Monday Rap Q&A: Ryder Cup Pairings Predictions, Breakout Star … – Barstool Sports

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Greetings from the Dead-Zone. With the Tour Championship in the rearview mirror and the major season now a distant memory, our collective focus has shifted to the Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup and football. It should be noted that over half the 24 Ryder Cup players will play competitive golf this weekend—all 12 Europeans are teeing it at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, the DP World Tour’s flagship event, with Justin Thomas and Max Homa at the Fortinet Championship, the first event of the fall season that’s no longer tied to the calendar-year PGA Tour season—but still, we’re not going to pretend there’s much fodder for wide-ranging conclusions or needle-shifting narratives. 

As such, now feels like a pretty good time to answer some of your guys questions in our once-quarterly(ish) Q&A edition of the Monday Rap. Without further ado…

Is it time for a Rory/Harry split? Doesn’t seem like Harry is able to get him across the line. —@dan.sherwood on Instagram

This line of questioning always seems to percolate after a disappointing weekend for Rory McIlroy. This past week certainly qualifies—McIlroy had a great chance to win his ninth National Open title at the K Club in Ireland. He played his first six holes on Sunday in two under par to grab a share of the lead and, by any metric, he was the best and most accomplished player in contention. Instead, Rory played his final 12 holes in four over par, including two middle-of-the-fairway wedges into water, to drop all the way to a tie for 16th. 

Rory’s wedge game was, as the announcer was quick to point out, a total and complete mess. His alignment looked off. His hips were firing so fast that his arms couldn’t catch up. When that happens, you’re forced to try to time everything with your arms. It leads to inconsistent strikes. And, somehow, this is supposed to be the caddies’ fault?

I don’t want to underplay the importance of the caddie in modern professoinal golf. You hear guys these days say “we played well” or “we plotted our way around the course” or “we had a really strong gameplan.” Clearly the days of show up, keep up and shut up are long gone. It’s more of a team endeavor than ever before. All that said…the yardage books do 90% of the technical work. A caddie’s most important trait is putting his player’s mind at ease. Rory isn’t some wet-behind-the-ears youngster who’s making course management efforts. He’s played hundreds and hundreds of golf tournaments. He’s won dozens of them. 

His issue is a very technical one at the minute. Unless you’re suggesting he puts a swing coach on the bag, which almost no one does, I don’t see how his good pal/longtime looper Harry Diamond is to blame. Like, at all. Rory wants a caddie he can chat to. Someone who can keep him loose. A piece of home on the road, where he’s constantly navigating a chaotic reality where the media wants to talk to him after every round, he’s got the most people following him out of any group. Harry can’t get up there and hit the wedge shot. That’s on Rory, and he knows it. 

I’d also take issue with “doesn’t seem like Harry is able to get him over the line.” First, the player gets himself over the line, full stop. Secondly, since Harry began working for him in the summer of 2017 Rory has won 10 standalone events, including the Players Championship, two FedEx Cups titles and 14 top-10s in major championships. 

Of course I understand why Harry gets some heat; when you’re on a generationally talented players’ bag, and that player isn’t winning major championships the way everyone expects him to, people are going to look for someone to blame. But to suggest that switching to another caddie would suddenly unlock something in Rory McIlroy undersells McIlroy’s ability, his self-reliance and the good job that Diamond does. Remember: the caddie can’t hit a shot. Ever. 

What would a combined Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup team look like for the non-USA team? —@genova_adam on X

Excellent question and a fun thought experiment. So, 12 guys from outside the United States. The top six players on the European Ryder Cup team are making it:

Rory McIlroy
Jon Rahm
Viktor Hovland
Tommy Fleetwood
Matt Fitzpatrick
Tyrrell Hatton

From the International ranks, Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im are no-brainers. I think Tom Kim’s done enough, as well. Hideki Matsuyama’s been in neutral for a year-plus and has struggled with some nagging injuries, but you’d want his experience. So that’s 10 guys, meaning two spots for the following players:

Corey Conners
Adam Scott
Min Woo Lee
Shane Lowry
Ludvig Aberg
Justin Rose
Si Woo Kim
Joaquin Niemann
Emiliano Grillo
Jason Day
Nicolai Hojgaard
Sepp Straka

Conners’ ball striking is enticing, but his putting issues and complete no-show at the 2022 Presidents Cup has left me with some scar tissue. If I had to make the call today, I’d probably go with Min Woo and Ludvig. So our squad would be:

Rory McIlroy (EUR)
Jon Rahm (EUR)
Viktor Hovland (EUR)
Tommy Fleetwood (EUR)
Matt Fitzpatrick (EUR)
Tyrrell Hatton (EUR)
Ludvig Aberg (EUR)
Cameron Smith (INT)
Sungjae Im (INT)
Tom Kim (INT)
Hideki Matsuyama (INT)
Min Woo Lee (INT)

Now you’ve got me thinking about the International team and whether Cameron Smith will be eligible to play at Royal Montreal in 2024. That’s contingent upon the PGA Tour/PIF deal finalizing and there being some established pathway for someone like Smith to regain his PGA Tour membership. Like so much else in our sport, we have no idea how that’s going to play out. 

What’s your favorite logo in golf? —@beefonwac on Instagram

I’ve never played there, but McArthur Golf Club in Hobe Sound, Fla. has my favorite course logo in the world. It’s a milk carton. The story behind it: the family who developed the club made their money in dairy farming. It’s not that deep. Nor is the logo, But it’s so different from the bird/tree logos you see at so many places, and it’s extra clean without any writing beneath it. 

