Ryder Cup 2012: 5 Singles Matches We Can't Wait to Watch
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It's been two years since Europe narrowly defeated the United States to claim the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort in Wales. Since that time, the anticipation has been building for a similarly thrilling encore performance.
In what is likely to be one of the most exciting Ryder Cup matches in the 85-year history of the event, the stage has moved to U.S. soil and Medinah Country Club just outside Chicago for the 2012 Ryder Cup.
Months of planning and preparation, including difficult decisions in assembling the best teams possible, have only fueled the fire for this biennial battle.
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.
With this much talent, the list of potentially great battles runs deep. But here are five singles matches we can't wait to watch.
Tiger Woods vs. Rory McIlroy
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Tiger Woods vs. Rory McIlroy. This is without question the most interesting and most anticipated Ryder Cup match of 2012. It's a match that needs to happen.
McIlroy is the world No. 1 and the hottest player in professional golf right now. Tiger—well, I don't need to recap what he has meant, and still means, to the game. The two are friendly rivals, but the intensity of that match would be unequaled by any other.
According to European captain Jose Maria Olazabal, it's too early to predict this pairing:
"I know that all of you are very eager to see that match played, but we will have to wait and see what happens, and first of all, how the matches develop the next few days," he said in his press conference on Wednesday. "Obviously Friday and Saturday are going to be crucial to know what we're going to be doing on Sunday. We are guessing here, and my guess is as good as yours. And the only thing I can say is that I know you're eager to see that match, but I think the Ryder Cup is more important than that single match."
Of course, that's true. But how exciting would it be if the entire tournament came down to a final pairing of Tiger vs. Rory? U.S. captain Davis Love wants to see it happen.
"I'm sure it's not in the captains' agreement that we don't do that, but I'm sure it's against the spirit of it," Love admitted during his Wednesday presser. "I said it yesterday or the day before up here—it would be neat to sit up here and match them up. It would be pretty good theater to match groups, and it would be fun. But since we can't do that and since I doubt that—well, I definitely don't want to be the first one to go cross over into their room and start rigging pairings, so I would say no. But it would be fun to watch, that's for sure."
Fun to watch. And possibly one of the greatest Ryder Cup matches of all time.
Tiger Woods vs. Sergio Garcia
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In lieu of the ultimate singles match everyone wants to see—the aforementioned Tiger Woods vs. Rory McIlroy showdown—what if we turned the clock back to 1999 at Medinah, site of the 81st PGA Championship?
This is when we were introduced to a fiery young Spaniard named Sergio Garcia, who at just 19 years old succeeded in challenging a seemingly invincible Tiger Woods in the year's final major championship.
Sergio lost that tournament by a single shot as Tiger claimed the second of his 14 majors, but it sparked what everyone hoped would be a rivalry for many years to come. Thirteen years later, Sergio still hasn't won a major championship and that rivalry never really materialized, but the hopes for it, even as both players are now in their 30s, still lingers.
What better time to stir up those thoughts again, if even for one weekend, than at the 2012 Ryder Cup?
Few players are as passionate about the event as Garcia. Let's throw out 2008 and, of course, 2010 when Garcia wasn't even competing for Team Europe. He's been playing solid golf for the past year and he fares very well in the Ryder Cup. He has a 14-6-4 record in five appearances.
But it's not so much about records as it is pitting two of the game's most popular players against one another. Who wouldn't want to see that?
Rory McIlroy vs. Brandt Snedeker
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Rory McIlroy (Europe) and Brandt Snedeker (U.S.) are arguably each team's best putter—or at least each team's hottest putter entering these 2012 Ryder Cup matches. They are also the hottest all-around players. So, it stands to reason that they would put on a great show if they get the chance to face one another—if the Tiger vs. Rory match never materializes, that is.
Both McIlroy and Snedeker are understandably full of confidence in all aspects of their play on the golf course. McIlroy won back to back FedEx Cup playoff events—the Deutsche Bank Championship and the BMW Championship—while Snedeker claimed the ultimate playoff prize and captured the FedEx Cup by winning the Tour Championship last week.
But if this Ryder Cup comes down to who makes a putt to win—and it very well could—these are two players who are putting very well right now.
U.S. captain Davis Love agreed:
“I don't know who I heard yesterday, they said pretty much every tournament we play now comes down to who makes the most putts,” he said during his Wednesday press conference. “Brandt, who's the hottest putter in the world the last four months, three months, whenever he came back at the Open Championship. It's Rory and Brandt.”
Bubba Watson vs. Nicolas Colsaerts
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At 7,657 yards, Medinah Country Club is built for big hitters. And there are plenty of them in the field for both squads. But let's consider Bubba Watson and Nicolas Colsaerts.
Colsaerts leads the European PGA Tour with an average driving distance of almost 318 yards, only slightly better than the 316 yards Bubba Watson averages to top the PGA Tour.
It would be great to see Colsaerts and Watson showcase an incredible display of power as a kind of game-within-a-game during an important Sunday singles match, especially if their head-to-head battle is tight and the tees are up on the redesigned 15th, thus tempting these powerful drivers to go for the par 4 green with their tee shots heading into the final few holes.
No. 15 at Medinah could play around 308 yards.
In his Wednesday presser, Colsaerts played down his ability to hit the long ball:
"You know, most of the par 5s, everybody is going to go up in two," he said. "Concerning me, it feels like it's pretty open off the tee, even though there's a few bunkers you could avoid. But it's certainly an advantage to come to the green with as short an iron as possible. I don't think I should be the only one looked at using my length as an advantage. We have got a couple other dudes that can hit it a long way. So I don't think I should be seen as the only guy in our team that can send it far."
Fair enough, but he does send it the farthest off the tee, at least on average, during competition. And it conjures up a very interesting long drive contest with Watson.
Jason Dufner vs. Francesco Molinari
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OK, I'll admit it. This would not be the most exciting of the Ryder Cup matches. But if it's tee to green consistency you desire and from two of the game's best ball strikers, this is one match you won't want to miss.
Jason Dufner, who is competing in his first Ryder Cup, and Francesco Molinari, playing in his second, aren't the most boisterous of professional golfers. In fact, some might even call them boring. But they get the job done. These players go about the business of hitting fairways and hitting greens—and business is good.
Dufner is fourth in total driving, greens in regulation and scoring average on the PGA Tour. He has two wins, eight top 10s and he only missed the cut in one of his 22 events played.
On the European Tour, Molinari is second in GIR and sixth in stroke average. He's commonly known as one of Europe's most consistent players.
I'd love to see what could turn into a real slugfest between two of the game's steadiest players. What it lacks in thrill factor it more than makes up for with great shotmaking from two outstanding players.