The Ryder Cup began today with the first group of foursomes teeing off at 7:20 a.m. In the week or so just ended, the golf press has been filled with speculation about pairings and debate over which team is the stronger of the two. That speculation and debate attempts to divine meaning from statistics, historical Cup performance and course set-up in order to predict the winner. Inevitably too, the lead up to The Cup included the biannually-regurgitated theory that the reason the Euros have won so many of the recent Ryder Cups past is because of their camaraderie and team unity.
While all that is of interest to Ryder Cup fans and golf junkies like me, in the end I really don’t care. I don’t care because the Ryder Cup always seems to come down to putting. The team that putts best wins. And why wouldn’t that be the case? The 24 golfers assembled at Medinah Country Club are among the best in the world, featuring 9 of the top 10 and 17 of the top 20. The second worst Official World Ranking among all 24 is Martin Kaymer, a Major champion and former world #1. So you’ll forgive me when I place little credence in speculation about team unity, desire and other nebulous concepts, particularly the stuff about ball-striking. While there’s a difference even among these guys in pure ball-striking ability—give me Tiger or Rory any day versus Ian Poulter in that category—such, as we might note from Tiger’s 13-14-2 Cup record versus Poulter’s of 8-3-0, doesn’t necessarily translate to Ryder Cup success.
Poulter is known for his love of this competition, and he seems to elevate his game accordingly. That said, I’d still take Tiger and a 2 up spread to win a Sunday singles match against Ian. There’s only so often a player can drink from the motivational well before it runs dry. Will that be this year for Poulter? Who knows? He may romp to 5 points for all I can tell. And that’s the point. We just don’t know…and it’s why we watch.
So instead of contributing to the refuse that is the vast majority of all golf speculation, I thought I’d offer up something a bit different with my pre-Ryder Cup ramblings. In thinking about the makeup of these two teams, I found myself gravitating toward a number of Euros. They seem to have a lot of fun, so I thought it would be entertaining to delve into their backgrounds and dig up a bit of interesting personal information. Once I decided on that direction for this post, I thought I’d include tidbits on the US team, as well.
I reviewed the official Ryder Cup web site, player websites, PGA Tour and European PGA Tour sites in an effort to glean whatever interesting factoids might exist regarding these players. While my search was not exhaustive, I really did try to lift the cloak of celebrity and uncover the real men of the Ryder Cup, version 2012. The results were…disappointing. I shouldn’t have been surprised, really. After all, the best golfers in the world are professional athletes, who, having dedicated their lives to becoming the best at that one thing are, apparently, not much interested in other things, except things that can be purchased with wads of cash.
I was particularly disheartened by the Euros. As I said, they seem like they’d be fun, and I suppose they are…they’re just not interesting…at all, unless you find a love of video games and “football” interesting. Maybe this is just the celebrity effect—the need not to reveal too much. Nonetheless, it’s a bit disappointing to find that the athletes we revere are pretty ordinary, and even a tad bit uninteresting.
I’ve seen Graeme McDowell do a number of interviews and I’ve watched him on Feherty and Golf Channel’s Morning Drive. He seems a thoughtful and interesting guy. Yet his Tour Bio and official website reveal nothing of the man. His own website lists his off course past times as “hanging out with friends.” Wow! Who knew?
Strangely, Tiger Woods had the most personal information of anyone on his website. For instance, I learned that Tiger sets his alarm for 5 a.m. He likes to scuba dive, and when he wants to get away, he goes underwater and shoots fish with a spear gun. I said he had the most, not the most interesting personal details. Tiger also has the most unintentionally hilarious bit of personal information. According to his site, his biggest personal challenge is “to become a better person tomorrow.” Today would apparently be out of the question.
Phil: Phil Mickelson’s on line Bio is the equivalent length of a novella, but there’s very little personal information of interest beyond the fact that he ran away from home at age 3 ½ to go to the golf course. I believe he was accompanied by Babe, the giant blue ox. Seriously, there is some insight here, that being that Phil’s mom was really inattentive. Phil also has a section entitled “Did You Know” populated by Phil’s many golfing accomplishments. I wanted to reply, “Why, yes. Yes I did know.”
Sneds: Brandt Snedeker lists his favorite food as French fries. Not so interesting you say? Well, I applaud a modern day athlete who publicly declares the deliciousness of food that’s bad for you. That takes courage. Michelle Obama and the food police may come knocking…It could happen.
Jason Dufner: The only guy for whom I truly found interesting information I didn’t already know. For instance, Duf was an Economics major in college and reads biographies to learn the habits of successful people. He also prepared for the Tour by reading a book about Russian weightlifters. How does that prepare one for the Tour you ask? Who cares? At least it does reveal something beyond a love of SEC football. That’s cool.
