Connect with us

Opinion & Analysis

Ryder Cup predictions: What team will win and why



By Joe Romaine

GolfWRX Contributor

Twenty four hours after Ben Crenshaw famously proclaimed “I’m a big believer in fate. I have a good feeling about this”, he seemed like a golf prophet. It appeared as if Crenshaw knew something the rest of the golfing world didn’t. What had he witnessed in the previous two days that every other spectator and television viewer missed? What had he seen in his American squad – down 10 to 6 at the time – that filled him with so much promise? Maybe a better question to ask is if he really believed his own words. Did Crenshaw really have a good feeling about the outcome of the Sunday singles matches or was the comment simply a motivational ploy to rally his American team that had been outplayed for more than a decade of Ryder Cup competitions.

Since 1985, American Ryder Cup squads have struggled to keep pace with the “little brother” European teams that had all-of-a-sudden grown up and grown dominant. It had taken a severely partisan crowd at Kiawah in 1991, Crenshaw’s motivational comments in 1999, and Paul Azinger’s captaincy of the ages in 2008 to bring the cup to the states laely. On the eve of the 39th matches for the right to claim Samuel Ryder’s prize, the crowd, the course, and a new American attitude will play great roles in who’s popping the bubbly come Sunday afternoon.

Seve Ballesteros in 1991 called the American team a group comprised of “eleven nice guys and Paul Azinger.” This declaration was maybe an insult to Azinger, maybe an example of Seve’s gamesmanship, and maybe a wee bit of reluctant respect. There is no question that Azinger was and is a fiery competitor with great pride. Azinger also knew how to channel his competitive spirit and put it to good use.  His emotional leadership at Valhalla stirred the crowd into a raucous frenzy. He successfully used his local heroes (Kenny Parry and J.B. Holmes) as part of his strategy. After the ’91 and ’99 Cup matches, the European team caught on to the fact that winning the crowd at a Ryder Cup is nearly as important as winning matches.  In 2004 at Oakland Hills, while the Americans were very business-like prior to the event, the Euros went out of their way to sign autographs and pose for pictures during practice rounds and effectively took a would-be boisterous blue-collar crowd out of the equation long before the disastrous pairing of Phil and Tiger famously crumbled.

This week’s American representatives understand the importance of the home crowd. Personalities such as those displayed by Bubba, Keegan, Snedeker, and Dustin Johnson will no doubt give the Chicagoland fans plenty to cheer for. The maturity of the veterans will help keep the young guns in check while still keeping the crowd engaged. This competition has evolved to a point where the crowds and the players are aware of the difference a supportive fan base can be. If the home team strikes early, look for the roars to echo through Medinah all weekend long.

Advantage – USA

The evolution of the European game not only applies to their dismantling of American Ryder Cup teams, but to the dominance on classic American layouts. After many years of European futility in the U.S. Open (one European winner since 1925), Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy displayed the new-found euro swagger by winning back-to-back championships in 2010 and 2011 – Rory’s in a dominant fashion not seen since Tiger’s 2000 win at Pebble Beach. Rory even raised bushy European eyebrows by commenting that his game is better suited to the high-flying, drop-and-stop style required more in the states than the low, bump-and-run style required by links courses across the pond.

This comfort level with American courses has made the captain’s set-up of each hole crucial. Hall Sutton kept the Oakland Hills rough lower than normal and Valhalla was a bombers paradise. Luke Donald tweeted a few weeks back that there was very little rough at Medinah and putting would be the deciding factor. If so, Europe holds a decided advantage here as their putting and birdie-percentage stats outpace those of the Americans.

Tee to green, though, there are very few holes that stand out as offering a distinct advantage to either side. Even the drivable 15th hole provides trouble with water lurking right of the hole. Reportedly almost a third of the American team found the drink on that hole in their practice round Wednesday. Most of the holes alternate between benefiting the American side and European side as the holes alternate between requiring length and accurate shot-shaping. If the Americans are able to extend the matches to later holes, they seem to have an edge on the long par 4 16th, the lengthy par 3 17th with a flatter putting surface, and par 4 18th– obviously a crucial three-hole stretch in match play. Although the stars and stripes squad should keep some matches very interesting with dramatic, late-match wins and halves, this course is feeling more and more like a Brookline or Oakland Hills, and not as much like a Valhalla.

