Minneapolis-St. Paul was in its early years as a major league area when it had a chance to host the best baseball team ever assembled. That would be the National League collection that came to Met Stadium for the 1965 All-Star Game.
Juan Marichal started, Bob Gibson finished, and Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale pitched in between. Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente, Frank Robinson and Billy Williams were reserve outfielders.
The American League fought its way to a one-run loss (6-5), which was an upset in itself.
We are more than two generations later in our major league status and we have gotten used to this big-league stuff, including the occasional important golf events at Hazeltine National.
There was the initial disaster of the 1970 U.S. Open, when Hazeltine was an immature and unappealing course that had no business hosting such an important event. It was reconfigured and trees grew, and the 1983 Senior Open cleared the way to host a very successful 1991 U.S. Open, and 25 years and two PGA Championships later, it’s the Ryder Cup.
Golf isn’t a team sport by nature and this doesn’t compare as a declaration of greatness with the 1965 National Leaguers, but the opinion here is that this area is about to host the best golf team ever assembled.
The talent the United States is bringing to this 12-player, 28-match competition is astounding. The depth is such that the Yanks can have Bubba Watson, the No. 7-ranked player in the world, and Tiger Woods, the greatest golfer to ever swing a club, riding around in carts, and captain Davis Love III still could say in a radio interview:
“We’re a great golf team. This is maybe the best golf team ever assembled, if we just go and play our game.”
This comment received considerable attention, including with the Europeans, winners of the past three Ryder Cups.
Love tried to offer a disclaimer in his daily media session on Tuesday, saying the best ever was something he planned to motivate his players, and not intended to discredit the Euros or other Ryder Cup teams.
That’s OK, Davis.
You were right the first time. This is maybe the best golf team ever assembled, and I’m not sure there’s any “maybe” about it. If the Yanks go and play their game, the U.S. is going to win.
There’s only one way the Yanks are going to lose this time to Europe, and that’s if they choke remarkably as they did at Oak Hill in 1995 and at Medinah in 2012, or less dramatically as they did at Muirfield Village in 1987 and at the Belfry in 1989.
American athletes and sports fans have had this incessant desire to put themselves in some type of underdog role ever since that night in Lake Placid, N.Y., in 1980, when Jim Craig’s hot goaltending carried the U.S. to a hockey upset of the Soviet Union.
“USA, USA, USA.”
There will be endless chants of that from the largest share of the 40,000 spectators at Hazeltine this weekend. Fair enough, but there would be much less glory in winning with this lineup than there would be humiliation in handing possession of the Ryder Cup to Europe for a fourth straight biennium.
The bottom half of the roster for Europe is Chris Wood, Andy Sullivan, Mathew Fitzpatrick, Thomas Pieters and two players added for experience more than recent play, Martin Kaymer and 43-year-old Lee Westwood.
You think Bubba might have made that outfit?
The bottom half of the roster for the United States is Brooks Koepka, Brandt Snedeker, Zach Johnson, J.B. Holmes, Rickie Fowler and Ryan Moore.
Who don’t you want trying to win a match for you from that group?
The top of the U.S. team is ultra-talented Dustin Johnson, a still-vibrant Phil Mickelson, the splendid Jordan Spieth, the cutthroat Patrick Reed, the late-arriving star Jimmy Walker, and the reliable Matt Kuchar.
Europe’s captain is Darren Clarke, the slimmed-down Irishman who now looks as if he’s The Most Interesting Man in the World’s twin brother.
Clarke might be able to get his team through the 16 pairs matches the first two days with heavy use of Rory McIlroy, Danny Willett, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, sore-kneed Henrik Stenson and unheralded Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
When it gets to the singles on Sunday and the Yanks’ depth, Clarke will need the same intervention of fate as when he won the British Open out of nowhere in 2011.
Maybe what he’ll actually need is another compelling U.S. choke. And Love might have reduced the chance of that to almost zero with Ryan Moore as his last selection. I would take that guy rolling for me any time, any stakes.
What a golf team, these Yanks. Best ever.