Written by: Alex McKinnon– Staff Writing Intern (@1ReturnOfTheMac)
The 2016 Ryder Cup, the 41st in its history, will commence on September 30th through the 2nd of October. For the golf rookie, the Ryder Cup is a biennial competition between the premiere American golfers and those from Europe. If you are a fan of the Olympics or any of the golf majors, this is always must watch television. Golf is often scoffed at for being a sport without teams or a tense competitive nature with golfers often rooting for one another even in the heat of a major. This is not the case with the Ryder Cup. Despite the slow nature of the sport, the tension and pride can be seen with every swing as you can tell from “The Golden Bear”
“For me, and I think a lot of other golfers who’ve been fortunate enough to participate in them, international team contests are the most enjoyable events in golf. If the game has one drawback, it is its individuality, its self-concernedness – its selfishness, to be blunt about the matter. Playing for a team, and particularly for country in someone else’s country, really brings a group of players together.”
– Jack Nicklaus in 1973 at Muirfield
The concept is odd…two twelve man teams who are selected by qualification (9 golfers) and then 3 who are selected by the Captain (Captain’s Picks). The captain’s will not be playing and are essentially a coach for their squad. Over the three day event, a variety of matches decide the eventual winner. On day one and two, there are 4 foursome matches and 4 fourball matches played. A foursome match is essentially a tag-team match where you alternate strokes with your partner. Fourball is played with…four balls…and the best score on the hole for a team is the counted score. On the final day, it will be 12 singles matches where it will be 1 on 1. There are 28 total points to be had, with the victor needing 15 to win. The United States has lost eight of the last ten Ryder Cup’s to the Europeans (spanning 20 years), but has formidable grouping this year. Let’s meet our competitors…
Captain: Davis Love III
Qualifying Golfers: Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker, Brooks Koepka, Brandt Snedeker, Zach Johnson
Captain’s Picks: Rickie Fowler, J.B. Holmes, Matt Kuchar
The glaringly obvious note is that Love III did not use one of his selections to bring Bubba Watson, a two-time masters champion, into the fold. This came to a surprise to most as he selected Rickie Fowler, who has been struggling as of late. My personal opinion is that the rumors are true that Watson is not well liked by his peers, and now has to wait to find out if Love III will make him his final selection on September 25th.
The roster is very top heavy with names like Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson. Johnson, 32, has won three tournaments in 2016 including the U.S. open and has consistently stayed in the top-10 in a large amount of his events. Spieth, 23, is the ringer of the group being proclaimed as the next Tiger. After a dominant 2015 majors season, Spieth struggled early with a collapse in the Masters but has come on strong towards the end of his 2016 campaign. Mickelson, 46, has become the durable one of the Tiger-Phil duo of the early 2000s. Lefty is still one of the most clutch performers on the tour and was third in the qualifier even at his age. Phil is by far the most experienced member of the team with this being his 10th Ryder Cup. For comparison, the next highest would be Zach Johnson with 4 appearances.
Jimmy Walker and Matt Kuchar will remain under the radar with teammates named Johnson, Spieth, Mickelson and even Fowler but these two have been on fire as of late and should bring a large amount of stability to the back-end of the roster. But the real wild card will remain Fowler with the addition of a glorious mustache…
Captain: Darren Clarke
Qualifying Golfers: Rory McIlroy, Danny Willett, Henrik Stenson, Chris Wood, Sergio Garcia, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Justin Rose, Andy Sullivan, Matthew Fitzpatrick
Captain’s Picks: Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Thomas Pieters
This is not the most intimidating list of golfers with the lack of recognizable names outside of McIlroy, Stenson and Garcia, but this is essentially the same core that has come out victorious in the previous two Ryder Cup’s. Poulter and McDowell will be missed, but the lineup is still very strong with a few new faces in the mix. Rory and Henrik are tied at #5 in the world rankings with Rose in the #10 slot. On top of that trio, you are certain to recognize Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and even Danny Willett. Garcia and Westwood have long been successful in major events and should be huge X-Factors come September 30th in Minnesota.
The success of Team Europe will once again rely on it’s ringers including Rory McIlroy who still remains as a Top 3 golfer in the world despite losing his ‘crown’ to Mr. Jordan Spieth. I see this as another opportunity for Rory to prove his dominance against guys he is often compared to and hopefully avoid any anger issues.
Despite the history of this event being so heavily in the Europeans favor, especially in the past two decades, this is a very deep American team who has no excuse to lose this many cups in a row. A lot of these guys, including Spieth, Reed, Walker, Snedeker and Johnson have only appeared in 1-2 Ryder Cups thus far into their careers and hopefully the previous experience will help them control their nerves now that they know what to expect. The matches will be held at Hazeltine National Golf Club located in Chaska, Minnesota which has held 4 major championships in it’s history. It is a hilly golf course with plenty of drinking wells and narrow fairways leaving little margin for error on either side.
My Pick: Team USA
It’s time for the boys in Red, White and Blue to take advantage of the home-field advantage and end this gruesome drought to the Europeans. As David Duval said before the 1999 singles matches, “Let’s go kill them!”