Joe Cuneo

Joe Knows

Sep 26 • Joe Knows, Sports • 161

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Call it the official passing of the torch or call it just another European win.

Whatever you do, don’t call it must-watch television.

Golfers from the United States and Europe could be in for a donnybrook in this weekend’s Ryder Cup at Chicago’s Medinah Country Club. But it’s the heavyweight bout that could be missing that may define the 2012 Ryder Cup.

Beginning Friday, the world’s best from Europe will look to hand the best the United States has to offer their fifth loss in six cups. But, as usual, it’s the world’s No.1 and No. 2 who will have the most eyes upon them.

It should be no surprise that the U.S. team, captained by Davis Love III, has made no bones about its strategy of keying on top-ranked Rory McIlroy. U.S. veteran Jim Furyk called McIlroy a “marked man,” and it’s no doubt other Americans are taking aim.

This year’s PGA Championship winner is playing the best golf of his young life and is no longer a Ryder Cup rookie as he was in 2010, when he went 1-1-1 with Graeme McDowell and halved his only solo match against Stewart Cink.

This is a scary proposition for the Americans, who will try to end Europe’s recent stranglehold on the Cup and golf in general come Friday. What better way than to send a message by cutting the head off the snake like Europe has done with Tiger Woods in recent years?

Even better, why not give them a shot of their own venom by countering with the world’s former-Rory McIlroy? It would undoubtedly send fans on both sides of the pond dashing for the tube.

What a match it would be. The young blue-chipper attempting to officially dethrone the sport’s king on the downside of his career head-to-head on Sunday.

If Greg Noman’s hypothesis that Tiger is intimidated by Rory holds any water, a U.S.-Europe backdrop would be the perfect setting.

It would be like Hamlet without the confusion.

Unfortunately, in this, an election year, such a heavyweight fight will not go to the voters’ cards.

According to numerous golf authorities, including Colin Montgomerie and Curtis Strange, “The Thrillah at Medinah” is likely to be supported by neither side.

For European captain Jose Maria Olazabal, the risk doesn’t match the reward. A McIlroy loss could swing momentum to the U.S. side during the weekend, or worse, give Tiger bragging rights as the unofficial number as well as a head start on the 2013 season.

It wouldn’t matter anyway, Strange said, because captains determine the pairings by drawing them out of a hat, rendering any chance of a match unlikely.

Too bad, too.

If there was ever an ideal opportunity for Woods to climb atop golf’s biggest stage once again, it’s this weekend.  Tiger will return to the course where he won PGA Championships in 1999 and 2006 and is coming off a week in which he shared a first-round lead at the Tour Championship before fading on the weekend.

While McIlroy and Woods will likely play against each other numerous times in just the next year alone on tour, such a match with these implications is likely a closing window given the fleeting nature of the game.

A window that could be latched shut this weekend.

 

JOE CUNEO

cuneo001@knights.gannon.edu

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