News & ToursSeptember 20, 2008

What's at Stake Individually

LOUISVILLE--Besides playing for country and teammates, the pressure of the Ryder Cup is what it can do--good or bad--to individual reputations. Here's what the American competitors--in the order that they will go out in Sunday's conclusive singles matches--each have to win or lose.

Anthony Kim: His ongoing anointment as the next big thing would be furthered big time by beating Euro stud Sergio Garcia in the crucial first match but significantly retarded by a poor performance on top of a so-far uneven showing in Louisville.

__Hunter Mahan:__Putting and chipping have been the missing arrows in this top ballstriker's quiver, but he has made a lot of big putts so far and critical up-and-downs against Paul Casey will change his public--and self--image.

__Justin Leonard:__It's pretty much all gravy for arguably America's best player in Louisville. Leonard has proved he is back as the creative shotmaker who can keep up with the big hitters with flatstick genius. Beating Robert Karlsson would make the case emphatically, but only a blowout loss would seriously negate his gains.

Phil Mickelson: For all his brilliance, Mickelson still has a disturbing tendency toward the erratic and inconsistent. An authoritative win against Justin Rose would make it easier to consider him reliable in the clutch. A loss would widen the gap between Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

__Kenny Perry:__The native son has made this Ryder Cup the most important week of his career, and so far his play hasn't measured up. A singles win against the formidable Henrik Stenson in a U.S. victory would offer redemption. But a loss contributing to an American defeat would define Perry as a guy who missed his moment.

__Boo Weekley:__No golf tournament is important enough to rock this country boy's world. Weekley has enjoyed the spotlight and the camaraderie, but you get the feeling a loss to Oliver Wilson would only hurt for a couple of hours, though a win would only bring him the kind of attention he prefers to avoid.

J.B. Holmes: Known as a hit-or-miss bomber, a clutch win against Oliver Wilson--in tandem with some impressive shotmaking in the pairs competitions--would give Holmes some legitimate credentials toward "player" status. No one denies the young man has "star" physical ability. Sunday could help him prove that he has sufficient skill.

Jim Furyk: Mentally tough as he is, Furyk has shown some fragility with the putter in the last couple of years. A good win against Miguel Angel Jimenez that features good strokes in the clutch could be what Furyk needs to break out of his doldrums on the greens.

Stewart Cink: Candid about the self-doubt that at times has been a major obstacle in his career, Cink always seems to have more at stake in high-visibility pressure moments than other top players. He has handled most of them well in recent years, and his match against gritty Graeme McDowell gives him the opportunity to take another big psychological step forward.

Steve Stricker: Stricker has the kind of stable temperament and been-through-it-all veteran experience that can deal with a Ryder Cup Sunday as well as anyone on the American team. A victory over Ian Poulter would enhance his reputation as one of the best putters of the last decade. He would take a loss hard personally, but it wouldn't change the high opinion fans and fellow competitors have of Steve Stricker.

Ben Curtis: An underrated player who was on the verge gaining recognition for his steadiness and headiness coming into the Ryder Cup, Curtis has played poorly thus far. A win against Euro stalwart Lee Westwood would put Curtis back on the radar. A loss and he goes back to having to prove himself again.

Chad Campbell: Once considered the PGA Tour's next superstar, Campbell has developed a habit of disappearing at big moments. If the Ryder Cup comes down to him against Padraig Harrington, Campbell would never have a bigger one. A victory in that situation and he would be back among the elite. A loss, and more than ever he would be the man who couldn't step up.

*--Jaime Diaz

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