Golf: 5 Players Most Likely to Top Ryder Cup Points Table
The Ryder Cup is fast approaching and both captains will be relying on big individual performances to propel their team to victory.
Davis Love, captain of Team USA will be hoping his team can regain the Ryder Cup after losing out in dramatic fashion two years ago.
His counterpart, José María Olazábal, will be out to guide Europe to its first win on US soil for the first time since 2004.
Here we look at five players most likely to finish as the top combined points scorer over the three days at Medinah Country Club.
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Having won both the 1999 and 2006 PGA Championships at Medinah, Tiger Woods will be relishing the opportunity to play a course he clearly will feel at home on. He could be the man to lead Team USA to victory and his individual performance will be pivotal if the USA is to regain the Ryder Cup.
Moreover, the 14-time "major" winner heads to Illinois with four top-ten finishes in his last six events and is back at No. 2 in the world rankings.
Woods has been eclipsed by world No. 1, Rory McIlroy, in the run up to the Ryder Cup. However, the stage is set for Woods to show the young Ulsterman that he's not ready to lie down just yet.
Medinah has been slightly updated since Woods won here in 2006 and although it still plays long, it will serve those players who play better in the wind and those who rely on accuracy rather than distance.
Four of its holes are heavily influenced by the presence of Lake Kadijah, where access to the green relies upon a hugely accurate approach across a finger of the lake. Good putting will be the difference between winning and losing: something Tiger will relish.
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When Woods won the PGA Championship in 2006, only Steve Stricker of the current Ryder Cup team made the top ten, finishing tied seventh (eight shots behind Tiger).
Although Stricker has not been "lighting up" the golf world this year, he won the Tournament of Champions back in January and has enjoyed six top-ten finishes. He has played well in all four major tournaments and has only missed one cut all year.
He is renowned for his accuracy, both off the tee and on the fairway; and if Stricker's putter can get as hot as we know it can be, the Europeans will have their work cut out to beat him.
Stricker will want to make sure that his contribution to the team is at least on a par with his 2010 performance. He was on the winning team twice in three appearances that he made in partnership with Woods in the Foursomes & Fourballs and won his Singles match, 2&1 against Lee Westwood.
He won the Ryder Cup in 2008 and his experience will be an invaluable asset to Team USA. A wise head on veteran shoulders, Stricker will be a great motivator off the course and a great inspiration for the rookies. It would be no surprise to see him lead by example and be at the top of the individual points table come Sunday evening.
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For many, Snedeker’s inclusion as a "captain’s pick" was a great surprise but Davis Love always had the man from Nashville, Tennessee in his sights, due largely to his great putting ability.
Snedeker has taken giant strides in the world rankings this year, currently sitting in 19th place. He admits that much of his progress has been down to his putting.
He currently sits on top of PGA list for strokes gained putting, and is in fifth place overall in birdie average with 3.96. He is rated fourth overall on the PGA’s putting chart.
It stands to reason why he should be included in the team; he is certainly a sleeper in terms of being able to make an impact for Team USA.
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Despite losing a bit of form in recent weeks, Luke Donald will be one of those Europeans who will be relishing going back to Medinah. This was the course where Luke produced one of his best ever performances in a major when tied for third along with Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott in the 2006 PGA Championship behind Tiger Woods.
Although six shots adrift of Woods in that tournament, the current world No. 3 proved beyond any doubt that accuracy was the key to success on this course. Donald has that in abundance.
The Englishman plays most of his golf in the States has won two events this year. He has the perfect pedigree for match play. He proved this by winning the WGC World Match-Play in 2011.
He played extremely well in the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, winning two of his three Foursomes & Fourballs and defeating Jim Furyk by one hole in the singles.
There is little doubt that European captain Jose Maria Olazabal will want to use Luke as much as possible as Europe bids to retain the Ryder Cup. He looks to be the most likely European to feature at the top of the individual combined points standings, come the tournament's conclusion.
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Tiger Woods is not the only "horse for course" in the Ryder Cup this year. Sergio Garcia also played well at Medinah in the past.
When Woods won on the course in 1999, the player who matched him shot-for-shot in that final round was Garcia, who ended up finishing in a tie for second place.
Garcia was back in 2006 and remained in the hunt throughout the four days and eventually finished tied for third with Ryder Cup teammate Luke Donald.
Garcia’s form slumped throughout 2011 but the Spaniard seems to be back to something like his best again in 2012, which bodes well for the tournament.
Boasting a terrific Ryder Cup record of 14 wins, six halves and only four defeats from five tournaments played (including three wins), makes Garcia a key player and potential match winner for Europe.