelevant how he's hitting it. He could snap-hook his first three drives, and he'll hang in there and find a way to stay in a match. But his driving is the weakest part of his game."
EUROPEAN TAKES: "His technique is not great; never has been. He has the left-wrist issue that closes the clubface. He has done so well to become a world-class player with that going on. Especially if you haven't got Dustin Johnson's power and athleticism—and Graeme doesn't—you're going to struggle. Dustin basically takes his hands out of it and uses his body. But Graeme isn't strong enough to do that. Not to the same extent, anyway." ... "For those reasons, Graeme is vulnerable on a big, long, soft course where you need to flight your shots high." ... "GMac's biggest weakness is his chipping from tight lies. Over a bunker to a tight flag is his worst nightmare. It's not pretty. He gets the clubface closed. He gets his left wrist bowed. So he hasn't got enough loft on the club to play a delicate shot. Because the clubface is shut through impact, he isn't able to use the bounce on the club." . . . "You can see it on his face when he has a chip he doesn't fancy much. He long ago accepted he can't play those properly. He can duff it. He can skull it across the green. To add the loft he needs, he ends up 'scooping.' And when you do that, you can hit it fat or thin."
● ● ●
Rory McIlroy (6-4-4)
EUROPEAN TAKES: "Rory is interesting. Sometimes he doesn't focus properly on straightforward chips. When that happens, he just isn't engaged by the shot. So he makes a basic error and doesn't get it up and down. He plays the awkward ones very well. So it's not mechanical, it's mental." ... "Rory is prone to a 'flip' off the tee that goes left or a big push that goes right. It all revolves around his takeaway. His tendency is to get the club going back on the wrong track, which means he has to manipulate something through impact. Traditionally he takes it away on the outside, then drops it on the inside. But I talked to his coach, Michael Bannon, and he had actually gotten into the habit of rolling the club too much to the inside going back. Most people would then come 'over the top,' but he doesn't. He gets more 'underneath,' which is even worse." ... "There are times when Rory is going to give opponents some hope off the tee. He hits it so far that when he's even a little off, he can be wild. Other times, of course, he's likely to win a match just with his driving." ... "Rory's putting is an issue. He misses a lot of opportunities. So he's nearly always going to give encouragement to an opponent. If I was playing him, I wouldn't be conceding many short ones. He's likely to miss at any time from under four feet."
AMERICAN TAKES: "Did he figure out his putting? Because if he did, then he doesn't have to rely on driver as much. But even that isn't a weakness per se. He's won four majors, so he's not going to give you many openings." . . . "The thing you want to see is that driver going all over the place. If he's off, you need to start walking ahead of him and give him something to look at as he's walking to his ball." ..."The thing about playing Rory is, you can't get overly impressed with his physical abilities. Just ignore the 300-yard drives or you're going to start thinking, How am I going to beat this guy?" . . . "The way to beat Rory is to tell him to show up three hours early with a good night's sleep."
Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America via Getty Images
‘If I was playing [Rory McIlroy], I wouldn’t be conceding many short ones. He’s likely to miss at any time from under four feet.’
● ● ●
Thorbjorn Olesen (0-0-0)
EUROPEAN TAKE: "Another player whose strength is tee to green. If I was Darren [Clarke], I'd be looking at how many guys I have whose relative weakness is putting. Olesen is a winner when he gets in position. He just doesn't do that very often. So more days than not, he's going to lose to a really good player. He's so inconsistent."
● ● ●
Thomas Pieters (0-0-0)
EUROPEAN TAKE: "He's a blaster. Hits it miles but has little feel for the in-between shots. So if he's not hitting from a good number, he struggles. Not too keen on windy days, either. Not sure he's got all the shots yet. Manufacturing something in a difficult situation is not his forte."
