Ryder Cup 2012: Most Important Factors in Team USA's Quest to Regain Cup
Two years ago, Graeme McDowell clinched the Ryder Cup for Team Europe in thrilling fashion. Now, United States captain Davis Love III hopes his group of talented Americans can win it back at the Medinah Country Club in Illinois.
He's facing a tough challenge, though.
The European squad has tremendous depth featuring both seasoned veterans and promising young players. It will take a complete team effort for Team USA to stop Europe from winning for the fifth time in six years.
Let's take a look at the most important factors that will come in to play starting on Sept. 25. It should be another close battle that goes right down to the final few singles matches.
The last time Woods represented the United States in a team event he was putting the finishing touches on last year's Presidents Cup victory.
It was a performance that really helped fuel the bounce-back season he's enjoyed in 2012.
Even though he's been overshadowed by Rory McIlroy in recent weeks, Woods has been on quite a roll of his own. The fan favorite has finished 11th or better in seven of his last 10 starts—a far cry from the wildly inconsistent play of the last few years.
When he's capable of playing the go-to guy role, putting the team on his back when a point is needed, it has a major impact on the entire American squad. It takes a boatload of pressure off everybody else.
Woods looks ready to handle it.
Which team will win the Ryder Cup?
The United States team features four Ryder Cup rookies: U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner, who qualified based on points, while Brandt Snedeker was one of the four captain's picks by Love.
It's impossible to simulate the atmosphere of the event for them. The Ryder Cup is more like a Saturday afternoon in the SEC than the Masters. The fans are more involved and enthusiastic than usual, making for quite the spectacle.
Especially on Sunday.
If those four players aren't up to the challenge, the United States doesn't stand a chance. They are all having good seasons, so they should be fine as long as they don't let the enormity of the situation impact their play on the course.
Easier said than done, of course.
Consistency of Big Hitters
Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson both have incredible distance off the tee. They are both, however, also known for being streaky, something that's not uncommon for players who rely on one shot so heavily to put them in good positions.
The good news for Team USA is that they have both been playing well lately. Johnson has three consecutive top-six finishes in the PGA Tour playoffs and Watson has only missed one cut in his past seven starts after missing two straight in early June.
If they are both in good form for the Ryder Cup, it will be a major advantage for Team USA since it would cut into Europe's perceived depth advantage. A lot can change in three weeks, but the early signs are good for Johnson and Watson.
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