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Tuesday, October 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  International sports

Doug Ferguson: The cups runneth over in golf

In this Sunday, July 15, 2018 photo, Steve Stricker hits on the ninth fairway during the final round of the John Deere Classic golf tournament at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill. Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington were at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wis., on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019 to talk about the Ryder Cup one year before the matches are played. (Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)
In this Sunday, July 15, 2018 photo, Steve Stricker hits on the ninth fairway during the final round of the John Deere Classic golf tournament at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill. Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington were at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wis., on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019 to talk about the Ryder Cup one year before the matches are played. (Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)
By Doug Ferguson Associated Press

The next Ryder Cup starts in 360 days, the perfect occasion for the opposing captains to meet Tuesday at Whistling Straits and share absolutely nothing.

That’s not entirely true.

U.S. captain Steve Stricker says he has been involved with designing golf bags and looking at various clothing options. European captain Padraig Harrington says he checked out the location of the team room and even some of the bedrooms where his players will not get enough sleep.

“You’d be amazed the detail that goes in behind the scenes,” Harrington said.

Amazed probably isn’t the right word.

The idea was to get everyone talking – or at least thinking – about the Ryder Cup at a time when the Presidents Cup is still five weeks away from finalizing its teams. Europeans won’t care about that and some Americans won’t either, especially since the one-sided matches will finish 10 days before Christmas in Australia.

In the rearview mirror is the Solheim Cup, which was decided by the final putt of the final match on the course.

Randall Mell of Golf Channel wrote a column celebrating the most exciting Solheim Cup since it began in 1990, while suggesting with cold, hard facts how the Americans and Europeans could build on the momentum by winning LPGA Tour events. Americans and Europeans have combined to win four LPGA events this year, on track for their lowest output ever.

This was greeted by a tweet from Lizette Salas – not among those four – scolding him for being a buzz kill “after we worked our (tails) off for two years,” which had nothing to do with the facts presented and the hope that it can change over the last two months of the season.

For better or worse, there is endless chatter and promotion about the cups, some more than others.

They are different. They are fun.

They rarely lack for drama or passion, at least when it involves Europe against the United States.

The Presidents Cup is the youngest of the three cups and is not there yet. Only four of the 12 times has it been decided at the very end, though matches in South Africa and South Korea showed potential. The one in South Africa was declared a tie after Tiger Woods and Ernie Els halved three holes of a playoff in pressure that, under the circumstances, rivaled the Ryder Cup.

Woods said it was “one of the most nerve-wracking moments I’ve ever had in golf,” which prompted this response from Robert Allenby: “Thank God.”

After watching Ryder Cup highlights during the Whistling Straits media day, someone asked the normally stoic Stricker about some of his celebrations, and he looked almost embarrassed.

“It brings out some crazy emotions,” he said.

“Every time you have a Ryder Cup, it throws up something dramatic and exciting,” Harrington added. “It never ceases to keep giving.”

That’s true as long as golf is being played. For the Ryder Cup, that lasts only three days every two years.

One year out, the only competition was a 14-club challenge on the par-3 17th hole along Lake Michigan. Otherwise, there was nothing to be gleaned that the captains had not already said.

Harrington spoke first and was asked to comment on what worked so well for Europe in a resounding victory a year earlier in France. “You really want me to give you all the answers to what worked?” the Irishman replied.

Stricker, the favorite son of Wisconsin golf, was an assistant captain in 2016 – a rare American victory – and was asked what he could bring from that experience to a Whistling Straits course nothing like Hazeltine.

There were no secrets. Stricker said Europe likes thick rough and slow greens. Americans prefer light rough and fast greens.

“Didn’t give us much, did he?” Harrington said.

One reporter from Scotland might have been onto something when he noticed that Stricker, while talking about the “mainstays” on the U.S. team, left out Woods and Phil Mickelson. Stricker killed that headline by saying it was an oversight, that Woods (who has had nine surgeries) and Mickelson (who turns 50 next year) are capable of making the team. In fact, he expects Woods to be playing as Presidents Cup captain in Australia.

That means Woods picks himself over whom?

There are five tournaments before Woods and International captain Ernie Els make their picks. Cameron Champ and his sublime power game get attention after winning the Safeway Open. So do Joaquin Niemann of Chile and Sebastian Munoz of Colombia for the International side. They won the other two PGA Tour events.

If nothing else, it keeps the Presidents Cup in the conversation until Woods decides whether to play.

With cups, that’s not hard to do.

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