Ryder Cup Logo Ryder Cup: Team USASeptember 22-24 2006, The K Club, Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland
Story Image Do you know this man? Hint: First name "J.J." last "Henry," and he'll be making his Ryder Cup debut for the U.S. next month. (Photo: Getty Images)

Grant Me This: Who needs Pluto?

According to our esteemed columnist, Grant Boone, plenty of folks do, not the least of which is the United States Ryder Cup team.

September 07, 2006

By Grant Boone, Special to PGA.com

"Here, Pluto." - M. Mouse

Sometime last week, the solar system awakened to discover it had lost something. Scientists rocked the world by announcing Pluto should no longer be declared a planet. (Pausing while you reread the last sentence ...) Can they really do that? That'd be like Messrs. Funk and Wagnall holding a press conference to say they've just realized "r" isn't really a letter after all and that they're _emoving it f_om the alphabet.

This revelation raises several important questions. First, W.W.D.D. - What Will Disney Do? Will studio executives follow suit and announce Pluto isn't really Mickey's dog either? And will The Disney Channel's Little Einsteins re-record the theme from the "A Galactic Goodnight" episode, sung to Beethoven's Fur Elise: "... Last not least is Pluto, number 9/Last in line is Pluto, 9." (If you don't recognize it by name, listen to the Fur Elise ringtone on your cell phone, then sing that line to the music. Brilliant. Little Einsteins is the greatest kids' show of my children's lifetimes. This merits discussion at a later date when things die down. Maybe during Sunday singles at the Ryder Cup. But Quincy's quasi-onomatopoeic and a cappella rendition of Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumblebee was one of the top 10 TV moments of the year.)

Second, and perhaps most important, who makes the call on what's a planet and what's not? If it's the people at that International Star Registry, I'm not buying it. Truly one of the goofiest gift ideas of the 20th century. "Name a star after someone you love." And the proof? They send you a "certificate of authenticity," complete with psychedelic, 1970s album cover artwork and - get this - a picture of outer space! That's about on par with Brian Fantana's claim about Sex Panther cologne: "It's got bits of real panther. So you know it's good."

It'd be like if I told you to pick a movie star to fall in love with, then sent you a life-size cardboard cutout of said star and a document written in some cool font stating the two of you were henceforth recognized intergalactically as lovers. It would be official, right up to the point of anyone else on the planet acknowledging the relationship is legit, including (and especially) the movie star.

This brings us to the U.S. Ryder Cup team, which returned early Wednesday morning from a quick jaunt over to the K Club for a little look-see at next month's host course. For the last 20 years of Ryder Cup competition, the American side has brought with it the certificate of authenticity to prove how much better it is than the Europeans. As the U.S. holds up that little piece of paper, the actual golf begins, and the underdog Euros proceed to do what dogs usually do to paper.

Despite pitting virtual all-star teams against one good foursome and a bunch of guys named Howard, the U.S. has won all of two Ryder Cups since 1985. But this year's rosters have flipped. Take a look at the following two lineups and tell me which looks better going into the matches (the European team will be finalized Sunday night):

United States Europe
Tiger Woods Luke Donald
Phil Mickelson Sergio Garcia
Jim Furyk Henrik Stenson
Chad Campbell David Howell
David Toms Jose Maria Olazabal
Chris DiMarco Colin Montgomerie
Vaughn Taylor Robert Karlsson
J.J. Henry Paul Casey
Zach Johnson Padraig Harrington
Brett Wetterich Paul McGinley
Stewart Cink*  
Scott Verplank*  
*Captain's pick  

After decades of perennially putting out a Who's Who in golf, the U.S. team this year is a veritable Who's That? Vaughn! Brett! Zach! J.J.! It's either the back half of a Ryder Cup team or the front end of a boy band. Throw in Verplank *NCink as Tom Lehman's captain's picks, and you have half a team that'll have to show picture ID to get past golf course security.

Lehman certainly could've gone the more conventional route and selected The Backstrain Boys, Davis Love and Fred Couples, as his two wild cards. They wound up 15th and 16th on the points list. But Lehman already has one player, Toms, who missed a major this year with back problems. And it won't be 98 Degrees at the K Club. It might be half that. The last thing Lehman wants is to have a fourth of his team twisted into a pretzel all weekend.

Cink, as he did two years ago when he won at Firestone the week after Hal Sutton made him a captain's pick, had a good week in the aftermath again, losing a playoff to Tiger Woods at the Bridgestone Invitational. Those two players are so different, down to the Sunday shirt color. Going for blood, Tiger wore his trademark red; Cink was regaled in deep purple, conjuring images that were less bloody and more Barney. My inner music bed kept playing Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" for Woods and "The Wheels on the Bus Go 'Round and 'Round" for Cink.

Tiger's wheels actually started coming off in his drive to a fourth straight win. A big lead evaporated on the back nine thanks to a combination of his own miscues and Cink's late birdies, which forced overtime. Tiger won it on the fourth playoff hole but not before Cink blew a chance on the third to hand Woods just his second playoff defeat in 10 years on tour by missing an 8-footer for par.  

My buddies have disagreed on this question, so I'll ask you: which putt has more pressure, one to beat Tiger in a tournament like Sunday's or one to win the Ryder Cup for your country?

The majority said the latter, and I tend to agree. As great as taking down Tiger at an elite tournament would've been, it's tough to compare that to having the fate of 11 other players plus captains and assistants in your hands. And you figure Lehman had to be rooting for Cink to make that putt. He knows Tiger will be Ryder Cup-ready no matter what would've happened Sunday; Lehman would've loved to have Cink's confidence level turbocharged with a win over the world's best player instead of wondering if he can make even bigger putts than that soon enough.

Like it or not -- and Lehman says he loves it -- this is the team he'll lead back to the K Club in less than a month. If the planets (if there are any left by then) align properly and the boy band backs up the front men, then County Kildare could, for the U.S. team, indeed be the happiest place on Earth.

Grant Boone

Grant Boone is a husband, father, golf broadcaster, and sports journalist based in Abilene, Texas. His column appears on PGA.com each Wednesday and every day during major championships and other big events. He can be contacted at pgagrant@hotmail.com.

The views and opinions expressed here do not reflect those of PGA.com or The PGA of America.

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