Commentary

Time to sort out Ryder Cup questions

Originally Published: September 30, 2010
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

[+] EnlargeRickie Fowler
Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty ImagesDid the American Ryder Cup team draw inspiration for its rain gear from ...

NEWPORT, Wales -- The Ryder Cup can be so confusing. I'd like to help.

Did Team USA steal its rain suits from the 1977 Chicago White Sox?

USA captain Corey Pavin would neither directly confirm nor deny the similarities, but Pavin is rumored to have a long-standing friendship with Ralph Garr and Richie Zisk. Then again, Pavin won't confirm or deny anything this week.

If you ask him about possible pairings, general strategy, a Rory McIlroy-Tiger Woods matchup, Pavin says we'll have to wait until Friday, when play begins. He is playing it so close to the sweater vest that the vest is sewed to his chest.

What is the difference between four-ball and foursome matches?

I asked Pavin about this, and he said we'll have to wait until Friday.

But four-ball is best ball and will be played Friday and Saturday mornings. Foursome is alternate shot and will be played Friday and Saturday afternoons.

If you were Pavin, whom would you partner with Tiger Woods, how often would you play him and when would you send him out?

[+] EnlargeBob Molinaro
Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images... the 1977 Chicago White Sox?

If I were Pavin, I'd lighten up. It's the Ryder Cup, not a Navy SEALs mission.

But it will be a shocker if Woods isn't paired with Steve Stricker. They've had match-play success in the past and have a comfortable relationship.

Woods has played in five Ryder Cups and in all 25 of the possible matches. In the past, it was a no-brainer that Woods would play every match. Not this time. Pavin should see how he does in the Friday morning four-ball and go from there. And I wouldn't send him in the first or second group. An early win against Woods always seems to energize the European team. Put him third or fourth in the four-ball or foursomes, then eighth, ninth, 10th or 11th in singles play.

Why are some members of the UK media making such a big deal about Maj. Dan Rooney speaking at a private Team USA function?

Weird, isn't it? It's not as if Rooney, a fighter pilot now in the Oklahoma Air National Guard, unveiled secret plans for a surgical air strike of Celtic Manor. But by the frequency and tone of the questions posed to both Pavin and Europe captain Colin Montgomerie, you would have thought Rooney had advocated the use of nukes on nonconforming wedges.

Pavin wouldn't discuss the specifics of Rooney's speech. But the guy is a PGA professional, did three tours of duty in Iraq, founded the Folds of Honor Foundation and is a spokesman for Patriot Golf Day, which has raised more than $5 million for scholarships for children and spouses of U.S. military personnel killed or disabled in war. How that would offend the sensibilities of anyone is beyond me.

How do you think Woods will play?

Excellent question, Geno. Woods will have had two mostly private weeks to do some repair and prep work for the Ryder Cup. He got a nice little motivational jolt from Rory McIlroy's innocent comments about wanting to play Woods. And he's in the cocoon of Team USA, rather than having to deal with the singular pressures of trying to win his first major of the year, or even his first tournament of the year. I think this could be his breakout moment of the season.

Which USA rookie will play the best?

Easy. Dustin Johnson.

He can hit it from here to London. He has short-term memory loss (he loses two majors in excruciating fashion and is somehow able to move on immediately). He won't be intimidated by the moment.

What's it going to take for a Ryder Cup to be played at one of the traditional UK links courses?

A miracle.

They haven't played a Ryder Cup at one of those courses since 1977 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Since then, the European Tour has offered its turn as host to the highest bidder -- usually a resort such as Celtic Manor. Places such as St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Turnberry, etc., don't bid. Ever.

[+] EnlargeLisa Pavin
Avid Golfer MagazineLisa Pavin, wife of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin, posed for this magazine cover shoot recently. Well, you can't say she didn't give it her all for her country.

Why did Lisa Pavin pose behind a red-white-and-blue dress/sash/window curtain for a golf magazine cover?

This captainess thing has gone a little too far. I can't think of another sporting event in which players' wives -- especially the captain's wife -- are so involved in the day-to-day planning and operation of Team USA. You think Sean Payton's wife, Beth, took part in the New Orleans Saints' Super Bowl plan? Think the Saints' wives stood on the sideline during the game?

The PGA of America, which oversees the USA Ryder Cup effort, couldn't have been thrilled by the magazine cover. That said, Lisa takes a lovely photo.

Phil Mickelson says Team USA is the underdog. Is this true?

When it comes to Ryder Cup fashion tastes, yes, Team USA is the underdog. And this comes from a guy wearing blue and red running shoes, tennis socks, jeans, a brown House of Blues T-shirt and a USC sweatshirt.

When it comes to actual golf, no. I know it's been 17 years since the USA last won a Ryder Cup on foreign soil. I know Montgomerie gets to set up the Twenty Ten course in a way that best benefits his players. But I'm not buying the underdog thing. It's like Mickelson said Wednesday to a mostly UK-heavy media contingent: "We are currently holding the Ryder Cup. We brought it over here to show you what it looks like. We are going to be fighting hard to bring it home."

What he said…

USA 14½, Europe 13½.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.

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