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Picks for Sunday’s Singles

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

Why do I think while I try to put poetic justice to describe what has happened the last two days, there are a couple PGA of America officers that are in a room at Gleneagles drowning their sorrows with some of Scotland’s finest malt. The room at Gleneagles is called “The Bar” and it’s an elegant space that looks like something out of the Gatsby era, a perfect place to drown the troubles of American golf in the Ryder Cup. For PGA of America president Ted Bishop, he took a gamble by putting Tom Watson in as a captain and many are second guessing some of Watson’s decisions (along with Bishop’s decision to pick Watson) and probably talking about what the future will bring.

Of course, many will say it’s not over, didn’t the Europeans win last year after being behind 10-6 on Saturday night. The same for the American team in 1999. After Europe built a 10-6 lead after Saturday, American captain Ben Crenshaw paid a visit to the media room. When things got very negative, he pointed his finger into the camera saying, “I have a good feeling about this.” I remember media folks snickering over this, thinking it was just a face put on to mask his disappointment.

On Saturday night, Tom Watson didn’t give the media any kind of feeling that there is some magic awaiting us on Sunday. Matter of fact it seemed more of an obit on what had gone wrong and the disappointment of being 10-6 behind going into singles.

It’s very strange in looking at what has happened the first two days. There was a lot of great things that happened in the morning on Friday and Saturday, as the American team scored five points to 3 for the European tour. But in the afternoon, of the eight foursomes played, not one American team could win a match, the best they could do was two halve matches.

Lot’s of fingers will be pointed to Captain Watson, and how he could be too far removed from the players on his team. Its like the type of problem parents have in dealing with their teenage kids. I could be the dumbest person in the world according to my 18-year-old son, just wondering if there are some in the American locker room that feel the same way about Tom Watson.

So I figure while I write this, PGA president Ted Bishop and his cronies are on their next Scottish Malt. The talk is probably not on this year but what action do they take to make sure in 2016 that they don’t lose a fourth straight Ryder Cup, something an American team has never experienced.

I will give you a nice wager that Paul Azinger’s name will come up many times among the powers to be of the PGA of America. But let’s put it this way, they better look at the future because this year’s Ryder Cup could be past tense. I can’t see a comeback for the American team.

It’s not about the pairings for Sunday’s singles. It’s just that “I have a good feeling about this,” that it’s probably a lost cause. I came to that conclusion when I saw Martin Kaymer and Justin Rose make par on the final hole to halve the match with Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed. I think this will have a psychological influence on the singles match. I also think that the effects of Jimmy Walker playing all four days and looking terrible Saturday afternoon will show up on Sunday. The heart and soul of the American team has been these three along with Rickie Fowler. I also think that Phil Mickelson will be a problem, you could tell in Captain Watson’s tone that Mickelson isn’t playing well. We can see in the singles he has been paired in the middle of the pack along with Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and Jim Furyk as guys that can’t be trusted to get the job done. There are a lot of negatives for Sunday and all of us in the media sensed that in Tom Watson’s tone on Saturday night.

So the task is this, team USA has to win 8 and a half of the 12 points available on Sunday. If the Europeans win just four matches, they will get a tie and retain the cup. I would love to be a fly on the wall at the diner that Tom Watson is throwing for his team, there wives and caddies. How he motivates them will be important. He can’t tell them old stories of the glory years of the American Ryder Cup team because for five of the 12 guys, America has only won three of the matches since they were born. Gosh we are in the 14th year of this millennium and team USA has only won once! So back to the cronies of the PGA of America, it will be easy to get lost in a stream of single malt but something will have to be done. If the Europeans do what I think could happen tomorrow, win 8 of the 12 matches then that will mean in the last ten years the Europeans will have gotten 18 points three of the six matches. If this happens American’s, who always love a winner, could lose interest in these matches.

Sorry to be the tower of gloom on this, but someone has to be found (like a Paul Azinger) that will bring the excitement back for the American Ryder Cup side. So we have a day of the Ryder Cup to look forward to, for most of you in the states it could be decided before you even get out of bed.

Here is a look at the Singles and how I think it will go.

