A Tweet by Golf Digest’s Jamie Kennedy highlighted the important decisions that have to be made in picking who will play when in the alternate shot format, which is the toughest format in Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.
The chart was dropped into a story on the one-ball rule not being in effect for this year’s Ryder Cup. That’s another sub-plot.
The one-ball rule means that only one kind of golf ball can be used for the 18 holes by both players.
At this Ryder Cup, players can decide on each tee which ball they will use, and they use it for that hole. They can change it the next hole. That means they aren’t using one ball.
The one-ball rule has led to some hard feelings, blow-ups and contretemps in the Ryder Cup, most notably between Seve Ballesteros and Paul Azinger in 1991.
"For instance, it was hard for Tiger Woods to find a partner who could use his golf ball."
It’s also led to difficulties with partnerships. For instance, it was hard for Tiger Woods to find a partner who could use his golf ball. Turned out that Woods was using a very soft golf ball, and most players at the time used a harder, high-compression ball.
However, in the midst of the one-ball rule story, was this chart by Kennedy that demonstrated what skills are most important for the player who tees off first and the player who tees off second in alternate shot at Marco Simone.
Naturally, this chart would change somewhat for a different course, but it is insightful as we all prepare to throw Nerf footballs at our TV sets tomorrow at 1 AM when play begins once more with alternate shot.
The chart identifies Player A as hitting the tee shot on hole 1 and then having, hopefully, the first putt. Player B would have a shot to the green and a second putt, if necessary. A third putt would go back to Player A.
Adding up all the tee shots and second shots and putts, Kennedy determined that Player A, in a perfect world with no mistakes, would hit 6 Tee Shots, 10 Approach Shots, 2 Short Game Shots ( wedges perhaps), and 6 Putts over the course of an 18-hole round.
Player B, on the other hand, would have 8 Tee Shots, 5 Approach Shots, 3 Short Game Shots ( wedges perhaps), and 11 Putts over the course of an 18-hole round.
Since that only adds up to 14 tee shots, Kennedy is not counting the par threes as Tee Shots, even though a shot is hit. He’s calling them Approach Shots.
Regardless, it certainly shows how detailed the thinking gets for this format. So, in addition to the pairings, the captain and assistants have to determine who is the stronger all-around player, who is better off the tee and, importantly, who is the best putter.
Kennedy’s method certainly shows that Player A probably has to be the better iron player with 10 Approach Shots needed, versus Player B who would need to hit half as many.
Player B, using Kennedy’s system, would have to be the better putter because he would need to hit nearly twice as many putts.
If there was Shotlink for the Ryder Cup, it would be easy to go back and recap how, for example, Sam Burns and Scottie Scheffler did in the first match compared to Kennedy’s system of ideal play.
Looking at some highlights, Burns hit a tee shot on hole 1, and Scheffler hit the second shot which landed on the green. On the second hole, Scheffler teed off, and Burns hit the approach shot which landed in the semi-rough in front of a greenside bunker in front of the green. Right away, it’s deviating from the perfect world described by Kennedy’s plan.
Kennedy’s chart is fun and an interesting way to look at it. The problem is, when was the last time you played perfect golf? Never, that’s when. Nobody does.
Even the best in the world mess up in Ryder Cup play.
And so perfectly laid plans go awry. Drives get pulled. Second shots go in the water. And pretty soon the perfectly drawn up scenario goes out the window. That’s when you reach for the Nerf toy and toss it at the TV set.