We’ve waited two years for this. The Ryder Cup is back, the ultimate in match-play golf. It’s one nation (U.S.) against a whole bunch of European countries at Medinah Country Club near Chicago. Europe is the defending champion.
But it’s on our turf now and our fans can be as obnoxious and any of those Europ-trash fans. This format brings that element out, a deep pride in the fans as well as the players. Former Ryder Cup golfers talk about the pressure of carrying team and country on their backs during their matches. It’s a unique event.
Team Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal and U.S captain Davis Love III (pictured) are the puppet masters.
There are 28 points available and a tie favors the defending champion. U.S. must reach at least 14 1/2 point to win the cup back. Here is how golferswest.com writers Jim Street, Kirby Arnold and Bob Sherwin figure how the competition will transpire this weekend:
The Ryder Cup isn’t what it used to be, and that’s a good thing. There’s nothing worse in sports than having total domination by one side over the other, which was the case from 1927 through 1977 when the U.S. played Great Britain (Ireland joined the Brits 1973-75-77) in the every-other-year format, compiling a 19-3 record. The Ryder Cup became a U.S.-vs-Europe battle in 1979, and although the Americans rattled off three more wins, their cup stopped running over with victories in 1985, beginning a run of high-drama that has become must-watch TV. Europe has won nine of the past 13 Ryder Cups, including four straight on their home turf. The U.S. has won two of its cups in the good ‘ol USA and that’s why I’m picking Uncle Sam to regain the coveted prize this week at Medinah CC outside of Chicago. For one thing, Cubs fans need something to cheer about, and the team led by captain Davis Love III and assisted by newly nominated Hall of Famer Fred Couples, among others, will prevail in a 14.5-13.5 nail-biter that will have more twists and turns than the incompetent and over-matched NFL replacement officials. The U.S. team has both experience (Jim Furyk, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson) and youth (Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson and FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker), and in the end the noisy home course crowd will help celebrate the lifting of the Cup.
If there ever was a golf dream team, the USA has it this weekend at Medinah. These guys are so good, all you need is a first name to know who they are – Phil, Tiger, Bubba, Dustin, Zach, Brandt, Keegan, Webb. Mickelson, Woods, Watson, Johnson, Johnson, Snedeker, Bradley and Simpson are, collectively, playing some of the best golf of the year. Jim Furyk, Jason Dufner, Steve Stricker and Matt Kuchar have the game and mindset required for such a high-profile event. I doubt anyone will be doubting captain Davis Love III’s pairings when the weekend is done. If you’re a Team USA fan, you’ve got to feel very good. Nearly every ‘expert’ I’ve heard this week says the USA not only should be favored to reclaim the Ryder Cup, they’ll win by such a wide margin that Sunday’s final matches will serve as little more than a victory lap. But, to twist the words of former captain Ben Crenshaw before the USA’s dramatic final-day surge to win the 2008 Cup, I have a bad feeling about this weekend. For one thing, Europe isn’t sending duffers to the tee. Three days of golf may prove otherwise, but Jose Maria Olazabal seems to be the unifying captain that Team Europe didn’t have in 2008 under Nick Faldo. And Team Europe’s lineup, good luck with that USA. Rory McIlroy is only the Best Golfer in the World. Graeme McDowell has the steely nerves and game to unwind any opponent. Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer are seasoned veterans who can beat anybody. Then there are guys we in the U.S. barely know – Nicolas Colsaerts, Peter Hanson, Paul Lawrie and Francesco Molinari – unless you stay up late and watch European tournaments on the Golf Channel. They’ve all got some serious game. Combine all that with the fact that Tiger Woods has hardly been a dominant player in the Ryder Cup, there’s reason to think this won’t be runaway USA victory. I don’t see a blowout at all. I see a riveting Ryder Cup that will go down to the final match and it will end … in a tie. That’s right, a 14-14 deadlock which, by rule, will allow Europe to retain the Cup.
Rory McIIroy is the best player in the world at this point and certainly the leader of Team Europe heading into the biennial Ryder Cup competition this weekend at Medinah. The problem for Europe is it might need 11 more McIIroys. They may not have enough depth to overcome the youth and talent of the U.S. team. If the Ryder Cup was held a year ago, the U.S. won’t stand much of a chance. European players dominated world golf last year, winning three of four majors and thumping the best of the U.S. But slowly the worm has turned. So many of the young promising American hitters have fully developed and are claiming trophies. American players won the first seven PGA events this year a couple majors. The 12-member U.S. team has combined to win 16 PGA events this year while Europeans have won seven – four by McIIroy. Now many of the European players spend much of their year on the European circuit but even many of the players on the European team haven’t won an event this year. While four European players are ranked among the top five in the world in the World Golf Rankings, six European team members are ranked below the lowest-ranked American player. Americans have asserted themselves back in prominence, including Tiger Woods, who won three times this season. He’s not the greatest Ryder Cup player but, strangely, he’s a terrific match play player. His effort at the President’s Cup last fall may have been enough to get him back on track. With the jingoistic home crowd on their side, I think the Americans will take back the trophy rather handily, 16 ½ to 11 ½.