- Farrell Evans, Golf
- 0 Shares
On Day 2 of the 2004 Ryder Cup matches at Oakland Hills, Chris Riley told U.S. captain Hal Sutton that he was too tired to go out for the afternoon alternate-shot. In the morning four-balls, Riley had teamed with Tiger Woods to beat Darren Clarke and Ian Poulter 4 and 3. The San Diego native had come to the biennial matches in suburban Detroit off a near month layoff from competitive golf. But now he was exhausted; emotionally and physically drained from playing in his first Ryder Cup in front of raucous, partisan crowds.
There were tons of guys who would step up and play, Riley told Sutton. He wanted to be fresh for the Sunday singles matches.
Riley was widely criticized for his decision to not play those Saturday afternoon matches. Now a 38-year-old struggling tour player, his name is permanently linked to the word "tired" and to those matches that the Americans lost 18½ to 9½ to the Europeans.
Sergio Garcia was on that triumphant European team. Last week at the Barclays, where he got a tie for third, Garcia made news off the course when he said that he wouldn't be playing the Deutsche Bank Championship, which starts on Friday in Norton, Mass.
The 32-year-old Spaniard wasn't going to run the risk of being tired during one of the world's biggest sporting events.
He wasn't going to fall short of expectations that his team captain, Jose Maria Olazabal, had of him to possibly play in all five matches.
He wasn't going to be like Chris Riley.
"I have to think that I have a chance at getting to the Tour Championship, so having to play six weeks in a row and then one week off and then the Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup is just too much," Garcia said.
"Everybody knows how important the Ryder Cup is for me, and I want to be fully fit there."
Just a week before Garcia's decision to not play in Boston, Jason Dufner had said that he wouldn't be making the trip to Barclays. Dufner, who ended the regular season second in the FedEx Cup standings, wanted to practice and get some rest before starting a run of four events in five weeks, culminating with the Ryder Cup matches in Medinah, Ill., on Sept. 28.
Garcia would have been a favorite to win this week at the TPC Boston course, where he finished in a tie for 31st last year. His absence leaves the Deutsche Bank without one of the tour's biggest stars at the height of his powers. With a win and tie for third in his past two starts, he is the hottest player on tour.
Not playing here might cost Garcia some valuable playoff points that could make it easier for him to win the $10 million bonus awarded to the FedEx Cup champion following the Tour Championship in Atlanta, but the rest could play big dividends for the European Ryder Cup team.
You might give Garcia an advantage in the singles over most of the American players, including Tiger Woods, who is in the middle of one of the busiest stretches of golf in his career. It could, on the other hand, make Tiger and most of the players playing through this stretch sharper and more mentally focused than they would be had they just sat around on the couch.
Riley was rusty and anxious coming into '04 Ryder Cup matches. This year for most of the players there won't be a waiting game.
"It keeps us fresh, but I hope it doesn't get us burned out, as well, playing that much golf," said Woods, who took a week off during the playoffs when he won them in '07 and '09. "I'm not planning on taking any time in the [playoffs]. It was different on different point structure in which you could take a week off somewhere in there and get a little bit of a break."
Chris Riley isn't Tiger Woods. Tiger has been in six Ryder Cups and has won 14 major championships. There is no chance that Davis Love III keeps him out of any of the matches.
But could this torrid stretch of competition be a detriment to his mental and physical stamina at Medinah?
"If you're playing well, it'll be great," Tiger said. "If you're not playing well, I don't think that's -- you just don't have a lot of time to work on your game, and you want to be rolling into Ryder Cup with some confidence and obviously some practice and get everything situated with your teammates."
Garcia is hedging his bets that he'll be both rested and sharp heading into Medinah.
The players still alive in the playoffs after Boston will have a week off between the BMW and the Tour Championship. So it's not like they won't get a break. But it will be interesting to see if any of those fortunate to play in Medinah show signs of major fatigue in the matches.
This week TPC Boston will deliver the top 70 players to the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick outside of Indianapolis on Sept. 6. Fatigue won't be a factor going forward for those 30 unlucky guys at the end of the week who will have a month off before the start of the Fall series.
Ryder Cup hopefuls like Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker, amongst those with a realistic chance of getting one of Love's four captain's picks, will add a nice subplot to this week's proceedings in Boston.
By Monday night, four of these men will have gotten some good news from Captain Love. Then they can rest a while before starting the tournament on Thursday at Crooked Stick.
Busy, busy, busy.
Sergio Garcia's absence at the Deutsche Bank has added meaning for Europe's Ryder Cup team, writes ESPN.com's Farrell Evans.