Blog 84, 12/18/10 - Olazabal, Love next Ryder Cup captains? GWAA Players of the Year, Local Tournament Results

On Thursday, stories about the men likely to captain the US and European Ryder Cup teams at Medinah CC in 2012 suddenly appeared all over the internet. It wasn't clear exactly what had prompted all the speculation as the European Ryder Cup Committee won't be announcing its man until January 18th, and the PGA of America hasn't even set a date for introducing Corey Pavin's successor (plus, there isn't much speculation anyway - José María Olazábal will lead the Europeans while Davis Love III plots a plan to win the Cup back for the US). Still, nothing should get in the way of a good story, especially if it might very well be true.

Olazábal's selection is a near certainty. The Spaniard was actually slated to captain Europe at Celtic Manor but hesitated over his decision long enough for the committee to opt for Colin Montgomrie instead. Then no sooner had Monty wiped the Champagne from his lips following Europe's narrow victory, than he was exhorting the committee to choose Olly for the job in 2012. And really, who else can match the credentials of this two-time Masters champion, seven-time Ryder Cup player, and the man who was one half of the most successful fourball and foursome pairing in the event's 81-year history - partnering countryman and mentor Seve Ballesteros to an incredible 11-2-2 record?
Olazábal will be 46 by the time the Cup comes round again, which would make him Europe's youngest captain since Mark James whose dozen suffered the US team's irresistable singles charge at the Country Club in Boston in 1999. The only other player who might be considered a candidate is Ulsterman Darren Clarke who is two years younger than Olazábal, and who will surely get his opportunity to captain the side some time down the road - probably in America in 2016. Olazabal's health might be the only question mark over his ability to captain the side, but how healthy do you need to be to make three wild-card selections, formulate the pairings, give a couple of speeches and design bad clothes?
Love's appointment, apparently decided at a PGA of America Board meeting in November, wasn't quite so clear-cut perhaps as a handful of other candidates would have made compelling cases. Mark O'Meara is a two-time major champion and veteran of five Ryder Cups. Fred Funk, though not a major winner, has won the Players Championship, played on the 2004 US team and would be a popular choice among the players and fans. Speaking of popular choices, Mark Calcavecchia would no doubt create a convivial atmosphere in the team room and is both a major champion (1989 Open Championship) and four-time Ryder Cupper. Lee Janzen is a double US Open winner and played in the Ryder Cup twice, and everyone knows Fred Couples's playing record and knack for getting the best out of his players - has a US men's side played better than Couples's 2009 Presidents Cup team since the 2000 matches when the US humbled the Internationals 20 ½ - 11 ½?
Ultimately though, Love trumps them all. The North Carolinan not only has 20 PGA Tour victories, he also won the PGA Championship in 1997. The PGA of America looks very kindly on past winners of the Wanamaker Trophy and no one on the list besides Love has ever hoisted the gargantuan silver cup. Added to which - O'Meara caused a bit of a stink in 1999 when he spoke about being paid to play in the bienniel event, Funk's playing record is considerably inferior, Janzen is not the media-friendly leader the PGA of America would prefer, Calcavecchia might just create too convivial an atmosphere, and Couples seems very happy being Presidents Cup captain thank you very much.
Love III
When you think about, Love was probably every bit as much a lock for the US captaincy as Olazábal was for the European's. And personally, I couldn't think of two more deserving and suitable team captains. There have, however, been rumbles on golf forums and in chatrooms about both being too boring, and that there will be none of the buzz in the run-up to the tournament that there has in the past. It's true; while both are extremely proud and classy individuals and passionate about their country/continent, neither displays quite the raw emotion and ferocity of a Ballesteros or Lanny Wadkins, for example.
But that's no bad thing. Both will want to win very badly, but neither will get involved in any gamesmanship either on the course as they ferret about in their Captain carts, or in the media center where they will field questions about tactics and strategy. It will be a clean, fair fight, and the tournament, even the game itself, will benefit greatly.

Another story of interest this week was the naming of Graeme McDowell, Yani Tseng and Bernhard Langer as the Male, Female, and Senior Players of the Year by the Golf Writers Association of America (yours truly is a member but neglected to cast his vote. Had I not been so forgetful, I too would have chosen the Northern Irish, Taiwanese and German golfers). Langer, who won back-to-back senior majors at the Senior British Open and US Senior Open, was the obvious choice among the over-50s and received 94% of the vote (Couples got the other 6%). Despite finishing fourth on the LPGA Tour money list, Tseng received more than two-thirds of the votes for Female POY largely because of her two major championship victories - at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and Ricoh Womens British Open. Only 43% of the voters went for US Open champion McDowell, however, with Jim Furyk (32%) and Martin Kaymer (25%) likewise attracting significant support. Also worthy of a vote were Lee Westwood, the man who supplanted Tiger Woods at the top of the world rankings, and Dustin Johnson who would have made any argument over POY redundant had he finished a little stronger at the US Open and played the 72nd hole of the PGA Championship without incident.
In the end though, those that did remember to vote unquestionably got it right.

The Winter series at both North Bellingham and Lake Padden are in full swing. Here are links to tournament results and schedules.
North Bellingham
Scotch Ball - results here.
4-Club Fiasco - results here.
Share the Love - results here.
2-Person Best Ball - results here.

Lake Padden
Results and schedule here.


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