When the 2012 Ryder Cup kicks off this weekend, Rory McIlroy will shake off a disappointing 10th-place finish at the Tour Championship and lead Europe to an upset victory over the United States.
Brandt Snedeker’s win on Sunday forced McIlroy to settle for a runner-up finish in the final FedEx Cup standings. But McIlroy will complete a spectacular 2012 season—one that is sure to earn him his first PGA Tour Player of the Year award—by helping the Europeans defend their Ryder Cup title.
The Americans seem to have all of the momentum entering this week’s competition at Medinah. Snedeker has been one of the tour’s hottest players over the past few weeks, while Tiger Woods has looked more like his pre-car accident self in 2012.
The U.S. team also features seven players that finished in the top 10 at last week’s Tour Championship, an encouraging sign heading into this weekend’s showdown.
Despite the strong collective effort by the Americans at East Lake, the European team includes four golfers that finished in the top 10 of the final FedEx Cup standings compared to just three from the United States.
The Europeans also have and edge in Ryder Cup experience, with Nicolas Colsaerts being the only member of the team who has never played in the event. The U.S. has four golfers that are new to the event, including Snedeker.
The difference in Ryder Cup experience could play a significant role when you also consider the success that the Europeans have had in the event. The 11 returning members of the European team have a combined 60-32-18 record in Ryder Cup competition, while the eight veterans on the American team are just 41-59-16.
In addition to their the edge in experience and success in Ryder Cup competition, the Europeans also have Rory McIlroy on their side. No golfer has played better over the past month—as evidenced by victories in three of his last five tournaments, including the PGA Championship in August—and he is obviously over whatever issues plagued him earlier in the year.
McIlroy is now playing at a level reminiscent of Tiger in his prime. At 23, McIlroy is ready to become the greatest golfer of the post-Woods era and dominate the PGA Tour for the next ten years.
When Ryder Cup play begins on Friday, McIlroy will be the only golfer favored—no, expected—to win all five points from his matches, even in the unlikely event that he is pitted against Woods.
While he’s openly respectful of Tiger's accomplishments, McIlroy has proven time and again that he is not intimidated by Woods’ resume. Rory will not back down when facing his good friend in spirited competition.
A sweep by McIlroy would mean that his teammates only need to earn nine additional points, giving Europe the 14 points needed to retain its title. Given their previous success in the Ryder Cup over the past 10 years—the Europeans have won four of the past five competitions dating back to 2002—that outcome seems extremely likely.
More than anything, McIlroy wants this victory badly. It will take years for him to match Tiger’s success in Majors, assuming he’s able to do that at all. However, dominating Ryder Cup play is something that McIlroy can accomplish now, and it’s one of the few ways that he can gain an obvious edge over Woods.
In eight Ryder Cup appearances, Tiger has a pedestrian 13-14-2 record. McIlroy’s 1-1-2 record in 2010 was equally unimpressive, but he can reverse that brief track record with a memorable performance this weekend.
Smart money says that McIlroy rises to the occasion by leading the Europeans to a narrow Ryder Cup victory. That will cap off a 2012 season that we will look back on years from now as the beginning of a long run of greatness.