Ryder Cup: How Can the Americans Lose?

How can these guys lose? They've found a way in the past, but it is hard to consider this year's U.S. Ryder Cup team as the underdog.

I spent much of last week writing about Wales, Terry Matthews and the Ryder Cup. You’ll find it all at Sympatico whenever my fine editor gets back from some company-mandated sojurn and gets time to add it to the Web.

Anyway, as part of those columns I wrote a short blurb on each player on the two teams. It was insightful and made me wonder, on paper at least, how the European team can be considered a favorite, though that seems to be the case if you follow the media coverage on the event.

Look at it this way:

  • The No. 1 and 2 players in the world are on the U.S. team, though as ESPN points out, Lee Westwood will supplant Phil Mickelson at No. 2 on Monday. Hard to figure how Westwood moves up despite not having played in a month, but that’s the strange world of golf rankings. Eight of the Top 20 are from the U.S. Europe has seven in the Top 20 — and one (Paul Casey) wasn’t picked for the team. I still see the U.S. as stronger — hell, I’d take an injured Anthony Kim over a healthy Ian Poulter any day.
  • The U.S. has a great advantage in distance. Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jeff Overton, and Dustin Johnson are all players who can bomb the ball. In contrast, the European team is much shorter — only Westwood and McIlroy are really long. And there are a bunch of players I’d say are actually short on the European Team — like Luke Donald and Poulter. I know there’s been talk of the course being set up to limit the distance factor, but I didn’t see then I played there in April. And it isn’t like they could narrow fairways unless they were adding blue grass later on.
  • Westwood, Europe’s best player, has been hurt and hasn’t played for a month.
  • A bunch of the UK guys haven’t exactly been ripping it up lately (see Poulter, McIlroy, Fisher). Of course the same could be said for the U.S. (Mickelson, Woods,  Fowler for example).
  • Several U.S. players are at the top of their games — Johnson, Furyk, Kuchar — while Europe’s best players coming into the event are likely Donald, Kaymer, and McDowell.
  • I think the PGA Tour is superior in terms of competitiveness than the European Tour. Only a handful of Europe’s best tee it up against the best in the world on a regular basis (McIlroy, Donald, Harrington). That bodes well for the Americans.
  • There’s been a lot made of the U.S. players and their religious beliefs. That might seem like a strange factor — but it may bring a degree of cohesiveness to the team that’s been missing in the past. This includes players like Stricker, Watson, Cink and Zach Johnson.

On the other hand:

  • The European team has two of the last three major winners in Kaymer and McDowell. The U.S. only has Mickelson, and he basically hasn’t shown up since the U.S. Open.
  • They have home field advantage, though the course is an American-style parkland layout. This isn’t a links in anyone’s imagination — more like the courses on the PGA Tour each week.
  • Westwood, if healthy, might be the best player on either team.
  • Donald comes in playing exceptionally well.
  • There always seems to be more of a team atmosphere around the European squad.

My take is this will be close heading into the singles matches, and the U.S. should pull it off on Sunday.  

The Globe and Mail interviews Celtic Manor founder Terry Matthews, who brought the Ryder Cup to Wales. I think Terry is a very interesting man — but this event would be been fascinating had it been at a great course like Porthcawl.

Here’s my series on Wales golf:

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Jeff Lancaster

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