After the season's final major, the talk of the PGA Tour was the penalty assessed to Dustin Johnson on the 72nd hole. He was deemed to have grounded his club in a bunker on his approach shot. Rather than teeing it up in a playoff, he was changing his bogey to a triple-bogey and heading to the locker room.
The debate will rage as to whether Johnson should have been penalized. The bunker was not well-defined. There were patrons standing in the bunker even as Johnson played his shot.
Instead of focus on the controversy, I want to talk about the state of golf in the U.S., which I think is great.
Though Johnson missed the playoff and American Bubba Watson lost in the playoff, both sealed spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Talking heads are proclaiming the Europeans a major favorite for the matches. I beg to differ.
The Europeans are definitely a talented group. German Martin Kaymer, who defeated Watson in the playoff at the PGA Championship, is coming into his own and is considered to be one of the best ball strikers in the world. Other players such as Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari and Ian Poulter have had the best seasons of their career.
There is also veteran Lee Westwood and U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell. Obviously the team is loaded, but it is not as if the Americans should cancel the trip.
The U.S. has a solid group of young players who are being underestimated. Johnson and Watson are right at the top of the list. They are two of the longest hitters on tour and could be intimidating in match play.
Then there is ultra-talented Rickie Fowler, a favorite to earn a captain's pick. He is a feel player and had an astonishing record in match play events as an amateur. He went 5-0 in last year's Walker Cup before turning pro. He waited to turn pro after the event, just so he could be a part of the U.S. team. That should say a little bit about his desire to play in an event such as the Ryder Cup.
Americans Jeff Overton, Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan also are having career years. Mahan has won twice and is up their with Kaymer in terms of ball-striking.
All this talent and I did not even mention the world's top-ranked players: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Lefty is on the team, while Woods will have to wait on an invitation from captain Corey Pavin. It is hard to imagine Pavin not selecting Woods, who seems eager to play, unless he did it to spite Jim Gray, in which case I would completely understand.
So this fall at Celtic Manor, keep an eye on the Americans. They just might retain the Cup.
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