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What no JJ?

  • Matt Slater - BBC Sport golf writer
  • 23 Sep 06, 03:28 PM

matt_slater55x55.jpgK CLUB – So what have we learned since lunchtime (there’s another meal reference for you, Garrett!)?

One, Tom Lehman doesn’t read this blog. Or if he does, he doesn’t care for its opinions.

And two, either NBC Sports or the staff in the media centre do because our audio feed to the US TV coverage has been stopped. This is a shame because Johnny Miller and the gang agreed with me about giving Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson some Ryder Cup rest.

So what did Cap’n Tom do this afternoon?

He backed his best pairing to play their way into form, reprised a successful duo from previous contests, blooded the last of his rookies still waiting to feature and dropped his second hottest player.

Lehman said keeping faith with Tiger and Furyk was not a tough decision. Tiger is the best player in the world and that makes him fairly indispensable. Furyk doesn’t deserve to be dropped. He has largely carried the world number one for two days.

With hindsight, the US skipper is probably right. Woods may well not have managed a birdie on his own for 25 holes but omitting him would have handed the Europeans a psychological trophy.

His reasoning for keeping Mickelson out there was probably the same. His bad bits haven’t been as bad as Woods’ bad bits but he has had so few good bits I can scarcely remember them.

Teaming him with the always steady David Toms is a good move, though. They have played five times together in Ryder Cups before, picking up three and a half points.

But they will have their work cut out this afternoon as they have drawn European talisman Sergio Garcia and world number nine Luke Donald. This double act is three for three in Ryder Cup action and Garcia is chasing an eighth straight foursomes win.

Getting Vaughn Taylor involved had to be done and pairing him with Stewart Cink seems reasonable enough.

The strange decision is dropping JJ Henry. American journalists were stunned yesterday when the rookie’s five-birdie fourball showing wasn’t rewarded with a foursomes outing and they were equally perplexed by his omission this afternoon.

Ahhh, but timing is everything. Lehman had to get his foursomes picks in at almost exactly the same time Henry was starting to heat up on the back nine.

And as those picks were being announced to us the big-hitting 31-year-old was single-handedly dragging his team back into the contest. A fantastic eagle at 16 (only the second of the weekend) was followed by a textbook birdie at 17.

We had heard he was no mug and now we were seeing it. He gives the ball the most enormous ride and putts well in patches.

Sadly for him, and perhaps significantly for Europe, one of those patches came to an end just when he and his team really needed it to last a little longer. Having found the green into two, he pushed his long eagle putt 12ft past and then saw his one coming back flirt with the hole but fail to drop. Paul Casey then drained his 6ft putt for birdie and half a point.

By such margins are “one hell of a beatings” dished out.

Lehman needs every single one of his hunches to come off from now on in if his team are to claw this one back.

Ian Woosnam, on the other hand, could just reshuffle his pack, rest 100%-ers like Darren Clarke and Jose Maria Olazabal and replace them with Ryder Cup heroes like Colin Montgomerie and Paul McGinley.

I suppose it's all about options. Woosie's got 'em and Lehman ain't.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 04:13 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Simon wrote:

NBC is still showing the morning's events, making them slightly more behind than the US team itself... Ah well, it is good listening to the NBC commentators struggling to find positives regarding everyone on the US Team apart from Zack Johnson and J J Henry, and the better news is that, with Tiger Woods playing so appallingly bad, they have actually started showing other matches (along with patience-testingly long advertising breaks). Still, with the US not really interested in this tournament any more/since they started losing regularly, I guess it does not matter what they show now does it?

  • 2.
  • At 05:01 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • John wrote:

Just heard through our South African feed in Hong Kong that Tiger - with 13 - is only three losses off the US record held by Ray Floyd. Unbelievable!

  • 3.
  • At 05:26 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Benoit wrote:

Well done gaffer! Good round analysis

  • 4.
  • At 05:31 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Dennis Wheeler wrote:

How absurd that NBC is still showing tape-delayed coverage of the morning matches, while the afternoon matches are still going on and are winding down - with the US getting soundly trounced again. American TV coverage is just awful. Almost as bad as the US team itself!

Lehman needed to grow some balls and bench Woods and Mickelson. They may be the top two players in the world on an individual basis, but let's face it, they suck in the Ryder Cup!

