Ryder Cup: My take on the pivotal moment might surprise you

This will be a short post because like most golf fans cheering for the USA, I am still shocked (or amazed) that the European team won the Ryder Cup.  The USA had a great lead going into Sunday (10 to 6).  Heading into the singles matches on Sunday the USA only needed 4 1/2 points to win and Europe needed 8 points to retain the cup.  Who would have thought Europe would get 8 points and win!

There will be many opinions as to what happened.  Some might say it is the fault of Ryder Cup veterans Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker (and Captain’s picks) because neither played their best.  Some might say it was because the pairing of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker did not win.  Others might say it was the fact so few of the American players could deliver in the singles matches.  However, that doesn’t seem fair to players like Jason Dufner (in my opinion, the MVP of the USA team) who did win.  I’m sure the debate will go on for days on the Golf Channel.

Since second-guessing is part of the fun of being a sports fan I decided to give it a shot.  Here is my take on what was the pivotal moment in the 3-day event.  It was not a particular match on the final day but a decision by Captain Davis Love III to sit down the hottest American pair on Saturday — Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson.  The reason I believe this is the pivotal moment is that the momentum changed Saturday afternoon.  Yes, you can give huge credit to the European player Ian Poulter who won a critical match on Saturday; but I think the fact Bradley and Mickelson were not playing was a huge mistake.  It was a mistake because the success of Bradley and Mickelson inspired the USA team and ignited the crowed.

During the TV interview (after winning the Saturday morning match) Mickelson said that “statistically” no golfer that played all 5 matches in the Ryder Cup played well in singles so don’t be surprised if they (Bradley and Mickelson) sit out Saturday afternoon.  In retrospect that would sound wise if Bradley and Mickelson had won their singles matches but they both lost (that’s two points).  If the hot team of Bradley and Michelson had played the 4-ball Saturday afternoon and won a point — that might have kept the momentum on the side of the USA.  You can argue that my view is simplistic but I do believe in momentum.  Not to mention the fact that all the golf pundits said, in post round discussion on Saturday night, that 11 points would have been “insurmountable.”

The MVP of the European team is Ian Poulter because he was the catalyst for the European team’s belief that they could still win.  Poulter’s play during the Saturday afternoon 4-ball match was amazing with five straight birdies to win his match and inspire his team.

Final words — Congratulations to the 2012 European Ryder Cup Team.

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Jason Dufner wins and gets a monkey off his back

Jason Dufner winning the Zurich Classic of New Orleans this weekend is a great example of finally getting a “monkey of your back.”  Why?  Because since the beginning of the golf season, Dufner had been labeled (by some golf analysts) as  “one of the best golfers who has not won a tournament.”

Dufner became a professional in 2000 and he has come close to winning.  One of the big heartbreaking moments was in August 2011, at the PGA Championship.  It looked like Dufner was going to win his first major because he had a five stroke lead with three holes to play.  Unfortunately for Dufner, Keegan Bradley played magnificently to tie Dufner and force a playoff.  Keegan beat Dufner on the third hole of the sudden-death playoff.

The media also started to focus on the fact that he would often times be leading going into the weekend but not be able to close.  No player wants to be viewed as someone who is not a closer.  This week, in New Orleans, Dufner had the lead on Sunday. The end of the tournament was a nail-biter but Jason won on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff with Ernie Els.  Another “Monkey off his back” — Dufner is a closer.

Now with these type of comments, from the media, you would expect to see some reaction for the player.  But not Jason Dunfer. He is the most laid-back, unemotional guy on tour.  Sure, maybe it would be nice to see a more animated reaction to good shots but his style is actually refreshing.  It is a nice contrast from the players that throw or break their clubs when they are angry or do excessive fist pumping when they make a good shot.

He did smile and raise his arms when he won but no major fist pumping or running around the green for Jason Dufner.  Below is a great cartoon tweeted by Steve Elkington from his website Secret In The Dirt (showing Dufner before and after the win).

Dufner CartoonTo me this is the greatest form of flattery. You can see more great golf cartoons at the Secret in the Dirt Cartoon Vault.

Let’s hope the quite, mild-manner Jason Dufner has many more great wins in the coming years.  And, although I’m a big fan of Keegan Bradley (after all he is from New England), I’ll be cheering for Dufner to win the 2012 PGA Championship.