Ryder Cup Countdown — the 2018 Pre-Tournament Superlatives
I graduated from high school ten years ago (hey now, Sailors!) and every so often, my friends and I will pull out the old Scituate High yearbook and take a stroll through some of the weirder times in our lives. It’s a terrific way to dredge up old, half-forgotten memories, and also functions as kind of the social equivalent of the @OldTakesExposed account.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can look back and pronounce some definitive judgments. For instance, the semi-bowl cut was doing me no favors back in 2008, nor were the semi-deep Caddyshack references.
But the best parts of old yearbooks are the superlatives. I wasn’t on the yearbook committee, so I’m not sure what kind of secret Opus Dei-style rituals were performed in order to determine the winners of the superlatives, but we had some supremely accurate prognostications and a few that went decidedly southward. Such is the nature of giving out titles and awards at such an early stage — there’s no way to know if your picks will pan out to be startlingly correct or dead wrong.
With that said, I’m here to bestow some superlatives on the competitors in this 2018 Ryder Cup before a ball has even been struck. Why? Well, I’m excited for the tournament, making predictions is fun, and this way I get to go back after all is said and done and find out just how idiotic I sounded in the week leading up to the event.
So here we go! Some of these are real categories that I pulled from my yearbook, and some aren’t. See if you can guess which are which.
Most Likely to Succeed
Could it really be anyone else? Fresh off his 80th PGA Tour win, where he went four rounds against the 30 best players in the world and left everyone in the dust, the GOAT is firmly out of the barn and once again has the run of the farm. He’s been playing superb golf for the past two months, he’s fired up to compete on this stage after his star turn as an assistant captain in 2016, and he finally seems to be able to trust his body and swing again. The consensus is that Tiger will play only three matches, one per day, and most folks agree that his partner will be human artillery shell Patrick Reed. I literally think they might take some Euros down 9&8.
I hate to start with two Americans, never mind the two most famous ones, especially since British humor is really my jam. But you can’t discount over two decades of widely publicized goofs, practical jokes, and pranks pulled by this wiley vet. He’s well-known as one of the more gregarious players on tour, and not averse to pulling a stunt that actually might jeopardize his own shot in a competition, as recounted in this anecdote from Bones Mackay (start at 51:45).
Do You Even Go Here?
Referring to the classic scene in 2004’s seminal comedy Mean Girls, the Do You Even Go Here? Award goes to the Danish Thunder Bear, Thorbjorn Olesen. Though he definitely deserves a spot on the Ryder Cup All-Name Team, Olesen will likely come in as the name that the fewest golf fans have heard of on either side, as even Tyrrell Hatton climbed into the top 15 in the world earlier this year. Although golf fans are sure to know more about Olesen after the event, as it seems like he might be thrown into a high-profile pairing with fellow diminutive bomber Rory McIlroy.
I don’t know what it is, but something about that tall Nordic physique, those wraparound shades, and the many varieties of pec-enhancing Hugo Boss polos that Stenson sports combine to create a model of golfing fashion.
Phil is racking up the superlatives, and with good reason. I would say that no self-respecting professional golfer would wear such a thing, but I think Phil has such an unshakable sense of self confidence and ego that he actually transcends the idea of self confidence. Others receiving votes include Rickie Fowler (joggers), Tommy Fleetwood (this monstrosity), Bubba Watson (fully buttoned collars), Ian Poulter (multiple offenses), Patrick Reed’s wife (yikes), and anyone who wears a blade collar.
The Adam Morrison/Opus Dei Award for Most Emotional
Tyrrell Hatton is Britain’s answer to Spencer Levin. Not much else needs to be said.
Let’s just say that the reason Paulina deleted all her Instagram photos with DJ may bear some similarities to a situation that ol’ Dusty may have allegedly gotten himself into several times before, including in the run-up to that so-called slip and fall he had prior to last year’s Masters. Right. Moving on.
According to everything I’ve been seeing, along with the years of matches these two have played, I’m assuming that Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson will be paired together. This is great for Henrik, as J-Rose is one of the best and most in-form golfers on the planet, while Stenson may as well have been playing golf in the Arctic Circle for the past year. If Rose can drag his longtime teammate to a few points, the Swede owes the Englishman a large Christmas gift.
Physics major. Next question.
Back to back!
No, actually, I take issue with people calling Bryson “The Artist.” His approach is extremely physics-based and he has barely any touch around the greens. Artistic golf, to me, means that you can go out with a set of borrowed clubs on a course with no distance markers and rip it up. I shudder to think of the complaints and meltdowns that would result from Bryson playing without exact yardages and his customized single-length irons. The real answer, as much as it pains me:
Bubba Watson might have the best hand-eye coordination in golf history. This dude couldn’t repeat a swing if you broke it down like a Tom Emanski Defensive Drills video (“One! Two! Three!”), but he’s got two majors, a host of PGA Tour wins, and enough control and power in that lanky frame to make a golf ball do just about whatever he wants it to do off the clubface.
Best Date to Take Home to Your Parents
“Hi, I’m Alex. Yeah, I guess you could say I work out. How old? Oh, I’m 36, but I think I could still take your brother in wrestling even though he was All-American at Oklahoma State two years ago. What’s that? Your dad builds houses? Then I bet he’ll love to hear about the log cabin I built for myself in the backwoods of Sweden. Also, here’s a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates for your mom — I couldn’t decide which to get, so I just decided on both. You know, because I’m worth an approachable yet still extremely respectable $13 million, so I had some extra pocket change.”
This was a real superlative in my high school, which is kind of weird looking back on it. Anyway, I hate to do this to the guy, but he literally ranks second to last on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy and sports a -0.189 SG: Off the Tee mark. Plus, in the podcast linked above, Bones was driving Phil to the course, making me think that Phil doesn’t do much driving himself. Practice makes perfect.
I know most people will see this and think I’m crazy. Ian Poulter is a stone-cold Ryder Cup killer with a 12–4–2 record, good for best all time among players with more than 15 matches, and Patrick Reed is a cross between a bald eagle and the Terminator T-1000 when it comes to international competition. But, weirdly, I have the most faith in Brooks Koepka, a man who has only played in one Ryder Cup.
Lest we forget, Koepka won two majors this year, captured the PGA Player of the Year Award, and snatched what was left of Danny Willett’s soul at the 2016 Ryder Cup (taking him down by the same 5&4 margin in Friday fourballs and Sunday singles). His epic shank from the rough served only to underscore the quality of his play. Plus, he’s coming in under the radar, with a chip on his shoulder larger than his rugged chin. The guy is more unflappable than DJ, and perhaps more talented as well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him come out of Le Golf National as the leading point winner for the U.S.
Was this a real superlative in my high school?
Was this an excuse to post GIFs of Reed and Rory at Hazeltine?
Biggest Social Butterfly
A trifecta of superlatives for Lefty.
Class Corey and Topanga
I’m just throwing this in at the end since it was an unofficial superlative in our high school newspaper, won by yours truly and my now wife.
In Ryder Cup terms, it’s been the dynamic duo of Reed/Spieth for the past two events, but things may very well be changing now that a certain big cat is on the prowl, so I’ll give it to these two quiet assassins.
I’m so ready for this Ryder Cup.