Ryder Cup 2018: Complete Guide to This Year's Tournament

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2018

Ryder Cup 2018: Complete Guide to This Year's Tournament

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    In 2016, the U.S. snapped a streak of European Ryder Cup victories that included 2010 in Wales, 2012 in Illinois and 2014 in Scotland.

    This weekend, the Americans will be looking to go back-to-back.

    "This is certainly the best American Ryder Cup team to come over to Europe since 1997 and probably since 1981. That is why I truly fear our first defeat on home soil in 25 years," Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, a World Golf Hall of Famer and five-time major tournament runner-up, wrote in the Telegraph.

    "... I hope I am completely wrong in all this, I really do. Yet even the law of averages points me towards the visitors. In my book, they have to be undoubted favorites."

    If Montgomerie and Co. were hoping captain Jim Furyk and his 12 U.S. charges would cross the pond and get to business under the mainstream radar, the world's most famous player—Tiger Woods—ended those hopes by completing his return from oblivion with a two-stroke win at the Tour Championship.

    Woods, who hadn't won on the PGA Tour since 2013, comes to Le Golf National as one of nine Americans with at least one major championship on his resume, while European captain Thomas Bjorn boats five major winners of his own, including 2018 British Open champion Francesco Molinari.

    Can the U.S. secure its first Ryder Cup victory on European soil since 1993? Below, you'll find everything you need to know about this weekend's festivities.

Where to Watch

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    ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

    TV Schedule (All times ET)

    Thursday, Sept. 27: 11 a.m. to noon on Golf Channel

    Friday, Sept. 28: 2 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Golf Channel

    Saturday, Sept. 29: 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Golf Channel / 3 a.m. to 1 p.m. on NBC

    Sunday, Sept. 30: 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. on NBC

                 

    Live streams on RyderCup.com (All times ET)

    Thursday, Sept. 27: Opening ceremonies from 11 a.m. to noon / Captain's conferences from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m.

    Friday, Sept. 28: Ryder Cup Live featured matches from 2:00 a.m. to 12:40 p.m.

    Saturday, Sept. 29: Ryder Cup Live featured matches from 2:00 a.m. to 12:40 p.m.

    Sunday, Sept. 30: Ryder Cup Live singles matches coverage from 5:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. / Trophy presentation from 12:45 to 1 p.m.

Tournament Format

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    The Ryder Cup is played in even-numbered years between 12-member teams from the United States and Europe. It consists of five match-play sessions over three days.

    Each of the first two days includes one four-match session of four-ball and one four-match session of foursomes. The final day is reserved for 12 singles matches.

    Each match is worth one point, with ties worth one-half point to each side. The first team to reach 14 1/2 points wins the Ryder Cup.

    If the matches end in a 14-14 draw, the team holding the Ryder Cup retains it.

    No Ryder Cup has ended in a tie since 1989.

Biggest Storylines

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    Tiger, Tiger burning bright

    For anyone who spent Sunday in a fantasy football-induced haze, 14-time major champion Tiger Woods hoisted a winner's trophy for the first time in more than five years at the East Lake Golf Course in Atlanta.

    "I can't believe I just won the Tour Championship," he said, accepting the winner's Calamity Jane putter from PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan.

    And to suggest it's a boost for Ryder Cup interest is a major understatement.

    "This is big for the game of golf. Not just Tiger, but the whole game of golf," analyst Johnny Miller said on NBC's broadcast. "It gets a lot of people revved up. Revved up for the Ryder Cup (this) week, too."

                      

    Europe at a crossroads

    If the European team is to regain the magic that yielded Ryder Cup wins in 2010, 2012 and 2014, it's going to need some help from players without a proven world-stage track record.

    No fewer than five players are making their Ryder Cup debuts for Europe—Alex Noren, Tyrrell Hatton, Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood and Thorbjorn Olesen—meaning the clock is ticking for 40-something teammates Henrik Stenson (42) and Paul Casey (41), not to mention 38-year-olds Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia.

    Several players who were first-timers on the 2016 team in Minnesota failed to make the roster this time around, which puts additional pressure on the new faces to take a stand and create some future stability.

                            

    Mickelson's last road trip

    Phil Mickelson is a five-time major winner and among the greatest players of all time.

    But he's also 48 years old, ranked outside the world's top 20 and has won just one tournament in his last five years on the PGA Tour.

    So it's no gimme that he'll be part of the next U.S. team that travels overseas in 2022, even though his appearance in 2018 will be his 12th in a row—a Ryder Cup record for all teams.

    He'll provide a benefit this time around, according to U.S. captain Jim Furyk, but it won't be forever.

    "He's someone that knows the inner workings of our team room and provides a spark," Furyk said, per the Associated Press (h/t the New York Times). "I think he's a lot of fun in the team room and has a knowledge of the other players that will significantly help a lot of folks on our team."

The US Team

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    Alex Pantling/Getty Images

    Talk about your imposing lineups.

    The Americans have six of the top 10 players in the world, nine players who've won at least one major and five who've bagged at least a pair.

    And if this Tiger Woods fella is even a shell of his formerly dominant self, well...do the math.

    Of the nine players who've competed in the Ryder Cup for the U.S. in the past, six of them—Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Woods—have combined to post 16 singles wins on Sunday against just seven losses and four draws.

    They should be more than enough to compensate for the winless singles records of Webb Simpson (0-1-1), Jordan Spieth (0-2-0) and Bubba Watson (0-3-0), as well as rookies Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau and Justin Thomas—a super-talented sextet, incidentally, with seven major victories and a lot to prove in Paris. 

    Simply put, if these golfers play up to their abilities during foursomes and four-ball play, the U.S. simply has too much firepower for Europe to handle.

The European Team

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    LIONEL BONAVENTURE/Getty Images

    The European Ryder Cup team for 2018 is a tantalizing but uncertain mix of proven commodities, enigmatic veterans and promising newcomers.

    Captain Thomas Bjorn needn't look further for a stud around whom to rally the troops than 29-year-old Rory McIlroy, who has won four majors and nine Ryder Cup wins—including two in the all-important final-day singles matches.

    The Northern Irishman is joined on the marquee by Italian major winner Francesco Molinari and FedEx Cup champ Justin Rose, two obviously capable stars, but the drop-off from there could be quite significant.

    Perhaps the most intriguing wildcard is Englishman Ian Poulter, who arrives with a less-than-stellar No. 34 world ranking but is 4-0-1 in Ryder Cup singles matches. He also completed the 2017-18 season with his first victory in six years and five additional top-10 placements across 23 tournaments.

    Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia are experienced, but their composite 6-7-2 mark in Ryder singles competition makes them suspect at best. And the remainder of the Team Europe roster—Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Alex Noren, Thorbjorn Olesen and Jon Rahm—can't be truly counted on with anything other than crossed fingers.

Predictions

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    It's possible the rookies prove their worth.

    It's conceivable the home crowd provides a boost.

    It's within reason that the favorites play below expectations.

    But in order for Europe to win back the Ryder Cup this weekend in France, pretty much all of those things are going to need to happen...and even then it'll still be close.

    A more likely scenario is that the Americans—stocked to the rafters with precocious young guns and proven big-stage veterans—roll out to an early lead over the first two days of team play, then do no worse than a split of Sunday's singles matches while doing their level best to keep the home fans off full volume.

    Europe could keep it respectable, but there are too many questions at the bottom of the roster to foresee a full-on upset. The depth of its squad will give the U.S. a Ryder Cup on unfamiliar territory for the first time since 1993.

    Call it 16.5-11.5 for the red, white and blue.

    See you at Wisconsin's Whistling Straits in 2020.