In a ruthlessly competitive age where talent identification and recruitment plays an important role for sports looking to secure champions of the future, golf typically is a sport that channels its best youngsters into junior programs.
The final day of the Tour Championship-FedExCup decider gave a true indication of what can happen in the Ryder Cup when Tiger Woods, and Justin Rose, shared the spoils.
For Woods, it was a comeback to end all comebacks, ending a five-year drought that lasted 1876 days, and included four serious back surgeries. There were many days when Woods couldn’t walk or even sit properly.
Sammy Snead once said – “The mark of a great player is in his ability to come back.
“The great champions have all come back from defeat”.
Woods certainly qualifies under the Snead edict, having rocketed up the world rankings from 1199 in December last year to 13 today, after taken out the Tour Championship by two shots.
That was his 80th tournament success, now just two behind career record-holder Sammy Snead.
Woods would have won the double had Rose parred the 72nd hole to finish sixth.
The Englishman had to birdie the last hole to finish in a tie for fourth to claim the $10 million FedExCup prize, but in the process lost his two-week hold on the world number one ranking to Dustin Johnson, who finished third.
The 42nd Ryder Cup tees off at the picturesque Le Golf National at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, a suburb south-west of Paris.
Five countries – France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands – bid to host this edition, with a very strong leaning to Spain, as a tribute to their legend Seve Ballesteros.
Team USA are the defending champions, but they haven’t won away from home since 1993.
Team USA, captained by Jim Furyk, fairy bristles with world class golfers. but the big question is can they play as a team with four of the five events two foursomes, and two four-balls.
Only the third day singles, with all 12 members of both teams on duty, will be like normal tournament play.
And seeing golf is all about finding the bottom of the cup, let’s hope there are no putts conceded.
It’s long overdue “gimmes” are banned forever – sink every putt, and move on.
To prove how powerful Team USA is this time the 12 members with their latest world rankings in brackets:
Dustin Johnson (1), Brooks Koepka (3), Justin Thomas ( 4), Bryson DeChambeau (7), Rickie Fowler (9), Jordan Spieth (10), Tiger Woods (13), Bubba Watson (14), Patrick Reed (15), Webb Simpson (16). Tony Finau (17), and ageless Phil Mickelson (25).
That’s 134 ranking places between them, with 30 majors spread among nine of the 12.
That’s way ahead of Team Europe with 229 ranking places, and just five majors spread between five of their dozen.
Justin Rose (2), Francesco Molinari (5), Rory McIlroy (6), Jon Rahm (8), Tommy Fleetwood (12), Alex Noren 18), Paul Casey 21), Henrik Stenson (24), Tyrell Hatton (26). Sergio Garcia (28), Ian Poulter (34), and Thorbjorn Olesen (45).
On paper, Team USA looks unbeatable, but the Tour Championship sorted out some surprisingly disappointing results.
DeChambeau was the outright FedExCup leader, but fell away alarmingly to finish one-under, but two-time Masters champion Watson finished four-over with two-time US Open champion Koepka, current Masters champion Reed finished nine-over, and Mickelson finished last of the 30-man elite field at 13 over.
Spieth didn’t even make the 30.
Only half Team Europe qualified for the Tour Championship with Rose six-under, McIlroy four-under with Casey, Rahm, and Fleetwood, with the only over-par finish by Molinari on one.
So working on the old adage of you’re only as good as your last start, Team Europe scrubs up very well.
It would be a fabulous finale if Tiger Woods, and Justin Rose, were paired in the singles with the Ryder Cup hinging on that clash.