Thursday, September 27, 2012

Don't Hold Your Breath For A Woods-Mickelson Ryder Cup Pairing

Source: BBC
We are a few hours away from Davis Love III announcing the opening pairings for tomorrow morning's foursomes matches at Medinah.  And the partner derby, which has been running fast and furious all week, is reaching a fever pitch.

Who will play with who?  Looking at the media this week, these guys have had more partners than Wilt Chamberlain.  But with all of the speculation about the pairings, one you will almost certainly not see is Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Why not?  Well, for starters, the two have spent the better part of their careers as each other's main rival, so that relationship has not led to the two having the warm fuzzies for each other (although that has seemingly thawed as of late, and rumor has it that they have been spotted as ping pong teammates in the team room this week).  Second, previous history shows they may be better off finding Ryder Cup marital bliss in the arms of another.  When Hal Sutton tried to pair the dynamic duo in 2004, it was an unmitigated disaster.  The pair lost twice on Day 1, helping to pave the way for America's pasting at the hands of the visiting European squad (18.5-9.5).  The two clearly were uncomfortable playing together and Woods' facial expressions and body language on that day were pretty easy to read.  He was sending Phil a mental message, and it was not one that you can repeat on TV.

Good Ryder Cup pairings generally rest on two things: 1) team chemistry and 2) having games that complement each other.  Unfortunately, Woods and Phil don't really click on either account.

For an example of greatness in the first category, see Seve's perennial pairing with current European Captain Jose Maria Olazabal.  They had a connection that was on another level - Olazabal's caddie recently said that during the Ryder Cup the caddies had nothing to do because Seve and Jose would figure everything out themselves.  The Spaniards could will each other to victory.

For a great pairing in the second category, see Tiger's comfortable and frequent pairing with Steve Stricker - Tiger can bomb it off of the tee but is wild and at times loses his feel with the putter.  Stricker is a solid and consistent ballstriker (though not terribly long) and is one of the best 5 putters on the planet.  The pairing just works.

But as for Tiger and Phil, on many days neither of them could find the fairway with a GPS device.

But we can all dream, right?  It would be a huge stunner, but a Tiger-Phil pairing, if successful, could really energize the U.S. team and absolutely ignite the crowds at Medinah.  It would lead to some of the loudest golf roars of all time if they got it going.  I have this dream scenario running through my head where Tiger and Phil go to Davis Love on Friday night and say to him - "We want to play together tomorrow and we will deliver" - and then they go out and paste two European teams.  It would be one of the coolest golf stories of the year!



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