With the Ryder Cup just around the corner, one has to wonder just how the U.S. team is going to go about defending the cup.
Not exactly an impossible task, but looking at the two teams, one could say daunting, at the very least.
This has been the year of the Europeans in golf. They have had a strong year on their own tour and a huge impact, perhaps bigger than ever before, on the PGA tour as well.
Europeans won two of the four majors (Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer), compared to only one major win for the Americans (Phil Mickelson). They have also managed to win eight PGA events this year alone.
Colin Montgomerie, the legendary Ryder Cup player and captain of the 2010 Euro squad, has a talented group for the matches in Wales. This is not so much due to Colin himself, who inexplicably left Paul Casey off the squad in favor of the likes of Edoardo Molinari and Padraig Harrington.
But even with the mysterious Casey omission, Monty can't screw this up. The team is loaded. From Lee Westwood to Luke Donald to Ian Poulter, there are very few weak links in this group. The weakest might be Harrington, who has been in poor form for almost two years now. The other problem could be the inexperience of several players, including the Molinari brothers—Edoardo and Francesco—Martin Kaymer, and the 21-year-old Rory McIlroy.
However, the U.S. team is just as inexperienced, perhaps even more so. Ryder Cup rookies on the American squad include Jeff Overton, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, and captain's pick Rickie Fowler.
Perhaps the true test of comparing the two teams comes not with comparing the rookies, but looking at how the veterans on each team stack up. That is where the U.S. team is going to have some problems.
Only Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are truly tested in this event, and neither has a winning Ryder Cup record. Other vets like Stewart Cink (4-7-4 Ryder Cup record) and Jim Furyk (8-13-3) have not fared well in past competitions. Zach Johnson (1-2-1) and Steve Stricker (0-2-1) bring little experience and even less success to the event.
In addition, many on the U.S. squad are not exactly tearing it up heading down the stretch. Mickelson has been mediocre most of the summer, although he played well over the weekend. Woods seems to be finding his game, but it is still not what we have grown accustomed to with Tiger over the years.
Furyk and Cink have done nothing in months. Zach Johnson, who we'll call a veteran although he barely qualifies, has played well of late, and it was that strong play that got him onto the team. But he is hardly someone the Americans are going to rely on heavily in Wales.
On the Euro side, the veterans have been tearing it up all year. Westwood, if he is healthy, is having the best year of his career, and may be the world's best player right now. Poulter and Donald are strong, and Martin Kaymer, the PGA Champion, just won over the weekend. Miguel Angel Jimenez is a calming force and steady leader, and tough as nails in match play.
One could argue the younger players on the American squad out balance this with an advantage over the Euro youngsters. I don't buy this. Rory McIlroy is as good as any young player Pavin can match up against him. None of the young Americans have proved they can handle high drama pressure.
Although Dustin Johnson just won over the weekend, twice this year in majors he has choked his way out of a victory. That does not exactly instill confidence in American Ryder Cup fans.
Another American Ryder Cup rookie, Rickie Fowler, has not won on the PGA tour.
And finally there is a little thing called home field advantage. Do not underestimate the factor the European fans will have in Wales by not only supporting their boys, but making it downright miserable for the Yanks.
The oddsmakers have the Euros favored. Most golf experts have the Euros favored.
If nothing else, consider this one fact: Only one player on the U.S. squad has a winning record at the Ryder Cup. That player is Hunter Mahan, who is 2-0-3 in his one and only Ryder Cup two years ago.
You would think this all would be plenty of motivation for Corey Pavin and the boys, no?