…and how it’s going to affect the fall swing.
What happened in the Ryder Cup, ramifications for the rest of the year
Have to wonder how many folks were surprised at what happened over the weekend at Whistling Straits? I certainly wasn’t surprised, matter of fact I was more surprised in the American’s losing 2012, 2014, and 2018 than I was in Sunday’s American victory. In some way, it was almost like the dam, which had cracks for the last decades or so finally burst open. Since 1985 the European team has pretty much dominated the Ryder Cup, sure team USA won in 1991, ’93, ’99, 2008, and 2016 and the match was tied in 1989. But since the European team surprised the world with a victory in 1985, in the 17 Ryder Cup’s played since team USA only dominated twice (2008 & ’16), that is until last weekend. The 19 to 9 USA victory was the biggest victory by any team since the format went to a 28 point total in 1979. In the 41 Ryder Cups played, the 10 point margin of victory was the second-most in Ryder Cup history. In 1967 team USA won by 15 points while in 1975 team the USA won by 10 points but in both those years, 32 points were given out as they played two series of Singles on Sunday with 16 points awarded compared to what has been normal 12 matches played.
So what made this year so much different than three years ago in France when team USA lost 17 and a half to 10 and a half? Six of the 12 players that year, Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, and Justin Thomas played this year. For the European Team seven players, Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, and Jon Rahm participated both years, so what magical mix made the difference?
Lots of things need to be considered, from course played to the manner in which the teams were picked to possibly the style and attitude of the team captains and vice-captains. But for me, there were three deciding factors that made this team a juggernaut. First had to be age, the average age of the 12 players was 29 years, 159 days old, making the team the youngest USA team since 1927 when the 8 Americans on that team were 28 years, 175 days. Of the 12 Americans on this year’s team, eight players were in their 20s and four were in their 30s which Dustin Johnson at 37 being the oldest. For the European team, they had four in their 20s, four in their 30s and four in their 40s with Lee Westwood at 48 being the oldest. The second most important item is the rankings of the 24 players. Of the players on the team with the best world rankings, team USA had eight players in the top ten, compared to just one on the European Tour, Jon Rahm. All 12 team USA members were in the top-21, the highest rank player being Scottie Scheffler at 21st. But on the European team, five of the players were in the top-25 while Matt Fitzpatrick was 27th, Lee Westwood was 35th, Tommy Fleetwood was 37th, Shane Lowry was 42nd, Sergio Garcia was 43rd, Ian Poulter was 50th and Bernd Wiesberger was 62nd. Last and for many they may not think about it, but for the first time since 1993 the Ryder Cup didn’t have a Phil Mickelson or a Tiger Woods playing. For many, the fact that combined both Mickelson and Woods played in 84 matches and only had a 31-43-10 with both winning just 46 points was a factor in their losing records not being a factor. So what does all this mean for fantasy golf in the future?
I can see that both Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy may have had important moments to carry them out of their slumps. Dustin Johnson became only the fifth player in the Ryder Cup history to have a perfect 5-0-0 record joining the United States’ Gardner Dickinson (1967), Arnold Palmer (1967), Larry Nelson (1979), and Italy’s Francesco Molinari (2018). Since February Johnson has struggled more than he has played well, many couldn’t put the finger on the reason, but with the boost of confidence, I can see him playing well. The same with Rory McIlroy who had a tough time losing three team matches. But when he was given the task to begin the singles matches and having to perform well he did just that, first by opening his singles match with Xander Schauffele with birdies at 1 and 2 and then beating Schauffele who had a perfect 3-0-0 team record. Despite the European team being shellacked, McIlroy at least has the good vibes to show that he can play well when needed. On top of Johnson and Schauffele playing well, Patrick Cantlay and Collin Morikawa played close to flawlessly with 3-0-1 records. Ryder Cup rookie Scottie Scheffler also had a great Ryder Cup with a 2-0-1 record but will be remembered most for his 4 & 3 drumming of world #1 Jon Rahm in the singles. Bryson DeChambeau also showed a gutsy performance in his single match against the hottest European player Sergio Garcia, beating him 3 & 2 in the singles match. Even Jordan Spieth found a bit of happy news. Going into the singles, he had the dubious record of being 0-6-0 in both the Ryder and Presidents Cup. Spieth found a way to get off the snide in a way, with his halve match again Tommy Fleetwood he at least can claim that he won a half-point in his seven singles matches.
Every American won at least once and it’s the first time since the format changed in 1979 that an American team can claim that milestone. As for the European team, only seven of the players won a match, and Spaniards Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia had 3-1-0 records, both, unfortunately, seeing perfect records lost in the singles. Four Europeans had a really tough go, Matt Fitzpatrick and Bernd Wiesberger had 0-3-0 records while Viktor Hovland had very little to feel happy within his rookie start losing three matches and halving two. Ian Poulter, who was responsible for many of the European team victories lost both of his team matches but was able to beat Tony Finau 3 & 2 in the singles to increase his singles record to 6-0-1. Despite being 45 Poulter probably has one more Ryder Cup left in him, for 48-year-old Lee Westwood, 35-year-old Bernd Wiesberger, and 44-year-old Paul Casey I have to think their Ryder Cup days are numbered. As for the Europeans, we can see that Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, and Shane Lowry will be people to bet on in the future, while I see slumps of Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Paul Casey, and Lee Westwood continuing and their betting value becoming more of a liability.
