- Rick Reilly, Columnist, ESPN.com
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Prediction columns are like Velveeta recipes—too easy and too cheesy. But what's going to happen in Louisville at the Ryder Cup starting Friday will go down as the greatest shocker since Lyle Lovett married Julia Roberts, so here goes:
The Americans, playing without Tiger Woods, hopelessly outmanned, with their worst on-paper team since Europe was added to the mix, will pull the Cupset of the Century. They'll need 14½ points to win, which is weird, because that's exactly how many reasons there are that they will.
1. For the first time in 12 years, Tiger's out. This will work for the Yanks! Tiger doesn't like this thing. Can you blame him? Does the executioner play on the prison softball team? No. So that Tiger buzzkill is gone. American players are free to care about it, hard. Plus, without Tiger, they're The Little Team That Could. Best of all, the Euros, who usually go bat-guano-crazy whenever they beat Tiger, have no Goliath to slay. Buzzkill back at you.
2. Europe captain Nick Faldo screwed the pooch by not picking Colin Montgomerie. It doesn't matter how bad Monty's playing, when he comes to the Ryder Cup, he becomes Jack Nicklaus on beta blockers. He makes everything. This is a mistake the size of New Coke.
3. There is a man on the Euro team named Oliver Wilson. It was unclear at press time whether Wilson was a member of Parliament or the team haberdasher. It may have been a misprint. He is the first Euro to make the team without ever winning a pro tournament. Perhaps he is Faldo's butler.
4. Word is USA captain Paul Azinger is setting up Valhalla like a $19 muni, so the Euros' fancy punches and miracle gunch shots won't help. It'll be: bomb the driver, float the wedge, bury the putt. Hell, J.B. Holmes may even skip the wedge part. This USA team is longer than Tolstoy.
5. Euros like hard courses and nasty weather. Louisville forecast: sunny, 80 degrees, fairways as open as new 7-Elevens.
6. Faldo, a great announcer, was icy as a player and he'll be icy as a coach. He usually eats dinner in his room, where—no joke—he'll practice his drops. No Euro will fall on a grenade to win for him. I'm not sure they'd fall on a pillow mint. Bonus Half Point Reason: More about Faldo the Fridge. He's such a loner he only has one assistant coach. Zinger has three. So when those morning matches end and Faldo's got 20 mad minutes to figure out who's hot, who's not, who wants to play again right away, who needs a blow and who needs a new partner, he'll need information. He'll need a pair of smart eyes on all four matches. Can't do it with only two sets. Duh.
7. Every Ryder Cup mints a new star. This time it will be Anthony Kim, a bad ass and a huge talent who's too young to know how big this is. He's about to get very rich.
8. There's a grittiness to this team I haven't seen since the Corey Pavin teams in the early '90s. Holmes is tougher than a Costco steak. He went iris-to-iris with Tiger for most of the Accenture Match Play. Justin Leonard is the Hero of Brookline —the last American win, back in 1999—and still has glorious bloodstains on him. Steve Stricker won the Accenture, which is about as close to a Ryder Cup Starter Kit as you can get. Jim Furyk and Stewart Cink have steel sacks. And Boo Weekley once said, "It isn't that I don't give a s***, I just don't give a s*** about golf." You think he'll be scared?
9. Zinger has a new strategy. He doesn't give a deceased rodent how comfy the team-room couches are. Last time out, Tom Lehman gave the players the best experience ever and still got fricasseed. "I don't want them happy and comfortable," Zinger says. "I want them nervous and a little tense from the start. Because otherwise, when you get to that first tee Friday morning, you're gonna be shocked at the pressure." Smart.
10. Silence is intimidating. Well, Chad Campbell is quieter than a one-man funeral. Ben Curtis doesn't say 10 words in a round. Furyk and Cink can make you think your hearing has gone. You need to lean in to hear Stricker. This squad would make excellent mimes. …
11. … Except for Weekley. Finally, America has somebody who can say how a lot of people feel about Europe and lettuce sandwiches and $9 cups of Starbucks. The Alligator Hunter once came to the British Open and, when asked about the food, declared he didn't like it one bit. Why? "Ain't got no sweet tea and ain't got no fried chicken." Team spokesman!
12. The USA has six rookies who don't know the Euros usually whip the Americans like Rachael Ray whips eggs. They don't know about losing five of the last six, two of 'em Little Bighorns. Ignorance is bliss.
13. Faldo violated the time-honored Too Many Swedes theory. Swedes are the sweetest people on earth. Wouldn't hurt a kipper. No Swede has ever won a major. Faldo's got two on his team.
14. Azinger has always had Faldo's number. In four matches over three Ryder Cups, Faldo never got better than a tie against him. He won't even get that this time.
That's my prediction. If I'm wrong, I'll tongue bathe Windsor Castle.
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