  • 5.
  • At 05:43 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Glenn wrote:

I just finished watching an NBC interview with JJ Henry and he said he really loves team competition. It's too bad he wasn't rewarded for his good performance. He's the only one who showed any emotions during during the competition. Just goes to show you that Lehman doesn't have a clue. Europe up 9.5 - 4.5.

  • 6.
  • At 05:52 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Simon wrote:

Glenn. Is it Lehmann or just the general mentality of some members of the US team that is limiting the camaradery they need to compete as a more effective team? I have been watching some of the build up on the golf channel and the general consensus is that Lehmann's attempt to build team spirit has been scuppered by certain individual's reluctance to actually join in such excercises.

JJ Henry has a very commendable attitude that I fear is not shared by some of his team mates.

  • 7.
  • At 06:06 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • tom watson wrote:

How long before its Europe vs The Rest of the World? Only joking, in no way am I counting any chickens.

Lets all remember 1999.

  • 8.
  • At 06:07 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Dennis Wheeler wrote:

The problem is that Lehman's attempts to build cameraderie are forced and silly, things like having players sing their university fight songs to each other. Absurd.

Until the US team is able to find a way to build cameraderie naturally, without such forced "exercises", it will never happen. Perhpas the US team just has individual players who are too good as individuals to ever be able to subordinate their games and their routines to a team event.

  • 9.
  • At 06:10 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Glenn wrote:

Simon--I think it's both. I think Lehmann has difficulties putting together effective 2-man teams. I also think many team members are just not as emotionally charged (except for JJ) like the Europeans. Their team captain obviously knows his player's habits as well as their strengths/weaknesses as playing partners. Unfortunately, I think Lehmann expected Woods/Furyk to carry the entire team.

  • 10.
  • At 06:12 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Stuart wrote:

Tiger may not be playing great, but he's still on target to be the highest scoring American player after the first two days.

I think the Tiger bashing is getting a little boring. Yes he's not playing as great as he usually does, but he's still on target for 2 points out of 4 after the first 2 days. And the rest of the US team are as much to blame.

  • 11.
  • At 06:37 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Ike wrote:

I think US should think about a foreign captain for the next Ryder cup. National teams do it in soccer, Erikkson could manage England against Sweden, so why not an European to manage US against Europe?

  • 12.
  • At 07:07 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Sunny Soto wrote:

Firstly you don’t understand the psychological boost it would giove Europe if Tiger is rested. That would make more news any outcome in the Ryder cup.

Amyway, Tiger earned the right to play in the afternoon. He won didn't he? If there is any golfer that could fix his swing and come back its Tiger Woods. By the sounds of it, you have not watched much of his game.

I recall the World Match play finals against Davis Love in 204 He was struggling with his swing in the first round. After the break he came back and fixed it and won.

To be too hasty in dismissing the greatest golfer.

Now removing Phil would make much more sense.

  • 13.
  • At 07:20 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Ian wrote:

As a European you may find this unothordox but I would actually like USA to win it. This is because they will lose interest if we just keep beating them....... but saying that, out of the 12 players, 8 of them are British so it wouldn't be too much to imagine a GB & Ireland team taking them on and winning!

  • 14.
  • At 07:29 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Jorge wrote:

I don't think that Tom deserves this opinion.
Why do we accuse Tom when we could read all the statistics for every player and see that Woods never plays in the Ryder far close as he does every week?
Why don't we say just that Mickelson never plays in the Ryder as he does every week??
I find there the US problems, not in Lehman's picks or around...

Jorge (from Madrid, and sorry for my English, please)

  • 15.
  • At 07:41 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • patrick ryan wrote:

After seeing the U.S line up for the ryder cup i was never in any doubt that europe will win, it is without a doubt the worst U.S. team ever!!
They may have the top 3 stroke players in the world but match play is entirley different and bar those 3 players the rest of the team is very bodes very well for future wins for europe as the U.S, seem to be churning out average players nowadays.

