The Ryder Cup will not involve replacement players; our national nightmare is over. Oh, sorry, my brain is still addled with 72 straight hours of referee talk. Fortunately, it ended just in time to focus on the Ryder Cup, which starts tomorrow and should be heading toward closing drama just as those referees are taking the field en masse on Sunday afternoon.
I love the Ryder Cup competition–the teammates, the head to head competition, and the bragging rights. It’s just too bad the USA has been on the wrong end too often recently, losing 4 of the last 5 Ryder Cups. The one exception was the last time it was held in the United States, at Valhalla in 2008, when Team USA cruised to victory.
If the USA wants to win this time around, the key is to get points in the teammate competitions on Friday and Saturday. If you don’t recall the format used, there are eight paired teammate matches on both Friday and Saturday: Four Ball (Best Ball Pairs) and Foursome (Alternating Shot). Sunday is reserved for all twelve players on each team going head to head in singles matches. Going back to 1997, Team USA has a winning record in singles matches (43.5 to 40.5). In the paired matches, though, they’ve been 46 and 66 over that same span. The only one where they had a lead entering Sunday was in 2008. The United States had a chance in the last one despite the deficit entering singles, but Graeme McDowell closed out the final match with a win, when the USA would have retained the Cup if Hunter Mahan could have managed a half.
Who are the pairs going to be this year for Team USA? We won’t get official word, but Golfweek has been watching the practice rounds and noting who is playing together. The educated guesses based on playing partners:
- Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker
- Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar, pairing a long hitter with a player more adept at short game
- Brandt Snedeker and Jim Furyk
- Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, winners of the Masters and U.S. Open respectively
- Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley
- Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson
As for Europe, the mostly likely combinations are:
- Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, in a dynamic pairing of Northern Irishmen
- Ian Poulter and Justin Rose
- Luke Donald and Lee Westwood
- Sergio Garcia and Paul Lawrie
- Peter Hanson and Martin Kaymer
- Nicolas Coelsarts and Francesco Molinari
[photo via US Presswire]