Ryder Cup Review — Superlative Report Card
Before the Ryder Cup, I made a list of superlatives, a very high school-inspired thing that you can read about here. So it’s only fair that I grade my picks using another school-inspired method — the report card. My original comments are under the photos in italics, with my post-event comments below those. Here we go.
Most Likely to Succeed — Grade F
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.
Well this started off with a bang. In fairness, nothing I wrote below is completely ludicrous (aside from the 9&8 thing, which was hyperbolic anyway). But it’s a clear example of my admitted American bias, which will become a trend. The obvious winner here: Francesco Molinari.
Funniest — Grade B-
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).
Hard to be funny when you’re getting your butt handed to you, particularly when you can barely find the golf course, never mind the fairway. This award ought to have gone to a European at first anyway, since they’ve got the sort of dry wit and anything-goes candor that makes for fantastic humor. The winner here is whoever runs the European Ryder Cup Twitter account. Is there any chance we’d ever see this between JT and Spieth if the U.S. won?
Do You Even Go Here? — Grade A
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.
The final line ended up being true, and after Olesen and McIlroy were soundly thumped 4&2 by DJ and Rickie in singles, Olesen sat until Sunday. Whereupon he obviously returned to the course and executed Jordan Spieth 5&4. Still, Thorbjorn was the only European to play just one paired match, with Phil Mickelson the only American to do the same. As Phil is obviously the bigger name, Olesen was the pick here.
Best Dressed — Grade C+
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.
The Euros alternating dressing like blueberries and the University of Texas marching band, so I can’t in good conscience give them a best dressed award. This, though. This deserves it.
Worst Dressed — Grade C
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.
I couldn’t see into the future when putting together this post, and had to go on past performance. Obviously, there’s only so much one can do with a team-issued Ryder Cup uniform. And since none of the Euros managed to further sully their already questionable duds with any personal effects means I have to go outside the team room for this one. Behold:
The Adam Morrison/Opus Dei Award for Most Emotional — Grade C-
Tyrrell Hatton is Britain’s answer to Spencer Levin. Not much else needs to be said.
Hatton didn’t get enough screen time or play in enough high-emotion matches to really judge this properly. Justin Rose and his crouching fist pumps, Jon Rahm and his thunderously bouncy celebrations, and anything related to Tommy Fleetwood are likely the right answers here.
Class Flirt — Grade A
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 allegedlygotten 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.
With the alleged flare-up between these two on the plane on the way over, and also at the party on Sunday night, this take seems pretty spot-on. Koepka quickly defused those rumors in the aftermath of the Ryder Cup, but some new ones have cropped up in my Twitter mentions that solidify DJ’s alleged place in the pantheon of swordsmen.
Most Humanitarian — Grade D+
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.
Stenson and Rose won both of their foursomes matches, and Stenson went nuclear on Bubba in singles (5&4), so I send my sincerest apologies to the big Swede. The real answer here, according to my swift calculations, is Paul Casey, who made 11 birdies to Tyrrell Hatton’s six during the two fourballs that the pair played together.
Most Intelligent — Grade A
Physics major. Next question.
Most Artistic — Grade C+
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.
I stand by this on the American side, but Bubba didn’t show me too much during competition to bolster the argument. This shot alone gives Rory McIlroy the title:
Best Date to Take Home to Your Parents — Grade B+
“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.”
I stand by it. Your dad wouldn’t like Fleetwood’s hair and your mom would think you could do better than Molinari. He’s somewhat dumpy.
Best Doppelganger — Grade A+
Had to give myself the plus here.
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.
This was prophetic. Phil Mickelson couldn’t hit it into the Atlantic if he was standing on Omaha Beach. I’ll repeat a story I told in another post. My friends were at the event and texted me that they were on the 9th hole and had just nearly been hit by a Phil Mickelson drive. Only Phil wasn’t playing that session — he had blown one off the edge of the range and in amongst the spectators along the 9th.
Most Trustworthy — Grade B+
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.
I’m giving myself credit here, because Jim Furyk and I were on the same page. Koepka played three of the four team sessions and went out first in each one, then played second behind red-hot Justin Thomas in singles. Although he went 1–2–1, he was at least seen as a trustworthy option for the U.S. side.
As strange as it sounds, the winner for this category in the U.S. department is Webb Simpson. Of course, the real winner here is the Italian stallion, the Champion Golfer of the Year, the dart-slinger himself, Frankie Five-and-Oh, Francesco Molinari.
Most Dramatic — Grade A
Was this a real superlative in my high school?
Was this an excuse to post GIFs of Reed and Rory at Hazeltine?
After what Patrick, Justine, and Justine’s mom did this past week, I say we give this one to Team Reed as a whole.
Biggest Social Butterfly — Grade D+
A trifecta of superlatives for Lefty.
Phil only played one paired match, where he was head-scratchingly partnered with Bryson DeChambeau. The winner here is Rory McIlroy, who played with the law firm of Olesen, Garcia, Poulter, and Poulter across his four team matches.
Class Corey and Topanga — Grade C+
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.
Can there be any other choice?