What pairing do you think USA & Europe start with the first matches at the Ryder Cup? —@ericdalton95 on X

Spent a lot of time kicking around ideas about this with my Fore Play pals at our recent Travel Series shoot in Wisconsin. It’s a tough question to answer because we don’t yet know whether it’ll be foursomes or fourball on Friday morning, so there’s obviously a pretty large caveat here. Still, let’s try. 

The Americans have four really solid, really natural pairings that almost select themselves. Guys who are genuinely tight with each other and would absolutely love to play behind enemy lines together. 

Scottie Scheffler/Sam Burns – Close pals, frequently rent houses together on the road, wives are friends, played three times together at last year’s Presidents Cup
Collin Morikawa/Max Homa – Both from LA, both went to Cal-Berkeley, and Homa just left his longtime agent to sign with Morikawa’s. These two play practice rounds together a lot. 
Justin Thomas/Jordan Spieth – You might have heard this before, but they’re friends. 
Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele – Both from Southern California, both quieter types, play practice rounds together virtually every week, travel together when they’re not playing tournaments, went 2-1 together at the Presidents Cup and 2-0 together at Whistling Straits. 

The big question here is whether Johnson will want to play JT first given the controversy surrounding his selection. That would leave Rickie Fowler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman and Brooks Kopeka on the bench for the first session. 

Turning our attention to Europe—they’re really solid 1-8 and I expect them to lean on these eight very, very heavily throughout the week. 

Rory McIlroy/Shane Lowry – Irish roots, close pals
Matt Fitzpatrick/Viktor Hovland – They hang out quite a bit together on the road and share the same trainer. Fitzpatrick was the first (only?) European player to hang around East Lake to congratulate Hovland for his FedEx Cup victory. 
Tyrrell Hatton/Tommy Fleetwood – More of the same. They’re boys. 
Jon Rahm/Ludvig Aberg – Not sure they’ve even met, but Rahm’s now an experienced veteran with two Ryder Cups and two major championships under his belt. Aberg is the shiny new toy who looks poised to play in a bunch of these, and Luke Donald’s picking him injected some life into the squad. I’d look for them to get his feet wet early with a player of Rahm’s caliber by his side. The hope is he’s hooting and hollering and pouring in birdies and plays the role of Thomas Pieters at the 2012 Ryder Cup. 

That would leave Justin Rose, Nicolai Hojgaard, Robert MacIntyre and Sepp Straka on the bench. I feel more confident that these eight Europeans play early and often, but not quite as sure in the pairings themselves. 

Who do you think Brooks will be paired with? —@MrMcPringles69 on X

I’m not sure why, but Wyndham Clark comes to mind. Two big-boy ball strikers who hit the ball a mile. An intimidating group to play against given their size, U.S. Open-pedigrees and movie-star good looks. Yeah, not sure why, but this is where my head goes. 

Weed or alcohol? —@mwsnowden 93 on Instagram

Alcohol on the golf course, weed in all other settings. 

Will JT make the cut at Fortinet? —@Sapolicious on X

Gosh, I hope so. For his sake. I was a little surprised he posted that range video of him swinging between two pool noodles. Not that there’s anything wrong with using pool noodles as a training aid—George Gankas has done so for years, after all—I just thought it was a curious choice to be sharing the in-the-weeds swing journey after so many criticized his making the Ryder Cup team. The (very short) clip I saw from Team USA’s practice session at Marco Simone showed him rehearsing something in his swing, clearly doing a drill. Then there was Todd Lewis’ report that JT had decided to take more ownership of his swing and, in some ways, rely less on his father’s guidance. 

Thomas is doing the right thing by playing this week. A solid showing—say, a top 20—would go a long way toward easing tensions and justifying his pick. After all, there were still 5+ weeks until the Ryder Cup when he got the call, and Zach Johnson was essentially banking on JT figuring it out before wheels up to Rome. He’s now had five weeks away from tournament golf to get his game right, and this is his first opportunity to show that he’s still Justin Thomas, and he’ll be the fiery-as-hell JT that we’ve come to know and love in a few weeks’ time at Marco Simone. So I’ll say yes he does. I’m feeling a T12. 

Who’s the rookie/young gun that explodes next season on tour? —@brhardin on Instagram

Ever since we broadcasted the Korn Ferry Tour’s NV5 Invitational Presented by Old National Bank I’ve paid way closer attention to the KFT. That’s only natural after we spent a week fully invested in that circuit and the rich storylines it presents. A guy who really, really impressed me that week was Adrien Dumont de Chassart of Belgium, who finished No. 3 in the PGA Tour U rankings and thus got immediate status on the Korn Ferry Tour. He won his first event, lost in a playoff in his second and posted top-10s in his next four after that to lock up his PGA Tour card. 

It’s not just his swing, which is picture perfect—he’s just a super polished kid who spent four years at Illinois, has leaned on older Europeans for guidance and has his head screwed on straight. He didn’t play particularly well in either of his DP World Tour starts this fall but you have to think fatigue played a role in that. It’s been non-stop since he turned pro in June. Between him and Aberg, and Hovland and Hojgaard (both still 25 or younger), the future of the European Ryder Cup team looks excellent. 

That’s all for today. If you wanted more, you should’ve submitted more questions. 

Until next week,


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