Match 1 – Graeme McDowell vs. Jordan Spieth
Captain Watson has said that he has put out his young guns first, so that they could do well and motivate the whole team. This match could answer some questions as McDowell has won two of his three singles matches and is a tough customer. At the same time, Spieth has been great this week, so I see him winning.
Advantage to Spieth who will win

Match 2 – Henrik Stenson vs. Patrick Reed
Think that Reed will have some ill effects from the halve of Martin Kaymer and Justin Rose. Hopefully, he will come to the first tee with the proud fact that in three matches he is 2-0-1, but his last memory wasn’t a happy one. For Stenson he played great, paired with Justin Rose they won all three of their matches. Look for Stenson to go 4 for 4 with another victory.
Advantage to Stenson

Match 3 – Rory McIlroy vs. Rickie Fowler
Fowler was involved in the 5&4 debacle along with Jimmy Walker. Again will this leaves scars for him, probably not. Rory hasn’t been that great all week, but I see him getting it together to beat Fowler.
Advantage to McIlroy

Match 4 – Justin Rose vs. Hunter Mahan
This will be short and sweet; Rose will get the best of Hunter.
Advantage to Rose

Match 5 – Stephen Gallacher vs. Phil Mickelson
This will be Phil’s tenth singles match, and he has beaten the likes of Peter Hanson, Jarmo Sandelin, Darren Clarke and Per-Ulrik Johansson. I have to think that Phil will figure it out and frankly he has probably the easiest guy to beat on the European team. Gallacher played only once, in Friday mornings fourball and looked like a deer in a cars headlights. Will he be that way on Sunday, we can’t say. But I have to think that Phil should be able to handle this guy, if not it could be a sad way for Mickelson to end his Ryder Cup career on.
Advantage to Mickelson.

Match 6 – Martin Kaymer vs. Bubba Watson
Nice pairing of a pair of major champions from 2014. Watson has been a part of two losing matches, sorry Bubba it’s going to be three after Sunday
Advantage to Kaymer

Match 7 – Thomas Bjorn vs. Matt Kuchar
I can see an American victory for Kuchar, Bjorn has had a tough time this week along with Kuchar, but I sense that Kuchar can handle Thomas.
Advantage to Kuchar
Match 8 – Sergio Garcia vs. Jim Furyk
Of course we had to have this pairing, Garcia has probably put a bottle of Dom Perignon in the fridge to get chilled. Garcia has the edge with an overall 7-1-1 record over Furyk, but interestingly the loss was in singles and in 1999, when the score was Europe 10 USA 6. Still I think this is Furyk’s last hurrah in the Ryder Cup, it would be nice for him to go out on a happy note but just don’t think it will happen.
Advantage to Garcia

Match 9 – Ian Poulter vs. Webb Simpson
Poulter hasn’t been as great this year as in past matches, but it doesn’t matter with the Europeans winning. Poulter and Simpson have some history with Ian winning their singles match two years ago 1 up and has an overall 2-0-0 record over Simpson. Look for Poulter to go 3-0-0 on Sunday
Advantage to Poulter

Match 10 – Jaime Donaldson vs. Keegan Bradley
Normally I would say Bradley but Donaldson has quietly help Lee Westwood to 2 wins so I think he will do the same on Sunday, beating Bradley.
Advantage to Donaldson

Match 11 – Lee Westwood vs. Jimmy Walker
Another veteran who could be playing in his last Ryder Cup match, he has proven that Captain McGinley did the right thing in picking him. I see the momentum continuing Sunday with Lee beating Jimmy Walker. Sorry, but Jimmy looked very tired on Sunday, hard to bounce back from that.
Advantage to Westwood.

Match 12 – Victor Dubuisson vs. Zach Johnson
Again Dubuisson has done a great job, but I see Zach taking a bit of pride and winning. In three single matches, he has beaten Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington, yes he lost to Darren Clarke but that was a very sentiment win for Clarke, and I can’t count that against Johnson.
Advantage to Johnson
Sorry to say I see the Europeans winning 8 of the 12 matches to make the final score 18 to 6, which is a pretty bad lashing of an American team.

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