There are still a lot of “what if”s floating around after the monumental final day collapse of Team USA at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah. The two biggest are why send the winless Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods out in the last two pairings on Sunday, and should the seemingly unstoppable team of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley have played the Saturday afternoon Fourball?
Woods and Stricker first. With a 10-6 U.S. lead going into the Sunday singles, if everything had gone according to plan, the Cup should have been decided in favor of the American side long before the last two matches of the day, thus making those matches virtually meaningless. Captain Davis Love III’s decision there seems like a no-brainer.
The tougher call was sitting the U.S.’s hottest duo Saturday afternoon after going undefeated in their previous three matches. All indications are that it was Mickelson’s idea to have him and Bradley take the afternoon off, telling Keegan Saturday morning to give it all he had because they weren’t going to play in the afternoon – even informing Love at their 10th hole that they would be too physically and emotionally spent to play that day’s Fourballs. That whole line of thinking may have been premature, given that the team ended up playing only 12 holes that day, posting a 7&6 spanking of Europeans Lee Westwood and Luke Donald in the morning Foursomes.
But for all those saying Mickelson and Bradley should have played the Saturday Fourballs, answer this: Which American team should have sat out? Had Phil and Keegan played instead of Dustin Johnson/Matt Kuchar or Bubba Watson/Webb Simpson and won, it simply would have been a wash, because both of those teams won their matches. It probably wouldn’t have been in place of Woods and Stricker. It was controversial enough that they sat out the morning session (Tiger’s first missed Ryder Cup session ever). So that leaves the team of Jason Dufner and Zack Johnson. A decision to sit Dufner and Johnson would have been almost as controversial as sitting Mickelson and Bradley. By the end of Saturday morning’s Foursomes, Dufner and Johnson were also undefeated at 2-0, beating Westwood and Francesco Molinari 3&2 Friday morning and Nicolas Colsaerts and Sergio Garcia 2&1 Saturday morning.
Whether or not Phil and Keegan playing Saturday afternoon would have made any difference in the outcome, we’ll never know. But I do take issue with Mickelson’s reasoning for not wanting to play all five matches. After his Saturday morning match, Phil cited Ryder Cup history, pointing out that traditionally, those players that play all five matches don’t fare well in Sunday Singles. In an eerily ironic twist, the only two players to play all five matches at Medinah, Europe’s Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose, both won their Singles matches… over Bradley and Mickelson, respectively.
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