I THOUGHT DANIEL WEXLER would be a great source to turn to for commentary on the 2008 Ryder Cup and a couple of other topics. This from his bio:
“Daniel Wexler is one of America's leading golf historians and writers, having authored five prominent books on classic course design, golf literature and the world’s greatest courses, as well as an encyclopedic volume profiling 1,300 of the game’s finest players, architects and journalists.”
Check out DanielWexler.com for complete coverage of professional golf worldwide. Following is our Q&A.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Samuel Ryder once said, “It is really a great thing to know that although a man can be paid for playing a game he loves, he can at the same time play for the honor of his team and his country.” Is this a quaint idea in the current age of corporate-sponsored golf and millionaire pro golfers? Or does honor for team and country still have a place in the pro game?
DANIEL WEXLER: The honor of playing for team and country absolutely still has a place – and I’m not personally aware of any past or present Ryder Cupper suggesting otherwise. The problem the players have had is not with playing golf for their country sans compensation; one only need look at the lengths they’ll go to in attempts at making the team to know that. The problem is the glad-handing promotional work that the PGA of America requires of them during the week – promotional work which allows the PGA to line its pockets by charging an arm and a leg for corporate tents, etc. And it’s not hard to understand why the player’s would want to be compensated for that, even if it comes in the form of charitable contributions.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: What’s wrong with the Ryder Cup?
DANIEL WEXLER: To my taste, the jingoistic promoting of the event – though thankfully that has eased a bit since 9/11. The notion of demonizing the United Kingdom and Western Europe simply to make more money out of an event intended to celebrate the unique ties between the U.S. and U.K. never sat well with me. Also, the current course selection process is ludicrous. Money seems the sole consideration, which is why we find ourselves with silly sites like The Belfry, the K Club and Valhalla.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: What’s right with the Ryder Cup?
DANIEL WEXLER: The chance to see genuine, meaningful team play is rare in professional golf. No offense to the President’s Cup, but this is the one that really matters. I also personally enjoy the historical connection with the United Kingdom, and the game’s roots – but I doubt that’s much of a consideration for 99% of contemporary viewers.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Can you provide a brief assessment of each team and its chances?
DANIEL WEXLER: The European squad looks considerably stronger, deeper and tougher to me. They’ve got the best active player in the world in Padraig Harrington, plus world top sixes Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson, and players who are enjoying super seasons worldwide like Robert Karlsson, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell. I guess it says a lot that only at this point do we get to Justin Rose, who’s the 12th-ranked player in the world.
On our side, losing Tiger obviously is a disaster, and our more experienced Ryder Cuppers – Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk – enjoy 9-12-4 and 6-12-2 career cup ledgers. Then you’ve got players like Stewart Cink and Justin Leonard, whose form peaked back in the spring, and who seem somewhat on the downside now. About the only positive I can see is that by making four captain’s picks at the last possible moment, Paul Azinger can at least draft players who’ve demonstrated they’re on form.
It’s tough for me to see the Americans winning, but if they can hang close until the singles, you never know.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: Have you been surprised by the emergence of Padraig Harrington? Do you think he’ll continue to win majors?
DANIEL WEXLER: I don’t think his emergence is really much of a surprise. He was long considered an elite prospect in Europe, and though he finished second several million times in his early years, he also proved relatively quickly that he could win in America – a frequent stumbling block for European up-and-comers (ask Colin Montgomerie). So as far as winning more majors goes, save for Tiger, it’s difficult to predict that any one player will win one or more, simply because the odds are so great against it. But Harrington showed a rare ability to step on the gas when it most counted at both Birkdale and Oakland Hills, and anyone capable of summoning that kind of final-nine play must be considered a threat every time they tee it up.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: The golf world seems to be constantly searching for the next Tiger or Tiger challenger. Who do you like?
DANIEL WEXLER: None of the above. Tiger was ranked number one in the world in his early 20s. At present, the only under-25s in the top 50 are Anthony Kim (16) and Martin Kaymer (43) – and neither looks like challenging for number one anytime soon. Tiger is a rare talent. We’ll certainly see another dominant player someday, but none appear on the horizon right now.
ARMCHAIR GOLF: What are your working on?
DANIEL WEXLER: I’ve just finished doing most of the North American section for an entirely new edition of The World Atlas of Golf, which is due out in October. Beyond that I’ve got a couple of things simmering, but as none are sold yet, I’m not yet entirely committed.
−The Armchair Golfer
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