● ● ●
Justin Rose (9-3-2)
AMERICAN TAKES: "Like a lot of their guys, his swing is good, but he isn't a great putter. Actually, he is a very streaky putter, and like a lot of their team, he gets streaky good every other year in the fall." ... "You have to beat him. He's not going to give you anything, because he hits the ball so solidly. He's going to give himself 14 to 15 holes where he's looking at birdie. He isn't going to give you many holes. Now, I think he can be a little whiny. You'd want to see a little anxiety in his attitude. Then you know there might be an opening."
EUROPEAN TAKES: "Like Henrik—his partner at the last Ryder Cup—the clear weakness is his putting. He's trying all these strange grips, which suggests he's searching. And that is just what the opponent wants to see." ... "His play on the greens makes him very beatable. His average putting is OK, but his poor putting is really, really bad. On the wrong/right day just about anyone on the U.S. team could take him out."
● ● ●
Henrik Stenson (5-4-2)
AMERICAN TAKES: "Another great swing, but does he always stand up to the pressure? He hits it so good. He's so strong. He doesn't consistently make as many putts as some of the other top players, but if he's hitting it well, he doesn't have to." ... "He can beat you with his ball-striking, but if he has that day where nothing is going in, he can get frustrated and then that might seep back into the rest of his game."
EUROPEAN TAKES: "The obvious weakness with Henrik is his putting. But even there, when he's good, he's really good. His mechanics are actually really sound. So it has to be mental. On days when he's off, he seems to lose confidence quite quickly, especially from inside 10 feet. I wouldn't give him many putts. In match play that's all potentially disastrous." ... "This isn't a massive weakness, but Henrik is not great when he has to hit something other than a full wedge. For him, that's about 150 yards. So anything between 140 and 70 yards is awkward for him. He doesn't make a lot of birdies from that sort of range. He bombs it down a short par 4 to what should be birdie territory and too often doesn't get it done."
● ● ●
Andy Sullivan (0-0-0)
EUROPEAN TAKES: "Like [Danny] Willett, he's way better when a fade is the shot. He calls it his 'lemonade'—rhyming slang for 'little fade.' He doesn't make many birdies to left-hand pins or on right-to-left doglegs. He's just not comfortable with either." ... "He and Willett will never be partners at the Ryder Cup. They really don't like each other. Goes back to their amateur days, apparently. So I would think Darren will keep them well apart."
● ● ●
Lee Westwood (20-15-6)
EUROPEAN TAKES: "The tempo of his putting stroke is sometimes dodgy. When it's not going well, his stroke looks long and slow, followed by a staccato hit. Then when he tries to get more fluid, it tends to get short and quick. But his biggest fault is that he hits too many putts off the toe of the club. When he does that, the ball comes off a little dead. That leads to poor distance control. And that puts pressure on his short putt-ing. There isn't much point in working on rhythm and flow when you don't have a constant hit. That leads to so many misses. And so much encouragement for the other guy." ... "Lee's chipping and pitching are not good. Everyone knows that. It's more mental than physical. But the tilt in his full swing—that is compensated for by his bent left arm at impact—is a problem when the shorter swing doesn't give him time to recover from a loss of height on the backswing." ... "He's particularly unhappy chipping and pitching from tight lies. But happier when there's grass under the ball."
AMERICAN TAKE: "Doubt he makes the team. They already seem weak with the putter, and we know he won't help them with that."
Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images
‘[Lee Westwood’s] chipping and pitching are not good. Everyone knows that. It’s more mental than physical.’
● ● ●
Danny Willett (0-0-0)
AMERICAN TAKE: "He's solid, but he isn't intimidating. He just does everything to a pretty high level."
EUROPEAN TAKES: "There has never been much bad to say about his full swing, but the Danny of maybe two years ago was prone to the odd duffed pitch or chip. We haven't seen so much of that lately, but I wouldn't be surprised to see that weakness reappear on days when he is not playing at his best." ... "He doesn't have any obvious weakness, but he likes to move the ball left to right. That's his stock shot. He can hit a draw, but he's not particularly comfortable doing so. A flag hard left or a right-to-left dogleg can give him trouble."