U.S. -2 5/8s

We golfers mark our lives by Ryder Cup matches. Our early-90s memories of The War by The Shore are bathed in autumnal tones, Mark Calcavecchia's horrifying collapse obliterated by Bernhard Langer's 6-foot miss. Dave Stockton wading in the ocean dazed and happy, looking like a tipsy beachcomber who just stubbed his toe on a treasure chest sticking out of the sand.

Eight years later, one of American golf's best moments, Justin Leonard's incredible 45-foot putt, was followed by one of its worst, the invasion of the green by U.S. players and wives in a melee of bad apparel and sportsmanship.
If you care, watching the Ryder Cup makes you feel like you have an edge over sports fans who don't. It's like watching history, a front-row seat at the parting of the Red Sea.
Most everyone is relieved Tiger won't be there, even people who won't admit it, mostly because he just hasn't been very good in the Ryder Cup. Most American golf fans forgive Tiger, however begrudgingly.  He considers it his job to pound American golfers, not to help them feel more patriotic. So you are forgiven if you've suspected that as far as the endeavor of putting the fear of God into Phil Mickelson and friends is concerned, Tiger considers the Europeans friendly rivals.
Very likely the situation wasn't that different for Jack Nicklaus, who, astonishingly, on the subject of Ryder Cups has always betrayed a certain um, softness. Astonishing -- and to me, refreshing. Once again: since the Europeans joined the Brits, the mental process for their side has been about a bunch of guys from different countries coming together -- which has proven out to be stronger for team morale than one nation in a defensive posture.
Which brings us to the PGA, which hovers over the Ryder Cup like a goose over a golden egg, dressing it up, promoting it, shining it, sitting on it. Over the years the corporate end of the PGA (which also represents perhaps the most valuable, humble, underappreciated and frequently underpaid people in golf, teaching professionals) has helped ratchet up the pressure on American golfers in a way that certainly hasn't helped us win.
And while you don't hear the players complaining out loud, it's hard to imagine that they see the machinery of pomp and privilege surrounding the matches as anything but a failing distraction. In the current Golf World Nick Seitz quotes Johnny Pott quoting Ben Hogan, not exactly a hippie malcontent, on the PGA's uniforms:
...the subject was team attire. "He said, 'They've given us all these fancy clothes. I was never comfortable wearing someone else's clothes. Mr. Sanders, if you want to dress like a peacock, that's fine with me. I just don't want my name on that trophy as losing captain.'"
It's a far cry from the cheer-led, fashion-frenzied world of the Ryder Cup of the 21st century.
Then there's the PGA's aversion to boat-rockers. I could argue that the PGA leadership's narrowminded, reactionary mindset has disposed them towards choosing Ryder Cup captains who display more loyalty of a certifiably red-state variety than certifiable leadership ability, and that they're is a prime example of managing to be your own worst enemy. But that might be perceived as unpatriotic.
Having nattered my negativism, let me say that Paul Azinger could be the best captain we've ever had. It would be hard for me to imagine almost any athlete with political opinions more diametrically opposed to mine -- and yet he's always commanded more respect from me (and from other golf writers) than any golfer I can think of. Though he is serious but good-humored, and a keen listener and eloquent debater, what suits him best for this role is sheer caginess. He is a natural leader, and someone who should be encouraged to trust his instincts -- just the kind of poker player for whom an impulsive gamble will wind up looking like it was a sure thing all along.
In the blue corner, we have Nick Faldo, who has commanded as much dislike as respect from his colleagues. Faldo is a keen psychologist who used a contemptuous attitude to superb advantage as a player. It seemed like announcing had softened him, but the captaincy has reawakened his pricklier side, and it will be interesting to see whether his arrogance will bring out the best in his squad.
Captaining the Ryder Cup is a strange job, requiring good eyes and ears and a gentle but firm touch. He dwells in the margin between irrelevance and inspiration: his ego must cater to circumstance, yet the hunch must be followed implacably, and uncertainty is the only certain thing.
It should be fun to watch.