Posted: Tuesday September 19, 2006 2:34PM; Updated: Tuesday September 19, 2006 3:10PM
E.M. Swift will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
Cushy soft. Davis Love soft -- beautiful swing, beautiful bank account, can't win the big one. Blubbery soft, like the memory of Calcavecchia being four up with four to play against Colin Montgomerie in 1991 at Kiawah and losing his last four holes. He, too, dissolved into uncontrollable tears. No grit to them. No scrap, except for the occasional Corey Pavin. Europe's teams are filled with Corey Pavins. Guys with chips on their shoulders. That's why they win.
Obviously, Tiger Woods isn't soft. He's as gritty as any athlete who ever lived. So how to explain his 7-11-2 record in the Ryder Cup? Well, 10 of his losses have come in a partnered match, either foursomes or four-ball. The only thing I can think of is he intimidates his American partners more than he does the Europeans. Man, how soft is that?
In the last Presidents Cup, Jim Furyk showed he had the grit to play with Tiger, which makes a Furyk-Woods pairing seem like a no-brainer for captain Lehman. Problem with that is, Furyk's the second-ranked player in the world. He's playing great on his own. He and Woods might get the U.S. four team points, but what about the other 12 team points? Who's Lehman going to turn to for them? Brett Wetterich, who has missed the cut in five of his last 10 starts and hasn't finished higher than 24th since June 11? Ryder cup rookies J.J. Henry and Vaughn Taylor? Chad Campbell, who has missed four cuts in seven starts since June? Scott Verplank, who has missed the cut in two of his last three starts?
The Ryder Cup is no place to find your game. Does Phil Mickelson have his? Who knows? He didn't two years ago when he led the American collapse.
On the flip side, the Europeans, in addition to having perennial stalwarts Montgomerie, Olazábal, Sergio Garcia, Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald, now also feature the reigning World Match Play champion, Paul Casey, who cruised to that title last week.
No, they can't win majors. No, they can't stare down the Tiger on Sunday. But 11 of them won't be facing Tiger on Sunday. And this, to the Europeans, is a major. That's why, playing at home against this soft, rich crop of American pros, they are as close to a sure bet as you'll find.
Break out the crying towels, Captain Lehman. Better yet, since it's fun and relaxation you're preaching, just have them cry into their Guinness.