  • 16.
  • At 07:44 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Simon wrote:

Glenn, you absolutely correct there and, Stuart, the "Tiger Bashing" is not just to do with his performance - Furyk has really been the dominant force in that partnership to be fair - but more to do with his inability to lift the US team in a way that really has to be expected of a man of his stature. People look to him to lead but he just seems to stay in his own world that he creates when playing. This is fine for Majors and the like but not what is needed in a team event

  • 17.
  • At 08:08 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Martin wrote:

There was a highlight programme on the previous Ryder cups in which Monty eluded to the fact that when Europe are annouced to everyone (eg. the opening ceremony etc) it is done in alphabetical order, concluding that we (Europe are a team of no egos and that any rookies are dispersed with those with previous experience) Team America came out in the order they qualified... leaving the 4 rookies at the end with the two captains picks... how does that make Wetterich feel? Another small thing, i may be looking too much into it but speaks volumes about the European team ethic, is the USA team hats and caps all have there surnames names on there. Europe just have Europe.

  • 18.
  • At 08:13 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Ian wrote:

In relation to Lehman, much respect to him as a golfer but isn't doing too well creating some team passion... but is it really his fault? I believe not!

Europeans regularly get together whilst on tour, have a few beers and generally have a good time.. just ask Sam Torrance. Ian Woosnam knows how to party as well I would suspect. In contrast, the Americans rarely spend such time and there is no bonding. Without that bond there will be nothing inside making you want to win for your team.... because is them you are playing for, not your respective countries!

  • 19.
  • At 08:17 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Matt Slater wrote:

Hi Sunny Soto, I think you hit the nail squarely on the head with your observation about the psychological boost the Europeans would gain from seeing Tiger taken out of the game, but I think you've missed the main thrust of my argument for dropping him this afternoon.

The truth of it is that I saw plenty of his play today - and yesterday - and I've got to tell you it was really bad. I'm no Tiger-basher! I think he's great and love what he has done for the game. But he has been poor today and was fortunate to have Furyk as his partner.

He did improve this afternoon but not to anything like his usual standards.

But you're right about Mickelson, particularly with Henry cooling his heels on the bench. It might also have been a good idea to give Wetterich another chance to get into the competition before tomorrow's singles.

Ian, let's hold back on that chat until tomorrow...but I do like it.

And Ike, using Sven as an example of sensible and effective foreign leadership is not a very wise move on a BBC blog. He's not actually that popular around these parts.

As for the whole camaraderie issue, I couldn't agree more. The American efforts have been forced and contrived. Why? Well, I think there are deeper cultural reasons too but primarily it must be something to do with the character of the PGA Tour - its size, wealth, schedule, travel arrangements etc - as opposed to the European Tour. I know my argument isn't water-tight (Sergio, Donald et al don't play much Euro Tour golf) but it's the best I can do right now!

And shalom to you too, Benoit.

  • 20.
  • At 08:26 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Declan wrote:

Crazy idea that will never happen but as I watch each Ryder Cup go by I wonder if some of the pampered U.S. stars might benefit from a little time spent on the European tour. If nothing else it might teach them to lighten up!

Remember David Duval opting to celebrate with the Euro winners over his own bunch four years ago....

  • 21.
  • At 08:44 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Lyn wrote:

Matt and Rob - fantastic reporting, guys. When you're not busy eating or winding each other up, you're both doing a great job, really adding to the atmosphere of the whole event!

As you keep asking for a challenge - well, a question to investigate, at least - how about trying to get MJ's perspective on the team/camaraderie thing? As a giant, in every sense of the word, in one of the US' foremost team sports, perhaps he has some thoughts to offer on why 'Tiger the kid' can't seem to get the team thing?

  • 22.
  • At 08:47 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Anne wrote:

"Dennis Wheeler wrote:
How absurd that NBC is still showing tape-delayed coverage of the morning matches, while the afternoon matches are still going on and are winding down - with the US getting soundly trounced again. American TV coverage is just awful..."

Have you forgotten about the time difference between Ireland and even Eastern standard time in the US, never mind about the rest of the US time zones? Television in the US is about ratings and corporate sponsors and nobody is going to rise at 3AM just to watch any sporting event, Ryder Cup or the Olympics.

American golfers are always better individually than the Europeans; and the Europeans are better team players. A case in point, Tiger Woods has won 12 majors and 53 wins on the PGA. The only blemish to his record is the Ryder Cup. While Sergio Garcia shrinks and fails during major tournaments yet giggles and wins during Ryder Cup competition.