Bubba: Watson suffers a bit from over exposure in the media, so I’ll admit it’s hard to find stuff we don’t know. On the other hand, his website is full of banalities. The most interesting thing on it is the fact that his wife is 6’4” and he is 6’3” tall.
Mat Kuchar: He was an outstanding junior tennis player and married his college sweetheart who was a tennis star for Georgia Tech. He absolutely thrashed Phil in ping pong at previous Ryder and President’s Cups to the extent that Phil will no longer play him at the Ryder cup until Sunday, lest he remember he’s fallible. I bet Kooch’s kids will be really good at video games.
Steve Stricker: This year’s Payne Stewart Award winner is widely known as one of the nicest guys on Tour. He’s so nice that he didn’t even complain when the folks in charge of the John Deere Classic created a bobble head for him this year…with brown hair…that looks suspiciously like Rory McIlroy.
DJ: Dustin Johnson’s website hasn’t been updated for 2 years and when I went to the “contact us” tab to alert whoever “us” might be, I received an error message. Seems fitting for the guy who lost the PGA Championship by grounding his club in a bunker that he claimed not to know was a bunker after being told it was a bunker.
Jim Furyk: I got nothing.
Webb Simpson: He was born in Raleigh, NC. His brother’s name is Evander Samuel Simpson IV. His wife’s maiden name was Taylor Dowd Keith. There’s no mention of how he overcame a hardscrabble upbringing, although he was once caught wearing an inappropriate tie to cotillion.
Rory: This is his 3rd Ryder Cup, if you count his Junior Ryder Cup appearance in…2004. You are free to feel very old. Not surprisingly, he likes to play video games. There are 89 players, or former players, listed on the European PGA Tour website with a surname beginning with “Mc.” He weighs 11 stone, 6lbs.
Ian Poulter: He is, literally, a colorful guy, so I thought his website would be full of provocative stuff. Nope. It features his car collection and his love of fashion. He turned pro while sporting a 5 handicap. His website is, like the man himself, visually appealing but lacking in any discernible substance. Despite this, I really like Poulter. Intending to compliment Poulter’s amazing ability to play lights out when the pressure is greatest, an anonymous pro once said the great thing about Ian is, “he actually thinks he’s good.” I’m fond of overachievers.
Paul Lawrie: The official Ryder Cup site refers to him as “a true renaissance man” without further elaboration, leaving us to guess Lawrie’s other skills. I’m assuming they weren’t referring to his love of the Aberdeen Football Club and cars, his listed interests in his official Bio. It also mentions that Lawrie was named the 37th most powerful person in British Golf in 2012. Do you get a plaque for that? Perhaps that honor allows you to jump the line at The Old Course Sunday Buffet.
Nicolas Colsaerts: The only Belgian on the team, he was ranked a lowly 1305th in the world as recently as 2009. He admits to being a “lover of house music.” I will admit to having to Google that term in order to discover it refers to dance music characterized by repetitive beats and rhythms centered on drum machines and synthesizers. Another way of describing it is “horrible music.” I’d suggest Nic get a new publicist.
Luke Donald: Most everyone knows he’s an artist—like an actual artist with real paint and stuff. But did you know he earned a degree in Art Theory and Practice from Northwestern University? You did? Well, he lives in Evanston, Illinois.
Martin Kaymer: Likes go carts.
Justin Rose: The European Steve Stricker, he simply appears to be--the proper English gentleman. He broke 70 for the first time at age 11. That’s pretty good.
Lee Westwood: I really like Lee Westwood, but he discloses very little about himself anywhere. I know his dad was a math teacher, which leads me to a theory, totally unsubstantiated by anything other than assumption, that his short game suffers because he’s too analytical. In short, he’d be better if he were dumber.
Francesco Molinari: He’s widely acknowledged to be the better player between him and his older brother, Edoardo. That can’t be comfortable.
Peter Hanson: “Who is Peter Hanson?” is the question to the following Jeopardy answer: Well known among his fellow competitors, this professional golfer and European Ryder Cup team member is known as “the Most Uninteresting Man in the World.” The PGA Tour Media guide has nothing, the European Tour site has nothing, and the Ryder Cup site has nothing. Even Wikipedia has no information of a personal nature on this guy. He’s the Swedish enigma wrapped in a riddle. I love it. He either couldn’t be bothered to list anything under “interests” or he’s on the lamb and living under a false identity. I’m going with the latter. That’s interesting.
Ok, kids, that’s it for my Ryder Cup preview. If you found it a bit dull, well, imagine how tedious it was to write. In the end, there is one revealing thing of note. Professional golfers appear to be fairly ordinary guys who do one thing extraordinarily well. Root for them, but don’t idolize them.