Tomorrow, the United States team will begin its defense of one of the greatest titles in golf, the Ryder Cup, at Celtic Manor in Wales. Two years ago, on our home soil at Valhalla, the United States team shocked the Europeans and Captain Sir Nick Faldo to claim the Ryder Cup. Now, the Europeans are playing on home soil and would do anything to acquire the 14.5 points necessary to claim the Ryder Cup back for Europe. The Ryder Cup is one of the most intense, emotion-filled events in all of golf, and the fans are in for a treat this weekend.
Each team is composed of 12 players:
USA- Captain (Corey Pavin) Europe- Captain (Colin Montgomerie)
Phil Mickelson Martin Kaymer
Hunter Mahan Lee Westwood
Tiger Woods Padraig Harrington
Rickie Fowler Luke Donald
Stewart Cink Ross Fisher
Bubba Watson Rory McIlroy
Matt Kuchar Graeme McDowell
Jim Furyk Peter Hanson
Steve Stricker Miguel Angel Jimenez
Dustin Johnson Ian Poulter
Zach Johnson Francesco Molinari
Jeff Overton Eduardo Molinari
The Europeans look to be the favorites, as the European team has combined for more worldwide wins than the USA team has this year, and has more recognizable names on the roster. However, the Americans are looking to defend the title, and have a lot of up-and-coming players on the roster.
Friday Morning Fourball (Best Ball) pairings (arranged by first tee time):
1. Phil Mickelson/ Dustin Johnson vs. Martin Kaymer/Lee Westwood
2. Stewart Cink/ Matt Kuchar vs. Rory McIlroy/Graeme McDowell
3. Steve Stricker/Tiger Woods vs. Ian Poulter/Ross Fisher
4. Bubba Watson/Jeff Overton vs. Luke Donald/Padraig Harrington
My Predictions: Johnson will carry the Americans in the first group, Mickelson will have a few close chips for birdies, and the Americans will win the 1st group impressively, with Lee Westwood struggling due to his significant time off with his calf injury.
In the second group, the Americans have their work cut out for them in the European Rory McIlroy. He is one of the most explosive players in golf and will thrive in this type of this environment. I expect McIlroy to carry the second group for the Europeans.
The third group will be a rout for the Americans. Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher are two of the weaker links on the European team, and Stricker and Woods are two of the top 5 golfers in the world.
The fourth group is a toss up. The Americans are led by Bubba Watson, the longest hitter in golf, with relative unknown but consistent performer Jeff Overton also in the group. Luke Donald has been playing very well, but Padraig Harrington has really been struggling, and was a reach pick by Captain Montgomerie. I think the Americans will win a close match in the fourth match, and with my above predictions, I think the USA will have 3 points and the Europeans 1 point after the morning session.
My Ryder Cup Winners and Big Performers:
The United States will once again shock the Europeans, this time on their soil, to claim the Ryder Cup for the 2nd straight time. Big factors for the United States will be Dustin Johnson, arguably the best golfer on Tour in big tournaments this season, Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker, two of the best putters on Tour, Jim Furyk, the most recent winner on Tour, and Tiger Woods, who is looking to avenge a lost season in 2010.
Some USA golfers who I believe will struggle this weekend include: Rickie Fowler, a gutsy captain’s pick with which I did not agree, Stewart Cink, a golfer who simply hasn’t done it in 2010, another shaky captain’s pick, and Matt Kuchar, a golfer who has been very good this year but struggled mightily last weekend when the pressure was put upon him.
Key players for the Europeans will be Martin Kaymer (one of my favorites), who is as consistent as it gets in the game of golf, and who rolls in 15-20 footers like it is nothing, Rory McIlroy, one of the best talents in all of golf, and Luke Donald, a golfer who is often undervalued but who is very consistent and has had a good year in 2010.
Some Europeans that I believe will struggle include: Ian Poulter, a golfer with whom I am simply not confident to perform consistently, Padraig Harrington, a golfer who, like Cink, hasn’t done anything recently, and Lee Westwood, who is still recovering from a calf injury which has sidelined him for months this season.