BTW, NBC commentators did criticize Tom Lehman for sending out Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, and benching JJ Henry in the afternoon matches.

I think the home crowd is a much overlooked factor when it comes to the Ryder Cup. Although Europe have arguably the better spread of team players, as many of the above comments elude to, having the crowd on your side can make a hole or two for you along the way. Let's not forget that we have seen the 18th green more times this weekend already than I remember in previous, recent Ryder Cups so the crowd is probably helping the Europeans along more than is obviously apparent. Europe might be edging it, but the gap isn't all that great in my opinion.

  • 24.
  • At 09:08 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • John wrote:

Ian at 7.20pm.

I wonder will Ian's comment about the eight British players be picked up by the Irish media. Should be fun if it is.

  • 25.
  • At 09:12 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • chris chohan wrote:

I was watching the matches today and especially that of JIm Furyk and Tiger Woods, Furyk looked so determined and focused whereas Tiger looked jaded and out of sorts, it was almost as if he wanted to drag the pair along on his own and I musst commend him for that.

JJ Henry was on fire, especially towards the end, did not merit being left out of the afternon pairings on both days, maybe if him and Furyk were paired they may be closer?

Still im all for Europe so i'm happy, here's to victory tomorrow. USA to get a mere 3 points MAX tomorrow!

  • 26.
  • At 09:23 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • chris chohan wrote:

The score would suggest otherwise Ian! When it came down to the wire, Europe held their nerve and showed their mettle.

Team USA just seem to be skulking away quietly, very few of their players the commitment and team ethic that is required

  • 27.
  • At 09:29 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Rajiv Perera wrote:

USA has some of the world's best players in many sports. But lately they have demonstrated that the world's best players don't form the world's best team. This was evident in Basketball (men & women0, Baseball, and ice hockey, to name a few. In soccer, the USA has done very well with average soccer stars.

  • 28.
  • At 09:39 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • julian wrote:

;The usa ryder cup team is similar to the NBA basketball players trying to adjust to the international style of play which requires a lot more teamwork in running plays and a lot more defense. The USA basketball team did take steps this year with a different style coach (college-Coach K) which did show improvements. The same must happen with the USA Ryder Cup team as we have to learn the International team style of play in order to be successful.

  • 29.
  • At 11:02 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Pete wrote:

Re. Comments 13 & 24. Ok then, take out Garcia and put in John Bickerton, then replace Jose Maria Olazabal with Paul Broadhurst. I think Anthony Wall was next on the list for Henrik Stenson and so on. Fine players I'm sure, but I don't think it would be a good idea. Sergio's four points alone going to USA turns it right round.

  • 30.
  • At 11:06 PM on 23 Sep 2006,
  • Dennis Wheeler wrote:

Anne, I don't expect people to rise at 3AM to watch the whole thing live, but for NBC to be still showing tape of the morning rounds until nearly 1PM eastern in the US, when they could be showing the afternoon rounds live, is just plain absurd, especially in this day and age when everyone has already seen the results of the morning rounds on the internet. They should show what they can live, then show tape of the morning matches (or perhaps just a good highlight show) for people who want to watch it.

  • 31.
  • At 04:56 AM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • jono wrote:

Being a Brit living in North America I feel the format of the Ryder Cup heavily favours British and Irish golfers (can't speak for those from the European mainland) To the Brits and Irish the format seems perfectly natural, one we're very familiar with. In North America golfers have never cottoned onto the idea that your regular game of golf can be a team sport as in having a fourball match with your mates - it's while playing those matches that we learn how to bond on a golf course and enjoy the success of your partner and the feeling of playing a great golf shot for your team-mate.

The only way people here in North America seem to know how to relax and have fun on a golf course is to jump in a cart loaded with beer, whereas in Britain we have our fun with the banter that goes with a good fourball game with your mates. The drinking waits until the bar afterwards.

Another problem the Americans face is that people here generally don't play matchplay of any kind and rarely are there any fourball tournaments held, it's nearly always about your medal score, even if that includes an unlimited amount of mulligans.