Advantage – Europe

After decades of United States dominance and the addition of the rest of Europe to the GB&I pool of players, the Ryder Cup witnessed a transformation. The European side turned inward and took on an “us against the world” attitude. They thrived on playing the underdog role no matter how talented their squads were. The “little brother” was becoming bigger, stronger, and faster.  This European team is comprised of four of the top five players in the world golf rankings. The same old U.S. Ryder Cup routine is no longer sufficient.  The awkwardness between Tiger and Phil in their power grouping at Oakland Hills was palpable.  However, in recent years the team chemistry for the United States has unquestionably improved. The U.S. side modified their points system. They added two captains’ picks.  But something was still amiss. Paul Azinger’s “pod” system in 2008 proved very successful. Certain U.S. team members have adjusted to and accepted the “team” concept of the Ryder Cup. Hunter Mahan’s heartbreaking press conference in 2010 further galvanized many of these same team members. Even the rookies for this U.S. team come to Chicago with a different aura. While Jeff Overton and Rickie Fowler provided plenty of pep in 2010, this year’s rookies come with two majors, a FedEx Cup, and more than a handful of wins in the last two years. These are players that have been through the ringer and have come out successful.  Undoubtedly, the European players are aware of this shift in U.S. team personality.  After all, most of these Euros tee it up with these same U.S. players week in and week out on the PGA tour and have seen first-hand their unflappable abilities.  This new found chemistry and confidence by the Americans should prove to be very beneficial come Sunday when the pressure is at its greatest.

Advantage – USA

There have been very few Ryder Cups in which the European teams have been better on paper than the United States. This discrepancy in perceived talent, however, has not translated into recent victories for the Americans. The European contingents have had that little something extra — the “it” factor. They knew their putts would fall. They knew that no matter what happened to them in their match, they had a teammate ready and willing to pick them up and carry them across the finish line. The United States team members have seen this routine enough to understand its benefits to a team competition. It would seem that this year’s team has adopted that philosophy and is ready to bring the Ryder Cup back to American soil and build a foundation for future U.S. team successes. While the teams appear to be very similar, the European team holds the on-course edge. But a one-sided, Midwestern crowd eager for American success and a new attitude American team should push the red, white, and blue to victory. Whether fate plays a role this year or not, I have a good feeling about this.

US – 15.5, EU – 12.5

Click here for more discussion in the forums.

Your Reaction?
  • 0
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Joe Romaine is a high school math teacher and golf coach in sunny Arizona. His days are spent thinking about golf, watching golf, and relating golf to his students' math curriculum.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Opinion & Analysis

A new NCAA transfer rule gets passed… and college coaches are NOT happy



New rules just keep on coming from the NCAA; college coaches are not happy about this one.

In a summer of block buster coaching changes, the NCAA has done its best to stay atop the news cycle by making some significant changes, which will impact the recruitment process. In an article two months ago entitled “The effect the NCAA’s new recruiting rules will have on college golf,” I spoke to college coaches about a new rule, which will not allow unofficial or official visits until September 1 of the players Junior Year. To go along with this rule, the NCAA has also put in place a new recruiting calendar which will limit the sum of the days of off campus recruiting between a head and assistant coach to 45 days starting August 1, 2018.

The 45-day rule will have several potential impacts for both recruits and assistant coaches. For recruits, it is likely that after a couple (2-3) evaluations, coaches will make offers and ask for speed responses to ensure they are not missing out on other options. I also think you will see far less assistant coaches recruiting, which ultimately hurts their opportunities to learn the art of recruitment.

The new transfer rule

In the past, players were subject to asking their present institution for either permission to contact other schools regarding transfer, or a full release.

