Barring the glorious uncertainties that always seem to be associated with the Ryder Cup, the Americans look set to end their disappointing run in the biennial tournament this week. We can expect a ‘Humdinger at Hazeltine’, but as far as miracles go, Europe has had more than its fair share at Medinah.
As things stand right now, Team USA definitely have the upper hand…at least on paper. The most important thing is the team balance, and Davis Love III’s men have got a better composition.
One thing that is repeatedly pointed out about Europe is the fact that they have six rookies, compared to just two in Team USA. That’s not necessarily a bad thing at all – Europe won in 2010 with six rookies as well – but that was at home in Celtic Manor, and two of them were Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer, who went on to become world No. 1s before the 2012 Ryder Cup.
What is of concern is that three European rookies – Andy Sullivan, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Chris Wood – haven’t had a great last couple of months. Both the American rookies – Brooks Koepka and Ryan Moore – have shown very good recent form. Koepka is coming off an ankle injury, but he did finish in the top-five at the PGA Championship.
The Americans also seem to have a better balance of big hitters and short game maestros. For every Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Koepka, Patrick Reed and JB Holmes, who can wallop the ball a fair distance, they also have expert putters like Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker, Zach Johnson and Moore.
The Americans also have the world rankings advantage. As many as 11 players, barring wildcard and world No. 31 Ryan Moore, are inside the top-30, while only five European players enjoy that status.
Another distinct difference between the two teams is how much each player has played in the last couple of months. Since the PGA Championship, the 12 Americans have had 62 starts, while the Europeans have played only 42 tournaments.
Most members of Team USA should be like well-oiled machines at the moment. And then they have the home advantage. To have a raucous crowd on your side is a massive thing in any sporting competition. Of course, they had that in Medinah too, but that loss was really an exception.
The hosts are also showing a remarkable sense of camaraderie and unity this time. The move to induct Bubba Watson at the last minute as his vice-captain was a shrewd one from Love. It tells the Europeans that unlike the general opinion, that Bubba was not included in the team because he did not get along nicely with some members, the two-time Masters champion is still very much a part of Team USA.
Finally, there is the Arnold Palmer factor. It’s well known how the Europeans summon up the Seve spirit every time they go out for the Ryder Cup. Now Americans have the opportunity to do the same.
Even though The King’s playing career was before most team members were even born, his impact has been huge. They will want to win this for the legend, who was also their most successful Ryder Cup player, and I think they will.
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