Amid everything else that was going on yesterday, during Golf Channel’s “Live At The Ryder Cup” coverage, Brandel Chamblee and David Duval got into a heated debate over the failings of the US Ryder Cup team over the last 20+ years (wins in 1999 and 2008, losses in 1995, 1997, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2012 and 2014). Let’s go to the tape, shall we?
— GOLF.com (@golf_com) September 28, 2016
There’s a lot to break down. First off, while I know that Brandel Chamblee can irritate people, he makes some salient points (more on that in a bit). So does David Duval (in all honesty I like both because they weren’t giving us the over-the-top patriotic orgy that is forthcoming).
Let’s start with Tiger Woods. Woods’ overall record is 13-14-2 (and yes, 29 matches is more than sufficient sample size). He has a losing record in both foursomes (alternate shot) and four-balls (think 2-man best ball), but is 4-1-1 in singles. He’s been a part of one (1) winning team (despite this there were far too many people suggesting he be that 12th player picked despite not having played a single shot this year and having a world ranking below 500th). 16 of the 28 points come from foursomes and four-balls. At best, Woods would only be able to contribute 1 point through a singles win. Duval points out that your leaders aren’t necessarily your highest ranked players. Which is fine, except how exactly are the teams picked? The first 8-9 slots go off of rankings, which, if my math is correct, is 2/3rds to 3/4ths of your team. Until the PGA of America says “screw it, the captain picks all 12 players rankings be damned” rankings are going to matter. What those automatic picks do is going to largely impact if you’re successful or not.
Let’s take a look at Phil Mickelson…hi Phil! His overall record is 16-19-7 (and 42 matches more than shows us a decent sample size). Breaking it down, Mickelson is 5-5-1 in singles, but 4-6-4 in foursomes (alternate shot), and 7-8-2 in four-balls. If you’re scoring at home, he’s even money in singles and has a losing record in foursomes and four-balls (where he has won 11 of 31 matches). I like Phil because he is, if nothing else, worth the price of admission. But his Fri/Sat record is not good. Period.
Chamblee points out that the most important matches are the first one on Friday and the last one on Saturday. I’m not sure if this is necessarily predictive of a result, but if it is, then it would make sense to load up accordingly. If I were running the PGA of America (hint, hint), the captain would have detailed statistical breakdowns on each player (based on expected results, variations for weather, time of year, format, etc.). I would not pair guys up who play completely different balls for the alternate shot matches (or if I did, they’d be practicing together with the same ball for months prior), which is something Mickelson pointed out during his press conference. To not do that is, effectively, gifting points to the other side (I’ve already pointed out the absolute stupidity in naming Ryan Moore less than week prior to the start of the event).
Chamblee, who admittedly can be a bit grating, is at least asking the right question. Why did the US team lose a 4-point lead in 2012 and why did the European team lose a similar lead in 1999? Was it momentum, was it simply a case of statistical regression to the mean, or was it something else (if Europe wins 4 coin flips in a row, are they lucky or this skill)? Duval, who again, I like, talks about inflammatory remarks and “a feeling” in 1999. I’d argue that it was simply regression to the mean on the European team (and terrible team selection by Mark James in not playing 1/4 of his team until the Sunday singles). The idea of it being luck is, frankly, ignoring statistical variance and expected results/actual results. If Davis Love III doesn’t honestly know where the 14.5 points he’s going to need are coming from, then what exactly has he been doing the last 18 months? It’s a fair question.
If they don’t come out tonight in giant boxing gloves and headgear I’ll be very displeased.