2012 Ryder Cup: Euros Strong Again but Questions Persist for Captain Love

Fred AltvaterContributor IIMay 21, 2012

Jose Maria Olazabal and Davis Love will Captain the two Ryder Cup Teams.
Jose Maria Olazabal and Davis Love will Captain the two Ryder Cup Teams.Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The 2012 Ryder Cup will be held September 28-30 on U.S. soil at historic Medinah Country Club just outside of Chicago.

Medinah Country Club is a 54-hole complex that first opened for play in 1925.  It has hosted three U.S. Opens, two PGA Championships, a U. S. Senior Open and several Western Opens.

Byron Nelson, Billy Casper, and Gary Player have won big events at Medinah. 

Who can forget Hale Irwin’s exciting win in the 1990 U. S. Open? 

Tiger Woods won two PGA Championships here in 1999 and 2006.

Medinah may favor the American team slightly but on the whole the course should prove an equal factor for both teams.

The qualification process for the European Ryder Cup Team has changed slightly for 2012.

The top-five players on both the European Ryder Cup points list and the World Ryder Cup Points list will earn automatic berths on the team.

Currently, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Justin Rose, Peter Hanson, Lee Westwood, Paul Lawrie and Martin Kaymer hold these automatic spots. 

Gonzalo Fdez-Castano, Sergio Garcia, Alvaro Quiros, Francesco Molinari, and Graeme McDowell are all in the top 12 on the European Ryder Cup list.

In addition, Ian Poulter is in the No. 12 position on the World Ryder Cup list.

The European Ryder Cup team will probably consist of twelve of these thirteen players.  The competition to make the European Team will be intense throughout the balance of the summer months.

Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy will lead the European Ryder Cup Team
Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy will lead the European Ryder Cup TeamScott Halleran/Getty Images

European team captain Jose Maria Olazabal will surely have a difficult decision choosing his two picks to round out the team.

These top European players include the No. 1, 2, 3, 9, 12, 20, 23, 24, 28, and 32-ranked players on the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR).

Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, and Justin Rose have all won on the PGA Tour in 2012 and Lee Westwood won a European event in Indonesia.

Peter Hanson has been very consistent in 2012 with top-ten finishes in Qatar, the WGC-Accenture, the WGC-Cadillac, and the Masters.

Europe will bring a strong and experienced Ryder Cup Team to the Ryder Cup matches at Medinah.

Davis Love III will captain the American team and should be able to field a strong group as well.

American players currently hold six of the top-ten spots on the OWGR and 13 of the top-25.

The top-eight players earn automatic berths, and captain Love will choose the final four members to complete the team.

Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Rickie Fowler, and Steve Stricker currently hold the exempt spots.  All except for Keegan Bradley have PGA Tour wins in 2012.

Jason Dufner and Hunter Mahan both have two PGA Tour wins.

Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love will have difficult decisions choosing his four Captain's picks.
Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love will have difficult decisions choosing his four Captain's picks.Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The top-eight names will certainly change as the summer progresses but these players can be reasonably certain that they should make the team come September.

Tiger Woods, Bill Haas, Brandt Snedeker, Ben Curtis, Zach Johnson, Johnson Wagner, Webb Simpson, Kyle Stanley, Mark Wilson, Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney and Jim Furyk provide a very strong pool of players from which to round out the team.

A good sign for the U.S. Team is that Americans have won 16 of the 21 events on the 2012 PGA Tour. 

Captain Love will most certainly have some Ryder Cup rookies on his team this fall.  With both Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods having wins this year and returning to world class form though, he will have two strong Ryder Cup veterans to lean on.

Davis will also be pulling for veterans Zach Johnson and Jim Furyk to perform well this summer and get into position to make the team.  They, along with Steve Stricker, add Ryder Cup experience, plus make excellent foursome and four-ball partners for some of the longer hitting more aggressive players.

The Europeans have won four of the last five Ryder Cup matches.  With top ranked and proven players, the European Team looks to be extremely strong again.

The early questions for the American team appear to be: 

     -Who will Captain Love choose with his four Captain’s picks?

     -How will the younger inexperienced Americans hold up under the intense Ryder Cup pressure?

Stayed tuned the Ryder Cup hype is just starting and it is still four months away.

You can be assured the players are already calculating what it will take to earn their spot on the teams.