Ryder Cup 2012: 5 Players Who Might Be Heroes

Ron Juckett@ronjuckettContributor IIISeptember 12, 2012

Ryder Cup 2012: 5 Players Who Might Be Heroes

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    When the Ryder Cup commences in two weeks at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago, all the things we associate with the game of golf go out the window.

    Played 40 weeks a year as an individual sport, this three-day team event is filled with tension.

    What once was a routine American victory over the best golfers of Great Britain and Ireland has turned into a titanic struggle between the United States and Europe.

    Two teams of 12 of the world’s best golfers spend three days in a pressure-packed venue. There will be goats and there will be heroes over the five sessions that make up the Ryder Cup.

    For rookies like Keegan Bradley and Nicolas Colsaerts, intimidation may be a factor.

    Grizzled veterans like Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson hope to contribute solid weeks, while Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are expected to thrive.

    The crowds resemble something you would find at Soldier Field during a Chicago Bears-Green Bay Packers game.

    Here are five golfers that might become heroes on that weekend.

Sergio Garcia

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    While Sergio Garcia may have a history of falling short in the majors, his Ryder Cup record is outstanding.

    Garcia’s first Ryder Cup experience came in 1999, the year he dueled Tiger Woods earlier that season during the last round of the PGA Championship at Medinah.

    Sporting a 14-6-4 overall record in six Ryder Cups, Garcia has accepted the challenge and legacy set forth by fellow Spaniards Seve Ballesteros and European captain Jose Maria Olazabal in embracing how important the Cup is.

    Garcia has never lost a foursome match—going 8-0-1 in his career—and is only behind Lee Westwood in active career points won with 16 points overall.

    Sergio just loves this event and has been playing well as of late. His win at the Wyndham Championship and a solid finish at The Barclays the next week has propelled him into the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

    He seems to be happy with where his game is right now and will be an asset to his team again.

Jason Dufner

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    Jason Dufner is one of four Ryder Cup rookies that American captain Davis Love III has at his disposal.

    Dufner has won twice this year on the PGA Tour and just seems to fly under the radar every time he plays.

    He made the cut at all four majors this year and finished in a tie for fourth at the U.S. Open.

    This is his first team event ever on this stage, but playing on home soil should settle his nerves.

    Dufner rarely beats himself, and he can secure a couple vital points by being a settling influence on his playing partners.

    He won't be a pushover for his singles match, either.

Luke Donald

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    There does not seem to be a lot of pressure right now on the world’s former No. 1 player, and he has to like that.

    Luke Donald’s signature win on tour came last year at the WGC-Accenture Match Play event.

    He was 4-1 at the last Ryder Cup, including a 6&5 victory over Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker with Lee Westwood in a foursome match.

    With the spotlight firmly planted on Rory McIlroy, Donald’s steady game will not be under the same scrutiny by the press.

    One of the most solid players on both the PGA and European Tour, Donald will be more than capable of taking a big point haul this year. 

Matt Kuchar

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    This will be the second Ryder Cup for the unflappable Matt Kuchar, and his first here in the United States.

    After taking two points in his first effort, Kuchar comes into this year’s event coming off a very good year.

    He won The Players in May, had two top 10s in majors this year and was in the top 10 for all three World Golf Championship events, including a quarterfinalist appearance at the WGC-Accenture.

    He is about as steady a player as you will ever find. Like Jason Dufner and Steve Stricker, there is not one part of Kuchar’s game that will grab you, but he simply will not beat himself. He will not change his body language and will smile his way through a round.

    If Love can find him the right partner, his steadiness could ensure that he does no worse than a halve in any of the four team matches.

    Medinah is a long course at over 7,600 yards, but Kuchar understands that the basic tenant of playing major championship golf is hitting fairways and greens.

    A younger version of Stricker, Kuchar may be the most important player for the U.S.

Rory McIlroy

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    Anointed by many as the next chosen one, this year’s Ryder Cup will be a good test to see how the best player in the world can rise to his latest challenge.

    Rory McIlroy has the same genuine enthusiasm playing that Phil Mickelson generally displays. He also has the game to match that charisma.

    What Rory has done so well this summer is put himself into a position to win and exploit it on Sunday. He is learning the game and his place in it.

    The expectation for McIlroy will be to take all five points he is risking. With his exceptional putting, this is a distinct possibility.

    This will be the first time he is expected to take a true leadership role and, if his history can be any sort of guide, he is ready to take it on.

    This being in the United States helps him; he will not have to avoid the British tabloid press and talk radio like he would if this was in the United Kingdom.