Out of the Rough: U.S. Big 3 doesn't have much time left

Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk have made every U.S. Ryder Cup team since 1997.

They've won twice in that 15-year span, and, the one victory, the 2008 matches at Valhalla, came when Woods had his leg up after massive knee and leg surgery.

Mickelson, who now owns the record for most U.S. Ryder Cup team appearances with his ninth this week, is in the Hall of Fame.

The day Woods turns 40, he's getting a phone call from a St. Augustine, Fla., number.

And Furyk is close, but this Hall of Fame lets everyone in the door, so he should be fine.

This trio has represented the power of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, a generally losing group of players.

The reason is simple, this threesome has not produced on the course.

"In order to win Cups, you have to earn points and we certainly have not earned points," Woods said of himself and his two fellow Americans.

Woods is 13-14-2, Mickelson is 11-17-6 and Furyk is jaw-dropping 8-15-4. That is a combined 32-46-12. That is a staggering lack of production from a Hall of Fame group of players, who are no strangers to being out there for all five sessions.

"And on top of that, I think that Phil, Jim and myself have been put out there a lot during those years," Woods said. "So if we are not earning points, it's tough to have -- hard to win Ryder Cups that way."

With European stars like Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood emerging with sterling Ryder Cup records, their American counterparts have lagged woefully behind.

That needs to change come Friday morning.

The European team is incredible form. The U.S. team is not.

The European team has one rookie. The U.S. team has four.

American captain Davis Love III will need his core group to help guide these rookies through this pressure cooker.

"There's only so much; I'm not going to tell Keegan (Bradley) or Brandt (Snedeker) or those guys how to play golf," Furyk said. "They basically all had probably a better year than me, and I had a good year; so they know how to play the game and they know what's good for their game, how to prepare, what they are going to do to play well this week.

"I think it gets overplayed to a certain extent."

That's probably not what Love wanted to hear from a guy with a career record so far under .500 who was brought for leadership.

Woods was right from the beginning. This group just needs to win points. Truthfully, Snedeker and Dustin Johnson have probably passed the 42-year-olds Mickelson and Furyk in terms of talent, but the top of the lineup needs to produce.

The European team has two players in the bottom of its totem pole who have won tournament in the last six weeks. Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson both show the depth of the Euro squad.

If they outplay the lower-level Americans, these matches will be inconsequential by Sunday.

Imagine if the top-line U.S. guys don't put up a fight. This whole thing could be over before the "Live, from New York, it's Saturday night..."

There are not many Ryder Cups left for this trio. Furyk had to be picked this time and Mickelson was the last automatic qualifier. They will probably be the 2016 and 2018 U.S. captains.

If these three care about their Ryder Cup legacy, going out winners is the only way to change that. We won't see Mickelson and Furyk in five sessions anymore, but when they are out shepherding the younger guys, they still have plenty to offer.

And it's fair to say they care about their legacy. Each has assumed higher- profile leadership roles with each passing Ryder Cup.

"It's amazing how close this core is," Woods said. "We have gotten to know each other -- not just in The Ryder Cup, but we play team Cups every year with The Presidents Cup, and it's been the same three guys, and for a very long time."

It has been a very long time. Now it's time to win as a group, something this trio has only done once in the Ryder Cup.

And it needs to start on Friday.


- I'm taking the Europeans, contrary to my patriotic side. I think on paper, the teams are very evenly matched. The current form of the Europeans makes me lean in that direction.

- Pairings I expect to see this week - (EUR) - Donald/Garcia, McDowell/McIlroy and Poulter/Rose. For the United States, Woods/Stricker, Simpson/Watson and Mickelson/Bradley.

- Another bold prediction, I see this Ryder Cup being raucous in the same vein as the '99 one in Brookline, Mass. Chicago fans are rabid, Michael Jordan's presence and beer will all add to a zoo-like atmosphere.

- My official amended predictions for future captains - Couples and Darren Clarke in 2014.

- My parents are in flight for the Ryder Cup as this was being penned. This will be their third Ryder Cup and one Presidents Cup. Or, as I say, "One more than Rory."

- Changes are a comin'.

- Movie moment - Am I the only one who thinks it's weird that Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones share a birthday? Now, there's a whole person who can legally rent a car born between the dates, but that's strange. She's on my list of worst actors/actresses with Oscars.

- TV moment - The Emmys make me laugh. No, I'm not referring to the winners or, sadly, Jimmy Kimmel, although the Tracy Morgan bit was funny. Is Jon Cryer really the Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series? Was that just an apology from voters for having to work with Charlie Sheen on that show?