There is an unwavering confidence emanating from the European Ryder Cup team going into Thursday at Medinah. Along with PGA Championship winner Rory McIlroy, currently the top-ranked player according to World Golf Rankings, the Europeans also boast three other players in the top-five: Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Justin Rose. And though their profiles have dimmed over the years, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter have traditionally played brilliantly when it’s time for the Ryder Cup.
But Team USA is still riding high from the recent FedEx Cup win from Brandt Snedeker. First timers on the Ryder Cup also include Jason Dufner and Webb Simpson, who was the recent U.S. Open winner. Two years ago the European team took the Ryder Cup by a slim margin in Wales. This year in Illinois Team USA should reclaim victory and here are four reasons why.
It was instinct that prompted Team USA Captain Davis Love III to choose Steve Stricker and Snedeker for his captain’s picks. Snedeker, coming off his FedEx Victory is not only over ten million dollars richer, but will be playing with a level of confidence that can only add to his strength as a putter. The Stricker and Woods pairing from 2010 was a major highlight of the tournament. Stricker, a native Midwesterner, is coming off one of his strongest years in the Majors where he made the cut at all four and finished tied for seventh at the PGA Championship.
Bubba Watson may not have the smoothest of swings, but it’s a bomber off the tee. He and Jim Furyk (who also has a funky swing) should have no problem with the long distance necessary to navigate Medinah. This is a golf course that, traditionally, is one of the longest on the PGA Tour. So long as these guys keep the long drives on the green, expect a number of birdies from Team USA.
It has been an interesting couple of years from Woods, to say the least. Though he’s been dismissed by many critics about his track record at the Majors, he’s still valuable on the Ryder Cup—particularly solo play. Yes, 2010 was a forgettable time for Woods on the Ryder Cup, but that was at the height of his personal woes, and the first time in ten years he was a Captain’s pick. He didn’t have the points two years ago but expect that to be dramatically different this year. Medinah happens to be the same course where Woods had a showdown with Sergio Garcia at the PGA Championship. Woods won by one stroke, and when the PGA Championship returned in 2006 he won again.
This is our turf
It might have been cheeky for Watson, following a controversial touchdown call on Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers to tweet out, “All @NFL fans watch the Ryder Cup this week, we got no refs #USA,” but it actually highlights the “homefield” advantage for Team USA. Bolstered by Watson and the other traditional favorite, Phil Mickelson, the crowds at Medinah should overwhelmingly be cheering for Team USA. Although, we’d be remiss to not note that Luke Donald has lived in Illinois for over a decade and is quite popular in that neck of the woods.