Lastly, I have to think that 2023 will be a very important Ryder Cup year. Team USA hasn’t won off American soil since 1993. Hard to believe that encompasses the total life of my daughter who will be 30 a few weeks after the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome. For her, she was in Paris in 2018 hoping to see the streak end and already has been lobbying for a return trip to Rome to see the streak finally come to an end.
Odds and ends for the Sanderson Farms Championship
For Will Zalatoris, he had a breakout 2021 season. Have to say on the whole, COVID-19 played a negative role for many players, but one who found it a Godsend had to be Zalatoris. If it wasn’t for the U.S. Open getting moved back to September and having to change its qualifying process, who knows what would of happened to Zalatoris. He was a hot-shot amateur, winning the 2014 U.S. Junior Amateur, and had a great collegiate career at Wake Forest. He turned pro in early 2018 before his final semester at Wake Forest. But that didn’t work as he didn’t make it past the first stage of Q School for the Korn Ferry Tour. By the beginning of the 2019 season, Zalatoris had no status on any professional tour and was living life through Monday Qualifiers. It took him until the 2019 Panama Championship before he was a Monday qualifier, finishing T-41st. He didn’t qualify again until the Savannah Golf Championship and finished T-12th, which got him into the Robert Trent Jones event and he finished T-10th. By then he was able to get sponsor invites and by mid-season when he finished T-3rd at the LECOM Health, was able to take a special exemption to the Korn Ferry Tour. He finished the year 60th on the Korn Ferry Point list, which got him regular privileges for 2020. He played great early in the season and when he won the TPC Colorado Championship was the leader on the Korn Ferry Points list. That ranking played an important role because he got him an exemption into the U.S. Open. A week before the U.S. Open he finished T-2nd at the Evans Scholars Invitational, little did he know at the time it would be his last Korn Ferry Tour event.
The next week at Winged Foot and the U.S. Open he finished T-6th, 11 shots back of winner Bryson DeChambeau at Winged Foot. With the top-10, Will earned a spot in the following week’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship. He made the cut on the number at Corales and went on to shoot 65 in the final round which lifted him to T-8th. That got him into the Sanderson Farms Championship, but he missed the cut. He was given a sponsor exemption into the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and finished T-5th, four shots back of the Martin Laird/Austin Cook/Matthew Wolff playoff. That top-10 got him into the Bermuda Championship and when he finished T-16th it earned him special temporary membership on the PGA Tour. With this, he is able to earn non-member FedExCup points and was a shoo-in to earn his PGA Tour card for 2022. To show how dramatic his rise has been, at the start of 2019 Zalatoris was 2,006th in the Official World Golf Ranking. At the start of 2020 Zalatoris was 672nd and with his finish at the U.S. Open climbed to 76th. At the end of the year, he was 59th and broke into the top-50 with his T-17th finish at the WM Phoenix Open in February. With the Korn Ferry Tour going to a two-year season in 2020-21, Zalatoris was still technically a member of that tour and in March was still number one on the Korn Ferry points list, though he is playing on the PGA Tour. Zalatoris continued to play well, he was T-7th at the Farmers Insurance Open, finishing six shots back of winner Patrick Reed. He was T-10th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Zalatoris was able to climb enough in the Official World Golf Ranking to play at the WGC-Workday Championship (T-22nd) and also at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and he also earned a spot in the Players Championship (finished 21st). Zalatoris didn’t make it out of group play at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play but he ended ranked 45th in the world and got a Master’s invitation. Finished 2nd in his debut at the Masters’, earning his first top-two finish on the PGA Tour. Was the only player in the field to record under-par scores in all four rounds (70-68-71-70). He finished T-8th at the PGA Championship, his third top-10 in his fourth major championship appearance.
The only true bummer to his year happened after he finished T-29th at the Wyndham Championship. For his year on the PGA Tour in 2021, he earned 1,296 FedExCup points, which would have placed him 25th in the FedExCup standings. With such a high point total, at worst he would have played in the first two events and had a great shot at making it into the Tour Championship. But since he wasn’t a “full-time” member of the PGA Tour, he had to sit out the three weeks and wait for the start of the 2022 season. He did win the Rookie-of-the-Year honors and many wonder how long it will be before he wins. At the Fortinet Championship, he opened up with rounds of 68-67 but stumbled a bit with 71-70 on the weekend to finish T-11th. It’s easy to see he is good, since the U.S. Open at Winged Foot he has been in the top-25 in 15 of his 27 starts. In his three years as a professional, his game seems to get better in each event he plays in and as many folks feel, it’s only a matter of time before he wins. As for picking him in DraftKings, he has become a great pick. In the past 12 months in 23 events, he averages 75.63 points per event played. Now that is good, but the bad side of his great play means that he has become very expensive. This week he is the second most expensive player with a salary of $10,800, making him hard to pick. Still, if you look at the fact that he does average 75.63 points per event so yes he will be a good pick. So have to say Zalatoris will be in the fall swing the most popular pick for those playing DraftKings.
The top pick will probably be Mito Pereira
After finishing 3rd at the Fortinet Championship, Pereira will be a top pick this week. One of the keys to Pereira’s good play, in his last eight rounds on the PGA Tour he ranks 2nd in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and 6th in Greens in Regulation. Now the downside of Pereira is putting, in his last eight rounds he hovers in the low rankings so if he putts well he will play well, that’s just the bottom line.