A few of America's best golfers are set to lead the United States to a victory over the European squad in the 2012 Ryder Cup.
After racking up 12 wins, no losses and one tie from 1959 to 1983, the United States has gone remarkably cold in the Ryder Cup. They've gone just 4-8-1 since 1983 and have lost four of the last five cups to Europe, the lone exception being a 2008 United States win at Valhalla Golf Club.
But this year's Ryder Cup, held at the Medinah Country Club in Illinois, should be different. The American side is hungry to once again be crowned the victors, and most experts (like those at Golf Week) think that they'll do just that.
It won't be easy for the Americans. The European side, led by No.1 golfer in the world, Rory McIlroy, is tough, and the cup will come down to the wire.
Ultimately though, these three golfers will lead the United States to victory.
(For any of those unfamiliar with the Ryder Cup format, Yahoo! Sports' Spencer Tracy does a great job of breaking it down.)
Rory McIlroy may be the No. 1 golfer in the world, but Woods isn't too far behind. Though he didn't win a major tournament this year, Woods enjoyed a bounce-back season and is looking more like the Tiger of old. He's going to need to bring that form with him to Medinah.
Despite all of his individual golf success, he has been pretty lousy in the Ryder Cup.
Woods has gone 13-14-2 in his six cup appearances and has been on the winning team just once. He's acknowledged those struggles, and has even taken the blame for all of the recent American losses.
According to Yahoo! Sports' Jonathan Wall, Woods said:
“Well, certainly I am responsible for (the lack of success against Europe) because I didn't earn the points that I was put out there for. I believe I was out there, what, in five sessions each time and I didn't go 5-0 on our side.”
It's a bit unrealistic to want to go 5-0 every time, but Woods has a chance to raise his game substantially this week.
Not only is Woods playing with a partner that he's comfortable with (Steve Stricker), but he's also playing on a very familiar course. Woods won the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah, and the course suits him perfectly.
Few courses reward the longball quite like Medinah does. While Woods may no longer be the dominant player he was in the early 2000's, he is still able to bomb golf balls like few others can.
Tiger is still a superb singles player (he has a 4-1-1 Ryder Cup record), and should be able to carry the American team.
After years of searching, Steve Stricker has emerged as the perfect partner for Tiger Woods.
As mentioned earlier, Tiger has struggled in the cup's group events, something that the American team can't afford if they want to win this year. That's where Stricker comes in.
In the 2009 Presidents Cup, Stricker established himself as an ideal partner for Woods. Despite the fact that the event (which is very similar to the Ryder Cup) marked the first time the two had ever played together, the pair went 4-0.
Even in an American loss at the 2010 Ryder Cup, Woods and Stricker played beautifully together, going 2-1 overall at the event.
Stricker told GOLF.com's Mike Walker:
“Our games are totally different. He bombs it, I'm more of a control player. But I think our ability to scramble, to get it up-and-down, to make some putts here and there, I think is our one connection."
The U.S. will be relying on that connection this weekend. If Stricker can play well with Woods through the Ryder Cup (and history says that he can), the Americans should walk away with a victory.
Brandt Snedeker is probably the hottest golfer in the world right now.
Snedeker is coming off of a huge FedEx Cup win (where he thoroughly outplayed McIlroy) and is playing like one of the best golfers in the game right now.
Even more importantly, he's not at all lacking in confidence heading into the Ryder Cup.
This is Snedeker's first cup, and a lot of golfers would be nervous in the days leading up to the event. But Snedeker isn't one of them.
He recently told Hank Gola of the New York Daily News:
“Confidence right now obviously is at an all-time high. I’m playing the best golf of my career, backed it up with taking a lead into Sunday last week and winning with the lead for the first time. I beat some of the best players in the world last weekend. So I feel like my game is exactly where it needs to be. And Friday morning can’t get here quick enough.”
If Snedeker plays with that kind of confidence come Friday, Europe will be hard-pressed to beat the United States team.