Now, starting October 15, players can simply inform their institution of their intensions to leave and then start contacting other schools to find an opportunity. This is a drastic shift in policy, so I decided to poll college coaches to get their reactions.

The poll was conducted anonymously via Survey Monkey. Participation was optional and included 6 questions:

  1. New NCAA Legislation will allow players to transfer without a release starting October 2018. Do you support this rule change?
  2. Do you believe that this rule will have APR implications?
  3. Who do you think will benefit most from this rule?
  4. What are the benefits of allowing students to transfer without a release? What are the potential harms?
  5. New NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?
  6. What implications do you see for this rule?

In all, 62 Division I golf coaches responded, or about 10 percent of all Division I coaches in Men’s and Women’s Golf. The results show that 81.25 percent of DI coaches said that they do NOT support the rule change for transfers.

Also, 90 percent of coaches polled believe that the rule will have APR implications. APR is Academic Progress Rate which holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.

The APR is calculated as follows:

  • Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible.
  • A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate.
  • In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.

Teams must earn a four-year average APR of 930 to compete in championships.

While the APR is intended as an incentive-based approach, it does come with a progression of penalties for teams that under-perform academically over time.

The first penalty level limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week over five days (as opposed to 20 over six days), with the lost four hours to be replaced with academic activities.

A second level adds additional practice and competition reductions, either in the traditional or non-championship season, to the first-level penalties. The third level, where teams could remain until their rate improves, includes a menu of possible penalties, including coaching suspensions, financial aid reductions and restricted NCAA membership.

Clearly coaches are not happy about the move and feel that the rule unfairly benefits both the student athletes and major conference schools, who may have a swell of calls around middle of October as Student athletes play great fall golf and look to transfer. Although coaches are unhappy about the new rule, it is very difficult to predict what direct impact the rule will have on teams; coaches are extremely smart and understand recruiting and development within the frame work of college better than anyone can imagine. As a result, I think coaches will react in many ways which are impossible to predict.

The survey also asked, “new NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?” For this, coaches were more divided with 45 percent in favor of the rule, and 55 percent not.

Although coaches supported the legislation, many (41/62) suggested that it would potentially hurt international recruiting at tournaments like Doral and the Orange Bowl and they had, in the past, used December as a time to recruit.

As we move forward with these changes, here are some potential things that recruits, and their families should consider, including consequences of the rules:

  1. With a limit of 45 days and these transfer rules, it is likely that coaches will be doing significantly more investigation into a player’s personalities and family situation to make sure they know what they are getting.
  2. Coaches may also start skipping over better players in favor of kids they think will be a good fit and are likely to stay
  3. Rosters may get bigger, as coaches are trying to have larger numbers to potentially offset transfers

Unfortunately, we enter a new era of rules at the worst time; we have never had a more competent and deep group of college coaches, the clear majority of whom are tremendous stewards of the game. Hopefully this rule will have insignificant effect on the continued growth of college golf but only time will tell.

Your Reaction?
  • 21
  • LEGIT2
  • WOW3
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP1
  • OB0
  • SHANK11

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

Is golf actually a team sport?



Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

Your Reaction?
  • 8
  • LEGIT2
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK3

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

What is “feel” in putting… and how do you get it?



You’re playing a course for the first time, so you arrive an hour early to warm-up. You make your way toward the practice green and you see a sign at the first tee that reads, “GREEN SPEED TODAY 11.”  That brings up two issues:

  1. How did they arrive at that number?
  2. How is that information valuable to me?

How did they arrive at that number?

They used what’s known as a stimpmeter — a device that’s used to measure the speed of a green. With a stimpmeter, the green’s surface is tested by rolling a ball down the 30-inch ramp that is tilted downward at a 20-degree angle. The number of feet the ball rolls after leaving the ramp is an indication of the green’s speed. The green-speed test is conducted on a flat surface. A total of three balls are rolled in three different directions. The three balls must then finish within eight inches of each other for the test to be valid.

