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September 28, 2010

Truth & Rumors: Furyk's $39 putter, Ryder Cup myths debunked

Posted at 2:55 PM by Michael Chwasky | Categories: Colin Montgomerie, Jim Furyk, Ryder Cup, Truth & Rumors

Furyk wins $11.3 million with a putter from a barrell

Yup, it's true. Jim Furyk, winner of the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup, knocked in the winning putt with a used putter he bought for $39 at Joe and Leigh's Discount Golf Pro Shop in South Easton, Mass. Evidently Furyk walked into the shop after the third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship and tried out some new putters, eventually making his way over to the used club rack. The Yes! Sophia model he eventually purchased for the a discounted price (originally listed at $69) is a heel-shafted model with groove technology that is said to help impart end-over-end spin faster and with less skidding.

The Ryder Cup's Many Myths

What was once a friendly match between the USA and Great Britain that was designed to promote the game of golf has turned into, at times, a jingoistic spectacle that has made even the most mild mannered players act like jackasses (see the entire U.S. team at Brookline). And while the near-crazy behavior has seemed to have subsided a bit in recent years, there's still a very bright spotlight on the event, and a surprisingly strong focus on winning. With that focus comes a lot of discussion on the finer points of the competition, and a lot of myths surrounding the keys to success.

Bob Harig wrote an interesting story on the subject, where he lists four supposed keys to victory, and then dispels their actual importance. Of the first myth, Chemistry and Camaraderie, Harig says, "For all the talk of having good team chemistry, everyone plays by himself come Sunday singles." I agree completely, except to add that it seems silly for the best players in the world to be affected by a teammate on Friday and Saturday. They've all been playing golf for their entire lives, you'd think they'd be able to focus on executing shots regardless of with whom they're playing. 

When it comes to the second myth, which has to do with match play and the perception that maybe the U.S. team is at a disadvantage due to a lack of familiarity with the format, Harig quotes former U.S. captain Curtis Strange; "There is a different mentality, but it's golf. And they [the Europeans] don't play any more match play than we do. Bottom line: Go play good golf."

Again, I agree. All players on both sides have competed in the match play format their entire lives. Maybe not so much in tournaments, but anyone who likes to play for a bit of money is very familiar with how match play works, which means pretty much every professional golfer in the world.

So far, two myths soundly debunked, which brings us to the third: The importance of the captain. I always thought attributing success or failure to a Ryder Cup captain was silly. They don't call plays, they don't read defenses, and they definitely don't manage the clock. The captain is someone who has his wife pick uniforms, sets lineups, and decides what "team building," exercises his players will participate in. Ping Pong or karaoke? Give us a break. In regard to the importance of the Captain, Harig quotes Ian Poulter, who sums it up pretty well.

"The captain is definitely going to play some kind of a role, but at the end of the day, when you stand on that first tee, there's not an awful lot the captain can do," said England's Ian Poulter. "He might intervene at some stage, but hopefully the players don't need that to happen and you can just go out there and play the golf we know we can play."

Finally Harig gets to myth #4: Strategy. Obviously, in comparison to sports like baseball, football, basketball or soccer, the strategic element in the Ryder Cup is almost non-existent. Sure the captain has to think about which players go well together in alternate shot - a long hitter and a straight hitter - a steady player and a birdie machine - etc. But when it comes down to it, and this is a recurring theme here, it's really up to the players to perform. Stewart Cink, who's about to compete in his fifth Ryder Cup, puts it well: "The captain can make some blunders and pair up guys who shouldn't be paired together, but for the most part it's how you execute shots."

So if chemistry, camaraderie, match play format, captains influence and strategy don't really matter in the Ryder Cup, what does? It's just like Cink, Poulter, Strange, and just about anyone else who knows anything about the competition says - it's up to the players to play well. Whoever is able to stand up to the pressure and perform will win, regardless of the other garbage.

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