It's Ryder Cup time! And as always, we here at Devil Ball know exactly what's going to happen. Read on as Jay Busbee and Shane Bacon make their predictions for this weekend. Remember, these predictions should not be used as a basis for actual wagering -- unless you win, in which case we want our cut. Here we go ...
Which of the seven captain's picks will have the best week?
Bacon: Call me crazy, but I'm going Tiger Woods (cue the commenters calling me names). He is a match-play maestro, and he's due to have a big week at this event like he did last year at the Presidents Cup. My advice? Pair Tiger with Steve Stricker for the entire week, don't look back, and ride those ponies until they're 3-0-1.
Busbee: I'm not so sure Woods is headed for a big week, simply because the fans are going to be burrowing deep into his skull. Yes, the players and captains hope that the Celtic Manor crowd will be respectful, but this is the Ryder Cup. You're going to hear plenty of pithy quips and dry wit from this crowd ... and perhaps some hooligan-style rioting, too. Oh, wait, I was supposed to go with a captain's pick, wasn't I? So I'll say Zach Johnson. He'll have a fine week, and he won't change expression the entire time.
The worst week?
Bacon: I'm a little scared for Luke Donald. He seems like a nice enough guy, and has played well coming in, but it just appears he might be the kind of guy that could let the pressure (and press) get to him this week. I feel that if Donald struggles early in the team matches, he could post a doughnut for the week in the win category.
Busbee: Padraig Harrington. Whoever the guy was with the name "Padraig Harrington" who won two majors in 2008, that guy hasn't been seen in years. Maybe he's chained up in a basement somewhere, Saw-style, and we've got this less-talented knockoff to deal with. Harrington's got a suspect game and a lot of pressure on him, which make for a bad combo.
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Which of the rookies will break out?
Bacon: I really like Bubba Watson's chances to be a big player this week. Sure, he hasn't won a ton on tour (just one win, earlier this season), but he has that competitive fire in him that could be very "Christina Kim at the Solheim Cup"-like. While I am very pro Team Stricker-Woods, it wouldn't surprise me to see Corey Pavin toss Watson in with Tiger at some point, as the two are friends, and see if they can do the "Christina Kim-Michelle Wie" thing. Also, hitting the ball deep this week is helpful, and nobody does that better than Bubba.
Busbee: I'm with you on Bubba. But in the interests of making this interesting, I'll throw Dustin Johnson into the mix. First off, the soul patch is going to look badass with the natty outfits the U.S. team will be sporting. And second, Johnson will either have a spectacular week or will completely flame out -- also in spectacular fashion. And that's always worth watching.
What can we expect from Tiger and Phil?
Bacon: The two biggest names on the American team are, interestingly enough, the two biggest question marks. Combined, they have just one win this season, and neither are coming in with much momentum. Still, I like Tiger to have a big week in Wales. He had to be picked to play, and will be carrying an even bigger chip on his shoulder with all the bad press about him from 2010. Phil, on the other hand, might struggle. He has had bad stretches before heading into Ryder Cups which lead to a struggle in the match-play format, and with his shaky place since the Masters, seems like another down year for Lefty.
Busbee: I'm with you on Phil. He hasn't gotten out of second gear since Augusta, and there's no indication he'll have a bust-out game this weekend. His best chance may be in a mentoring role, as he did in 2008 with Anthony Kim, keeping his playing partners steady and calm in the midst of the gallery's firestorm. Tiger: same thing as Phil. I'm not nearly as high on his chances as you are. Although there's this: If he's going down in flaming fashion, he could be the U.S. team's equivalent of a pitcher taking one for the team -- he could draw the attention of the screaming hordes while the other U.S. players thrive in (relative) calm.
OK, OK, who will win this thing?
Bacon: Homer alert, homer alert! I think the Americans take it for a second straight year. With the uncertainty of Lee Westwood for the Europeans, and the onslaught of rookies, it seems that the mighty Europeans have been taken down a notch. Sure, they have the talent to run away with this, but a lot of guys (Furyk, Dustin Johnson) are heading into the week on fire. I'd say at this point, calling the Europeans the heavy favorite is almost an ignorant statement. The teams are equal, and as they say in football, when it's up for grabs, you always take the points (And "the points," in this thing, is which team retains the cup if it ends in a tie).
Busbee: With Lee Westwood at undetermined strength and the rest of the European team bearing the pressure of a win-or-die burden -- that's the truth, they face execution if they lose -- everything sets up well for the Yanks. Now, Captain Pavin, gather the troops around and have them watch this ...