So if Europe manage to win this year and continue to dominate perhaps the format has to change to introduce more singles matches, either that or lets get the Americans to start relaxing and enjoying themselves more by drinking a few beers on the way round to counteract the European banter.....

  • 32.
  • At 08:06 AM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • Andy Thompson wrote:

Hey Matt

Loving your work over the last week - and Rob hasn't been too shabby either!! The blog has made compelling reading and has been a real supplement to the wall-to-wall TV & radio analysis.

The other day you asked for questions - I have one. Simply, where the heck is Jay Townsend!? I looked forward to him providing the US perspective on 5 Live - he's a passionate American but also hugely knowledgeable and straight-as-a-die fair in his comment.

But....he's disappeared off the face of the planet or at least from the vicinity of Dublin/Straffan/Kildare! Instead we have to listen to another yank (Mark somebody-or-other) and the mid-Atlantic twang of Portrush's finest, Graeme McDowell. Also, alas, no Townsend pearls on the blog for several days! Has the abject US performance on days 1 & 2 sent him scuttling to ground?

Andy T
Founder member of the Jay Club @ the K Club

  • 33.
  • At 08:32 AM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • Andy Thompson wrote:

10-6 going into the singles and everybody on the European side of things is saying the right things by cautioning against complacency or over-confidence.

Meanwhile on the American side of the Pond everyone is clinging onto one last tenuous straw - Brookline '99.

Yes they trailed by the same margin on Sunday morning then and, yes, we all know what happened next! But I identify two hugely significant differences which will mean that there is no repitition of that sad day.

First, Tiger says that a fast start by the US team will induce a sea change and cause the Europeans to panic. However this fails to recognise the key of home advantage - the panic in '99 came largely when the US start got their crowd involved, whoopin' & a-hollerin', and they became the 13th man - not going to happen today.

Second, and most crucially, as I look down the European order I don't see the names of Coltart, Sandelin, Van de Velde or Lawrie - in short we are solid, no weak links or passengers. We have the deepest European team ever and a team that I know (hope...think!) will bring the cup home comfortably this afternoon.

PS.... a third factor for good measure - surely the Yanks can't wear as garishly off-putiing shirts as they did at Brookline!!

  • 34.
  • At 11:56 AM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • Matt Slater wrote:

Howdy, lots of excellent points made about the "team" issue, and Lyn, if I run into MJ out there today I will be sure to put your question to him about "the kid". Is Jordan any good at golf, by the way? Does anybody know what his handicap is? Does he take as many shots as he did for the Bulls etc etc?

Andy T, Jay is alive and well! I shook his hand only two days ago and have heard his dulcet and well-informed tones coming from the big screen in the Tented Village. I think he might be working for The Golf Channel this week, but I'm not sure. Anyway, he assured me that he loved his blogging debut and would be back for more in tournaments to come.

And I agree with all your points re: Brookline. This is so over!!!!!!

  • 35.
  • At 01:02 PM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • martin weldon wrote:

Where is Ian getting 8 British players from? I count 2 Swedish, 2 Spanish, 6 British and 2 Irish. Ireland is an independent country Ian. I too would like the USA to win though. Its good to share it around.

  • 36.
  • At 02:49 PM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

Matt, MJ is a pretty decent golfer, single digit or low double, and has an amazing commpetitive fire on the course. He played my home course many years ago and after being two down on the front, he shot 34 on the back and won 2 up, to tie the match. As per usual I heard there was boat load of dosh on the line.

  • 37.
  • At 06:42 PM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • maureen franks wrote:

USA were totally outclassed from start to finish. Tiger should have been replaced on day 2 afternoon. His morose attitude and inaccurate play did nothing for the USA team overall. Furyk should have had a sparkier partner.
The whole USA team approach was such a bad example to potential, young American players.If you don't enjoy the challenge, save the 'plane fare next time.As one of the commentators said,'Look at them-all individuals'.

'Sportsnet World' coverage was superb. Based in Riyadh, I got to see all 3 days from start to finish-what a treat.

  • 38.
  • At 08:29 PM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • Clive in Ireland wrote:

I thought the whole European team were great. However, my hat goes off to Darren Clarke who was immense! He deserves all the plaudits and I am sure Heather is smiling tonight - an awesome display of golf.

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