Thursday, September 30, 2010
Ryder Cup Preview...
Golf's most exciting event takes place this weekend as the Ryder Cup begins Friday at 1:30 am CDT. The Americans are looking to retain the Cup in an event that seems to favor the Europeans in recent matches. The Americans always seem to have the stronger team on paper, but the Europeans have dominated recent Ryder Cups having won 5 out of the last 7. The only two American victories came at the last Ryder Cup where Paul Azinger's team defeated the Europeans 16 1/2 to 11 1/2 and in 1999 when Ben Crenshaw's team staged a miracle finish in Sunday singles (won 8 1/2 of the 12 points) to win 14 1/2 to 13 1/2.
This year's event its taking place in Wales at the Celtic Manor Resort on the 2010 Course, a course designed specifically for this event. On paper, the Americans have the stronger team once again with 4 of the top 6 ranked players in the world. However, odds makers have the Europeans as the favorites once again.
The Friday morning four ball pairings were announced this afternoon and provide some interesting matches to say the least. Four ball consists of each player playing their own ball and the lowest score by any player wins the hole.
Match 1 - Phil Mickelson/Dustin Johnson (USA) vs. Lee Westwood/Martin Kaymer(EUR) - This match consists of 3 of the top 5 players in the world. Mickelson and Johnson have been rumored to be a team for quite a while and asked for the opening slot Friday. Their aggressive styles of play are perfect for this type of format as they both should make lots of birdies. This will be Lee Westwood's, who has a stellar Ryder Cup record, first tournament since mid-August as he recovered from a calf injury. Martin Kaymer is the reigning PGA Championship winner thanks in large part to the Dustin Johnson is it or isn't it a bunker troubles at Whistling Straits. This match should go down to the wire.
Match 2 - Stewart Cink/Matt Kuchar (USA) vs. Rory McIlroy/Graeme McDowell (EUR) - The Northern Ireland combo of McIlroy/McDowell is a solid team. McIlroy is considered by many the games next big star and McDowell is the reigning US Open Champion. Stewart Cink is a Ryder Cup veteran and paired with Matt Kuchar who is a Ryder Cub rookie, but is having a solid season. I think the Europeans have to be considered the favorites in this match, but if the USA could steal a point here it would be a great victory.
Match 3 - Tiger Woods/Steve Stricker (USA) vs. Ian Poulter/Ross Fisher (EUR) - Tiger Woods may have found the perfect partner to help improve his less than stellar Ryder Cup record in Steve Stricker as the two combined to go 4-0 in the team portion of last year's Presidents Cup (the USA vs. the rest of the world version of the Ryder Cup). It helps that both are in the top 4 in the world rankings. Ian Poulter is a fiery competitor but with Ryder Cup rookie Ross Fisher, the Europeans are the obvious underdogs in the match. However, defeating the seemingly unbeatable Woods/Stricker team could be a huge momentum builder for the Europeans.
Match 4 - Bubba Watson/Jeff Overton (USA) vs. Luke Donald/Padraig Harrington (EUR)- Captain Corey Pavin is sending out 2 Ryder Cup rookies in the final match of the morning session. Much like the Mickelson/Johnson team, Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton both play aggressive styles of play which might work well in this format. Jeff Overton has never won on the PGA Tour and Bubba Watson is playing with a lot of emotion as his father is dealing with terminal cancer. Hopefully the nerves and emotion won't get the best of this team. The European pairing is made up of 2 of Captain Colin Montgomerie's controversial captain's picks. A win by Luke Donald/Padraig Harrington should quiet some of the critics who wondered why world number 8 Paul Casey and Justin Rose, winner of 2 PGA tour events this year, were left off the team.
Both captains have indicated that they expect to use all 12 players on Friday so expect to see Fed-Ex Cup winner Jim Furyk, Ryder Cup veterans Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson, and controversial captain's pick Rickie Fowler for the Americans and veteran Migel Angel Jimenez, rookie Peter Hanson, and the Molinari brothers (Francesco and Eduardo) for the Europeans in the afternoon foursomes matches. In foursomes, each player will alternate teeing off on odd/even holes and then they will play alternate shot the rest of the hole.
Unfortunately, I'll be traveling this weekend for my godson's baptism so I won't be able to provide any additional insight/update on the matches. If the Europeans get off to a hot start Friday it might be a long weekend for the Americans. However, I like the Americans to win in a close match that should come down to the 12 Sunday singles matches. I wouldn't be shocked to see Tiger Woods be the MVP of the American team as this stage would provide the perfect opportunity for Tiger to have his coming out party after all the controversy and struggles over the past year.