For example, if the ball is rolled down the ramp and were to stop at 8 feet, the green would be running at an “8.” Were the ball to roll down the ramp and stop at 12 feet, the green would be running at a “12.”

Stimpmeter history

The stimpmeter was invented by Edward S. Stimpson, Sr., a Massachusetts State Amateur Champion and former Harvard Golf Team Captain. After attending the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont, he saw the need for a universal testing device after watching Gene Sarazen, who was at the top of his game, putt a ball off the green. He was of the opinion that the greens were unreasonably fast, but he had no way to prove it — thus the motivation for creating the invention.

The device is now used by superintendents to make sure all of their greens are rolling close to the same speed. This ensures that golfers are not guessing from one putt to another if a green is fast or slow based on the way it is maintained. The device is also used by tournament officials who want to make sure that green speed is not too severe.

Do Stimp readings matter for my game?

Not very much. That piece of abstract knowledge is of little value until you can translate it into your own personal feel for the speed of the putt. There is a method that will allow you to turn green speed into a legitimate feel, however, and you don’t even need a stimpmeter or a stimp reading to do it. I call it “Setting Your Own Stimpmeter.”

Before we get to how to do it, the first step is to determine if the putting green is the same speed as the greens on the course. The best source of information in this regard are the professionals working in the golf shop. They will be happy to share this information with you. You only need to ask. Assuming that the speed of the putting green is close to the speed of the greens on the course, you are ready to begin setting your own stimpmeter. This is done by inputting data into your neuromuscular system by rolling putts and visually observing the outcome.

Contrary to what most golfers believe, a golfer’s feel for distance is based in the eyes — not in the hands, which only records tactile information. It’s just like basketball. On the court, you look at the distance to the hoop and respond accordingly. While you would feel the ball in your hands, it doesn’t play a role in determining the proper distance to the hoop. Based on what you saw with your eyes, you would access the data that had been previously inputted through shooting practice.

Setting your own Stimpmeter

  1. Start by finding a location on the putting green that is flat and roughly 15 feet away from the fringe.
  2. Using five balls, start rolling putts one at a time toward the fringe. The objective is to roll them just hard enough for them to finish against the edge.
  3. You may be short of the fringe or long, but it is important that you do not judge the outcome— just observe, because the feel for distance is visually based.
  4. You should not try and judge the feel of the putt with your hands or any other part of your body. You can only process information in one sensory system at a time — that should be the eyes.
  5. You should continue to roll balls until you’ve reach the point that most of them are consistently finishing against the fringe. Once you can do that, you have successfully set you stimpmeter.

The key to the entire process is allowing yourself to make a subconscious connection between what your eyes have observed and the associated outcome. You must then trust what you have learned at a sub-conscious level. A conscious attempt to produce a given outcome will short-circuit the system. When it comes to judging speed, you must be prepared to surrender your conscious mind to your sub-conscious mind, which is infinitely wiser and more capable of calculating speed. Want proof? Work through the steps I’ve outlined below. .

  1. After having loaded the data as described in the exercise above, pace off a 25-foot putt.
  2. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole as you would normally using your conscious mind to control the outcome.
  3. Mark the location of the five balls with a tee pushing them down until they are level with the surface of the green.
  4. Allow your eyes to work slowly from the ball to the hole while clearing your conscious mind of any thought.
  5. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole allowing your subconscious mind to control the outcome.
  6. Compare the proximity of the five putts that you just hit to those marked with a tee. What do you observe?

Did you have trouble clearing your mind of any conscious thought? Assuming that your conscious mind intruded at any point, the outcome would be negatively affected. You should then repeat the exercise but this time, emptying your mind of any thought. You will have mastered the technique when you are able to quiet your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to take over.

This technique will improve your proximity to the hole on longer putts. And you know what that means? Fewer three-putts!

Editor’s Note: Rod Lindenberg has authored a book entitled “The Three-Putt Solution”  that is now available through Amazon. 

Your Reaction?
  • 53
  • LEGIT3
  • WOW2
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK10

Continue Reading

19th Hole