Ryder Cup 2012: 6 Players Who Will Decide the Outcome
We're still three weeks away from the 2012 Ryder Cup matches between the United States and Europe at Medinah County Club, but with both rosters now complete, attention has turned to the specifics of the event.
Here's what we know. The U.S. team is comprised of Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Steve Stricker, Bubba Watson and Tiger Woods.
Team Europe is comprised of Nicolas Colsaerts, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer, Paul Lawrie, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood.
These golfers are among the best in the world and they will take part in what should be an incredible three days of action.
The Friday and Saturday foursomes and four-balls should be exciting to watch and will set the tone for the entire event. Inevitably, though, the Ryder Cup will come down to the singles matches on Sunday.
I have selected six players—three from each team—whose performances will likely decide the 2012 Ryder Cup.
Tiger Woods vs. Rory McIlroy
Naturally, a lot of golf fans want to see Tiger Woods vs. Rory McIlroy in the final singles match on Sunday. I'm one of them.
Tiger and Rory have been developing a friendly rivalry over the past few weeks. They've been paired together in several of the PGA Tour's FedExCup playoff appearances, and it has been creating a great deal of interest in the game.
Golf has a deep pool of talent right now—and most of the best players in the world will be at this Ryder Cup—but the game is better when a Tiger-Rory match is brewing.
There are still a few weeks to go, but Tiger is playing well and I don't expect that to change. Same with Rory. In fact, he's playing even better than Tiger.
His win at last week's Deutsche Bank Championship tied him with Tiger for the most wins on the PGA Tour this year with three, and entering play on Friday, he was leading the BMW Championship after the first round—one shot ahead of Tiger.
Every match will be crucial and I expect both players to make some noise in the foursomes and four-balls on Friday and Saturday. But, when it comes down to the Sunday singles matches, I hope Tiger and Rory get a head-to-head matchup to decide who wins this Ryder Cup.
Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley
U.S. captain Davis Love III already admitted he made his captain's picks based on pairings. But one potential pairing he will consider hasn't involved any thought on his part—yet.
The duo of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley made it on to Team USA based on the points they earned.
Ryder Cup veteran Mickelson will be making his record ninth appearance in these matches. His mentoring relationship with Ryder Cup rookie Keegan Bradley has been well-documented, and I expect the two could be paired together on Friday and/or Saturday.
It's a perfect balance of valued experience and youthful exuberance. I think Mickelson and Bradley complement each other well. They're extremely comfortable playing together and they could be a winning combination. After picking the team, Love told rydercup.com:
Chemistry is very important. This is about golf, first of all, but we're going to be together for four days and we need guys who can pull together and help us in that team room.
Certainly, the tandem of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker will be a force to be reckoned with for the U.S. squad. But I can't think of two guys who would be more compatible than Lefty and Bradley.
Ian Poulter didn't earn enough points to be an automatic selection for Team Europe, but he does carry enough weight to be a difference-maker as one of captain Jose Maria Olazabal's wild-card picks.
Poulter has an impressive history at the Ryder Cup. In 11 matches over three events, Poulter won eight of them and helped the European squad to two victories.
For Olazabal, it was an easy decision. He told rydercup.com:
He's had a great Ryder Cup record. His attitude and his spirit in The Ryder Cup has always been great. He's one of those players who likes to be in that situation. I think he gets the best out of himself playing The Ryder Cup. The two times I had the opportunity to share a few moments with him at Valhalla and Celtic Manor, you didn't need to motivate him. Just by looking at his eyes you could see he would give everything he had during that week.
Poulter has also played his best golf at some of the biggest events this year. At the Masters, he finished in seventh place. At the Open Championship, he tied for ninth. And at the PGA Championship, Poulter managed a tie for third.
When you combine his outstanding Ryder Cup record with his penchant for success when it matters the most, Ian Poulter should be a difference-maker in helping Team Europe retain its title.
I think Sergio Garcia will prove to be the heart and soul of this year's European Ryder Cup team.
After being in the role of a non-playing vice-captain at Celtic Manor a couple years ago, Garcia will be a valued participant on this year's team.
He has all the traits you want in a Ryder Cup player. He's a fiery competitor. He's an emotional leader. And maybe best of all, he's playing great golf.
Garcia won the Wyndham Championship a couple weeks ago, then finished tied for third at The Barclays to open the PGA Tour's FedExCup playoff season. And after one round at the BMW Championship, Garcia was at three-under-par, five shots off the lead.
I expect that one day he will be the European team's captain.
Sure, everyone wants to see a Rory McIlroy-Tiger Woods matchup in this Ryder Cup, but we sure wouldn't be disappointed with a Sergio-Tiger showdown, either. Remember the PGA Championship in 1999 here at Medinah? How can anyone forget? Tiger was the same age Rory is now, while Sergio was a mere 19 years old.
The rivalry we hoped for never really developed, but wouldn't it be great if the two could rekindle that classic slugfest at the 2012 Ryder Cup?