If the number of previous Ryder Cup appearances is the best criteria for winning this year’s match between the United States and Europe will be a close run thing. With one wildcard pick to be announced the US team members have in total played 26 matches while the 12 players representing Europe have appeared in just two more. However, the American team contains just one rookie while Europe have six debutants in their side.
Davis Love will select the 12th member of Team USA after the Tour Championship. The thinking is that the player that wins the season finale will be in the form of his life and would be a valuable asset. The other view is that five days is not long to prepare for playing in the Ryder Cup, especially if the final pick is a rookie. Darren Clarke has known his full side for three weeks and has worked on the pairings and dynamics.
The late invite to the party may make the player feel like he is an afterthought and only invited at the last minute to make up the numbers. If he is the winner of the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup he will have won almost $12million which is not the ideal preparation for the Ryder Cup. The recipient of the late call could be Bubba Watson who doesn’t seem like the type of character to integrate into the team structure as the last man on the guest list.
When Billy Horschel won the lot two years ago he wasn’t in the US Ryder Cup team so the move to choose one player after the season-ending championship was to prevent that anomaly from happening again. However, the negatives outweigh the positives and may be the Horschel case was an exception. While Clarke can focus on gelling 12 golfers from around Europe Love must fret over his final pick.
The Ryder Cup team of Europe plays under the flag of the European Union which is an interesting situation because seven of the team were eligible to vote in the UK referendum which brought about Brexit. It is the one sporting event that truly bonds the whole continent and working together for a common goal has been one of the strengths of Europe when winning six of the last seven Ryder Cups.
Both sides have a stalwart who will contribute on the course but will also have a role to play in the team room. Phil Mickelson is playing in his 11th Ryder Cup while Lee Westwood is appearing for the 10th time. Sergio Garcia has represented Europe in seven matches while Zach Johnson is playing in his fifth Ryder Cup. After that the number of past appearances is about even but six players in the European team are first timers. Love may select another rookie to complete his side which would balance this element of the squads slightly.
Even though Darren’s Dozen has been put to bed Clarke could face a tricky situation after the Tour Championship but the die will have been cast. Paul Casey chose to play on the US Tour which means he could not be selected for the Ryder Cup and Russell Knox was overlooked for a wildcard pick. Both are playing in the Tour Championship and could win so the European Ryder Cup team would not include the hottest player in the game. However, Love’s dilemma could be more damaging to the team situation
The 2016 Ryder Cup is being played at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota. The venue was announced way back in 2002 and since then the order of holes has been modified to make the layout more suited to matchplay golf. The par 72 course measures 7,628 yards which makes it above average in length even by modern standards. The US team contains just a few more bombers than greens in regulation merchants and distance off the tee will be more important than accuracy. That skill imbalance could negate the difference in the levels of experience.
The Americans have lost two of the last three Ryder Cups at home and no side has lost three from four in their own country or continent since players from continental Europe became eligible in 1979. When the US were winning the Ryder Cup in second gear nobody in that country was really bothered about the match. It has now become a matter of national importance which means the US team will be highly motivated and can win the Ryder Cup by two points or more.