Now I’m not in Montreal — and thankfully so, apparently, since Bob [photopress:weir_player.jpg,full,alignright]Weeks is already reporting that getting onto the island to get at Royal Montreal is a disaster, something that was an issue in 2001 at the Canadian Open and is apparently happening again.
So the question is who will win? Many have pointed out the International team is very strong, but many of its members haven’t been playing well in the past few months.
PGATour.com rounds up its crew of contributors to pick who they think will be the standout on each team. I’m still guessing Tiger will play will for the U.S. side, despite his marginal record in these sorts of events coming in. If he doesn’t, questions will certainly be raised about his desire to play in these events. That said, Jack Nicklaus told me earlier this year that he had a tough time getting up for the Ryder Cup, as his focus — like Tiger’s — was squarely on the majors. After that, well, the Ryder Cup was simply a nice competitive exhibition, according to Jack.
But Woods is clearly firing on all cylinders and perhaps playing the best game as well as he ever has. I wouldn’t relish playing him if I were part of the International team.
Woods also stands out for me because the setup for Royal Montreal will largely come down to putting. The course’s rough isn’t dramatic, and the fairways are still relatively wide. The greens, however, as reconceived by Rees Jones, have dramatic tiers in them, meaning they play like greens within a green. That means bigger hitters (Woods, Els and the like) who are coming at the greens with shorter irons will have a better chance of finding the appropriate sectors in the putting surfaces, and that should lead to more birdies. I think it makes for dull, one dimensional golf, but that’s what Royal Montreal will likely offer this week. I’d also expect Jim Furyk to be strong this week (“My man can get it out there just fine,” his caddie Fluff told me at the Canadian Open when talking about Furyk’s distance off the tee) and he’s typically a strong putter.
That also brings a player like Zach Johnson into the mix, but he’ll have to bring his flatstick to the game (he’s 49th on tour this year), since he’ll be a ways back with his driver.
So who is the best putter on the International Team? Weir is surely strong (70th on tour, which isn’t as good as 2006 when he was 22cnd) and it isn’t likely Ernie Els, who has admitted his putter has let him down for most of the year. Perhaps the best bet on the International team — and the one player who can likely go head-to-head with Woods, is Adam Scott, who is 16th in putting and 20th in driving distance. And sure he doesn’t hit a ton of fairways, but that shouldn’t be too big an issue this week. I’d pick Scott as the one to watch on the International side.
- Ernie Els missed the event in 2005, but is back this year. Apparently Gary Player is pinning a lot of his hopes on Els. Is it just me, or is it time that Player wasn’t the captain of this team?
- Lots of people are talking about the pairing of Weir and Vijay Singh. The two clearly get along well, as witnessed by their match in PEI a couple of months back.
- The Philly Inquirer raises the question of why the U.S. team plays well in the PC, and badly at the Ryder Cup. Good question. Maybe they care more about this one? Ha!