In a low-key, sleepy manner, Jason Dufner has in less than a month with two wins become a lock to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team that will host the Europeans in September at the Medinah Country Club, outside of Chicago. With his win on Sunday at the Byron Nelson, Dufner jumped to third in the standings.
Nicolas Colsaerts beat Graeme McDowell 1 up in the Volvo World Match Play on Sunday at Finca Cortesin in Spain. As a U.S. Open champion and a European team Ryder Cup hero, McDowell is a well-known entity around the world. But who is the 29-year-old Belgian who beat him? For one thing, Colsaerts likes Volvo-sponsored events. Since taking his maiden victory last year at the Volvo China Open, he has finished third at last year's Volvo World Match Play, fourth at the Volvo Golf Champions and second at the 2012 Volvo China Open. But perhaps the most interesting thing about him is that he's one of the longest hitters in the game. His 316-yard driving distance average is a yard longer than that of Bubba Watson, who leads the category on the PGA Tour. But Colsaerts is a distant second on his tour to Lloyd Saltman, a 26-year-old Scot. With the win in Spain, Colsaerts moved inside the top 50 in the world and is close to earning one of the top 10 automatic spots for the European Ryder Cup team. It would be a treat for the fans to see him trade long balls with Watson at Medinah. Colsaerts is one of many good European players who makes the occasional appearance in the States at the majors and the WGC events. In his two U.S. trips this year, he lost in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and he had a T-35 finish at Doral. But if Colsaerts keeps making noise in Europe, he's bound to eventually join McDowell, Rory McIlroy and others from across the pond as regular faces on the PGA Tour. A peculiar decision
We've heard it before: a player building his whole year around making a Ryder Cup team. In 2008, Kenny Perry wanted nothing more than to make the U.S. team that would play in his home state of Kentucky. Even though he had just lost in a playoff at the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, all Bubba Watson could talk about was how happy he was he had made the U.S. Ryder Cup team that was headed to Celtic Manor. Perhaps it takes a single-minded approach for some to focus on playing the right tournaments at the right time to earn enough points to earn a place in the celebrated biennial matches. But few have taken such drastic measures as Paul Lawrie, the 1999 British Open champion. The 43-year-old Scot announced earlier this month that he would skip the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club to focus on European Tour events, where he had the best chance of making his second Ryder Cup team. Instead of playing in the U.S. Open, where he has a dismal record, he'll play in the BMW International Open the week after the Open. At the Volvo World Match Play this weekend, he was still defending his decision. "One of the big disappointments of my career is that I have only played once in the Ryder Cup and that's why I'm so keen to get in this time," Lawrie told reporters. "It's the best tournament you'll ever play." Lawrie could have locked up a spot with a win at the Match Play and he nearly did it, until Graeme McDowell beat him 2 up in the semifinals. Lawrie is fifth in the standings but he's not taking any chances. He knows that if he doesn't play well over the summer he could get passed. Still, it's an odd choice to skip a major championship, especially when you're a member of an elite group of major champions. No matter how poor your record is in a particular major, a player should take every opportunity to play in the biggest tournaments. Lawrie's plan might work out in the end, but he might also look back at the end of his career and regret his decision to not play at Olympic. It also seems a particularly shortsighted decision with the matches being held in the States. What better place than San Francisco in the U.S. Open to prepare for the crowds in Chicago? The replacements
Brandt Snedeker won his first-round match over Thomas Bjorn 5 and 4 at the Volvo Match Play Championship using borrowed irons, a driver lent to him by John Senden and a putter out of the pro shop at Finca Cortesin. The 31-year-old Nashville native, who won earlier this year in San Diego, flew over to Spain from Miami on Monday night, but his clubs and suitcase never made his connecting flight. By the time his clubs arrived on Thursday, he was already 3 up on Bjorn with 10 replacement clubs. He stayed with the borrowed clubs through the remainder of the match. After the opening round, he played with his own clubs and made it to the quarterfinals, where he was beaten 4 and 3 by the eventual winner, Nicolas Colsaerts. Snedeker's decisive win over Bjorn with a loaner set proves that the top players in the world can play well with anything. The only thing more fascinating would have been if he had played with a borrowed golf ball. Distances might vary with irons and drivers, but tour players are very particular about their golf balls. Still, it was an amazing feat for Sneds. I wonder what would happen, though, if tour players showed up at events and were handed out the same equipment as if they were picking up skates at a roller skating rink. That might really separate the guys with the real talent from the ones benefitting from great equipment.
Farrell Evans covers golf for ESPN and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.