There has been a lot of talk about the two Ryder Cup teams that will meet in Wales in less than a month.
The European team is set with nine qualifiers and the three captain picks made by Colin Montgomerie. The U.S. team has eight in, and captain Corey Pavin will make his four captain picks on Tuesday.
Most of the talk has centered around the pick of Padraig Harrington on the Euro side and the possible pick of one Tiger Woods on the other.
Some of the talk has been about how inexperienced both teams will be, with a handful of Ryder Cup rookies on each squad.
However, there has been very little talk about how the two captains match up with each other. Who exactly has the edge as far as the skipper in charge? Or, does anyone?
As far as their resumes as players, Monty wins hands down. At age 47 he is still competitive on the European Tour, where he has won 31 times, which ranks fourth all-time.
Monty has been the European Tour Player of the Year four times. Of course, he has never won a major, and may end up going down as the greatest player to never have won one. He has finished second at the U.S. Open three times, second at the British Open once and second at the PGA Championship once.
His Ryder Cup play is outstanding over the years. His record of 20-9-7 and 23. 5 points earned is second only to Nick Faldo in Euro history.
Pavin's resume isn't quite so impressive. The 50 year-old Pavin has won 15 times on the PGA Tour. He does, however, hold one major title. the 1995 U.S. Open.
Pavin's Ryder Cup history is no where near the depth of Monty's. Pavin played for the U.S. squad three times; in 1991, 1993 and 1995. His record was 8-5-0 for 8 points. His singles record 2-1.
Both men could be described as somewhat stoic. And whereas Pavin could be said to be somewhat reserved and to hold his emotions in a bit, Monty is a guy who wears them on his sleeve. We always know what Monty is feeling, or if things are going well for him. Not so much with Pavin.
One may think the biggest thing a Ryder Cup captain does is pick the wild card players.
Indeed, this is a big part of the job. But a Ryder Cup captain is so much more. Picking the players who will play together throughout the weekend in the doubles matches is incredibly important. Granted, it is usually just playing a hunch, but the success or failure of those hunches goes a long way in deciding who ultimately wins the cup.
Another big part of the job is being not only a coach and a leader, but a supporter. Getting around to all the matches and showing confidence in a particular pair of players can also go a along way in getting those players to perform their best. Also reminding the players how important every single match is and that they are playing for a team, not themselves. This is something most golfers don't do very often in their professional career, and sometimes they need the coach there, even if he is doing nothing more than simply watching.
One other big part of the job is deflecting pressure and, often, negative attention away from the players. Taking the blame himself if a particular player or pair of players is struggling or underachieving. This can be an underrated part of the job .
So who holds the edge between the two captains?
I think Montgomerie's past success in Ryder Cups is a huge advantage for the Europeans. As much as the 12 men on the squad will have respect for Pavin, it can not be at the same level as the Euros are going to have for a Ryder Cup legend and warrior like Monty.
Both skippers will do well in supporting the players and being visible. And I think both will ultimately do well in the subtle art of deflection. If any of the pre-Ryder Cup hoopla has shown us anything, it is that Corey Pavin may be particularly good at this. He has handled the Tiger Woods situation about as well as anyone could have been expected to. And he's shown a little fire when you look at the confrontation with Jim Gray.
Montgomerie has also done well with the media in dealing and putting to the side, if you will, his own personal marital troubles that are being played out in the British tabloids. Colin has stood firm and refused to let that story have any place in the story of his team and these matches.
Depending on how much stock you put into the Ryder Cup captains playing a pivotal part in the matches in Wales in early October, I would think you'd have to give the advantage to the side from Europe.
As much as Corey Pavin could succeed in the same manner as his predecessor, Paul Azinger, I think Colin Montgomerie holds the edge in this match-up.
Colin Montgomerie perhaps was never meant, for whatever reason, to win a major championship. But I do think he was meant to lead his team into battle in this competition.
It almost seems like a role he was born to play.
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