Slice of Bacon: The Ryder Cup Is Upon Us

During the golf season, I receive a plethora of e-mails, tweets and more asking any and all sorts of questions about the game we love. Each week, we will compile the best of these and I’ll do my best to answer them.  Here goes nothing!   

Bacon: A great first question and something I mentioned during one of our mock “The Turn” shows this afternoon at the Back9Network studios. Patrick Reed, more than any golfer in recent memory, lives behind one single comment. Saying he was a top-five player in the world after his win at the Cadillac Championship has overtaken him, much like Stephen Ames will forever be remembered as the “9 and 8” guy and Jean Van de Velde will … well, you know. 

The comment turned out to be the wrong thing to say at the time, even if I loved him saying it. We ask our young golfers to speak up and have a personality, yet the moment they do we bash them for it. Was it in bad taste to speak out and say you’re one of the five best golfers in the world after an incredible run that saw Reed pick up three PGA Tour wins in seven months? Yeah, probably, but he believed it, said it, and stood behind it. 

It didn’t help his case that he picked up just two top-10s the rest of the season after that win at Doral, but I really believe that a good Ryder Cup could turn all this around for Reed. Remember, no event in golf can flip the script on your perception like the Ryder Cup. None. Have a great week or do something special during this event and you’ll be remembered forever (if you don’t believe me, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Jeff Overton? And what comes to mind right away when you think of Ian Poulter?). 

If Reed and partner Jordan Spieth can get something going early, and Reed finishes with something like a 2-0-1 record and the Americans win, I see the golf community turning around on him, especially on this side of the pond. Reed is obviously a serious talent, so a good Ryder Cup could do wonders for his career moving forward, and I hope to see it at Gleneagles.  

Bacon: It’s always a goofy side plot in these matches to see which guys really don’t like wearing hats, but do because it’s the biggest paying sponsor spot anywhere on a golfer’s body.

Robert Rock has always gone without the hat because nothing should cover up those beautiful locks, but it always seems that more Europeans go without the caps this week than Americans do. 

By my count, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, and Martin Kaymer could all go without caps at some point this week, depending on weather. 

I don’t see really any American going without a hat, but with the New Era lids they have, why would they?  

Bacon: I think it was a bit of a mistake two years ago to sit Bradley and Mickelson in that Saturday afternoon match, even if Mickelson was said to have brought up the idea to do so. They were 3-0-0 together, a red-hot team for the United States that couldn’t be stopped, and even if Phil was feeling the burn of that many matches in such a short amount of time, I think the atmosphere and all those butt-slaps from Keegan would have kept him going for 18 more holes.

Looking back, it’s easy to say it was the wrong move, and I expect Tom Watson to leave those guys out there together until they falter. 

If Mickelson needs a breather, I would maybe go Friday afternoon, but I think you want Phil and Keegan together as long as they are producing points (or even half points). Bradley can definitely go the distance, it’s just about Phil and his stamina at this point, but hopefully if his game is sharp, he’s out there for the United States from start to finish. 

Bacon: I love Jimmy Walker this week, especially playing alongside Rickie Fowler. 

Nobody played better golf for an entire season than Fowler, and match play is all about consistency from start to finish (a bad hole or two is fine, but you can’t have a day where your game disappears, and those have been few and far between for Fowler). 

Walker makes a ton of birdies (third on tour this year), hits the ball a mile (19th in driving distance), can really roll the rock (11th in strokes gained putting) and has the right demeanor on the golf course for this type of event. 

I think Bradley and Mickelson are the most important grouping in terms of momentum, but I think Walker and Fowler might be a team we see for years to come, and I think this week will be the start of that special partnership. 

If they don’t walk away with 2.5 points or more as a team, I’d be surprised, especially considering they get Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer to start. 

Bacon: I mean, the only possible answer here is the entire European squad. If the Americans get steamrolled, people will just point towards the talented European team and think nothing of it.

But if the Euros get off to a slow start, and the Americans can build some momentum on a golf course that isn’t so linksy? Yeah, that is the only real situation that would justify someone calling this a “meltdown” on Monday.

Bacon: I love thinking of Pop with a clipboard taped to his right hand, flying around Gleneagles in a golf cart screaming at Matt Kuchar and Jim Furyk with that red face, but I’m not sure that is the right approach to this type of event and these players.

The answer is Mike Krzyzewski. He already knows how to handle a bunch of egos all in the same room as he does with Team USA basketball, and the guy has an incredible calmness about him that would help these players if things went south. 

He’d be hard on the guys that could take it, easy on the ones that couldn’t, and for some reason I think he could really pull off the fist pump. 

I’m going Coach K by a mile at the Ryder Cup, and after hearing what Rory McIlroy said following the speech by Sir Alex Ferguson, you might have to consider Ferguson for the Europeans. 

Shane Bacon is the host of “The Turn” weekdays at noon and 7 p.m. on Back9Network. 

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