Ryder Cup Preview
With the PGA Tour Season coming to a close this past weekend at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, golf fans all over the world now shift their attention to arguably the most exciting and anticipated event in the game of golf: The Ryder Cup. The United States against Europe. This year, the United States hosts the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine Golf Club in Chaska, Minnestoa.
Taking place once every two years, the Ryder Cup is formatted between 12 players from the United States and 12 players from all across Europe. It’s a three day event, with different match play competitions pitting the world’s best golfers against each other. The US and European teams battle each other in foursome and fourball matches. In a foursome match, two golfers from each side take alternate shots playing the same golf ball. In the same setup for a fourball match, two golfers from each side play their own ball throughout the round instead of alternating. The winner of each match scores a point for his team, with a half point each for any match that is tied after 18 holes. The winning team is determined by cumulative total points. The final day of the Ryder Cup is formatted to include all 12 members of each team in singles matches, which follows the standard match play rules between two golfers.
Now let’s preview the United States, a team in which captain Davis Love III recently stated is “the best golf team maybe ever.” The team is comprised of eight automatic qualifiers, and four “Captain’s picks” selected by Davis Love III and Vice-Captains Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, and Tom Lehman.
Dustin Johnson – Age 32
Fresh off a victory a couple weeks ago at the BMW Championship, DJ has had an incredible 2016 season. Picking up his first career major victory at the US Open in June, Johnson leads the United States to Hazeltine playing the best golf of his career. The longest hitter off the tee on the PGA Tour, Dustin Johnson has 3 wins in 2016, including 14 top-10 finishes. The #2 ranked player in the world will play in his 3rd career Ryder Cup, boasting a 2-0 record in singles matches. Is there a European player in this Ryder Cup that can take DJ down?
Jordan Spieth – Age 23
After arguably the greatest season in PGA Tour history in 2015, Spieth had a roller coaster ride of a year in 2016. Picking up two wins and becoming the youngest player ever to win eight times in PGA Tour history, Jordan will be making his second appearance at the Ryder Cup. As a rookie at the Ryder Cup in 2014, Spieth was one of the lone bright spots for the US team as he compiled a 2-0-1 record. He heads to Hazeltine as the best putter in the world statistically, and will be a major threat for Team Europe.
Patrick Reed – Age 26
Reed seems to have been born for match play. In his rookie Ryder Cup appearance at Gleneagles in 2014, Reed was the U.S.’s best player, putting together an impressive 3-0-1 record while also becoming a villain of sorts when he shushed the European crowds after holing a big putt. Picking up a win at the Barclays Invitational in 2016, Patrick also had two runner-up finishes including a #3 finish in the FedEx Cup standings. He will be making his second appearance in the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine.
Zach Johnson – Age 40
One of the veterans on the team, Zach Johnson is making his fifth Ryder Cup appearance and has yet to be a member of a winning US team. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better “grinder” in golf than ZJ, which is a tremendous asset in the match-play format. The two-time major championship victor, Zach has four top-10 finishes in 2016 and has totaled a 6-6-2 record at the Ryder Cup.
Phil Mickelson – Age 46
What more can you say about ole’ Philly? No US player has participated in more Ryder Cups than Lefty. This year’s team marks his 11th straight showing in the event (16-19-6 over that time). The five-time major winner will deserve a lot of credit if the US gets a victory this year, as Phil has worked hard to prepare the younger players for the magnitude of the matches. Even at age 46, Lefty is still very much a competitor as his thrilling dual with Henrik Stenson at the 2016 Open Championship proved.
Jimmy Walker – Age 37
Walker won the final major the 2016 season, the PGA Championship at Baltusrol. It was his first major win. Jimmy enters the Ryder Cup making his second appearance as he compiled a 1-1-3 record in the 2014 Ryder Cup. Walker had five top-10 finishes in the 2016 season as he heads to Hazeltine looking to build on a great season.
Brandt Snedeker – Age 35
Sned’s lone Ryder Cup appearance ended in heartbreak. He was a member of the 2012 team at Medinah that came up on the wrong end of a miraculous day for the Europeans who took home the Cup that year. 2016 began strong for Snedeker, as he finished in the top-3 in three consecutive starts, highlighted by a Farmers Insurance Open win. When the putter is on, there may be no better wielder of the short stick than Brandt Snedeker.
Brooks Koepka – Age 26
Making his Ryder Cup debut in 2016, Brooks Koepka had the best season of his PGA Tour career, finishing in the Top 10 eight times and two runner-up performances. Averaging 302 yards off the tee, the long-hitting Koepka arrives at Hazeltine this week ready to show everyone that he has what it takes to compete at golf’s highest stage.
Rickie Fowler – Age 27
One of the fan favorites in golf, Fowler enters his third Ryder Cup appearance after a very rocky 2016 season. He had eight top-10 finishes in 23 starts this season, but failed to snag a victory in 2016. Fowler, along with Jordan Spieth, may just be this generation’s Tiger-Phil when it comes to regular U.S. Ryder Cup locks and leaders. He stated last week he’s been preparing for this year’s Ryder Cup “harder than I ever have before.”
J.B. Holmes – Age 34
It’s been eight years since JB’s been to the Ryder Cup, but he played extremely well at Valhalla in 2008, putting together a 2-0-1 record as the last U.S. team that won the Ryder Cup. After a top-5 finish at the Masters in April, Holmes finished third at the Open Championship. Holmes, another long-hitter, will head to Hazeltine after a strong finish to the 2016 season and ranking second on tour in driving distance.
Matt Kuchar – Age 38
One of the most consistently solid players on the PGA Tour – 76 top 10s from 2007-2016 – Kuchar will make his fourth start at the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. He holds a 4-5-2 record in the event, with a strong 2-1-2 record in Fourballs. Kuch took home the Bronze medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics, and the seven-time PGA Tour winner has high hopes of this U.S. team against the Europeans.
Ryan Moore – Age 33
The final pick from Captain Davis Love III came Sunday night during halftime of Sunday Night Football, as Ryan Moore was selected to the final spot on the U.S. team. Moore had one of the most legendary duels with Rory McIlroy in the Tour Championship last weekend. Other than Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed, no American player has been hotter than Moore over the last two months. In his last six starts, he had three top-10 finishes and a victory at the John Deere Classic. He will be making his Ryder Cup debut this week.
The European team has firepower this year, as five of the Top-12 players in the world will be teeing it up for Captain Darren Clarke. The team also boasts two of 2016’s major winners in Danny Willett and Henrik Stenson. Team Europe has won six of the last seven Ryder Cups. However, the Europeans have six of their 12 members making their Ryder Cup debuts this week. Check out their roster:
Rory McIlroy – 4th Ryder Cup appearance
Sergio Garcia – 8th Ryder Cup appearance
Matthew Fitzpatrick – Ryder Cup debut
Rafa Cabrera-Bello – Ryder Cup debut
Justin Rose – 4th Ryder Cup appearance
Henrik Stenson – 4th Ryder Cup appearance
Andy Sullivan – Ryder Cup debut
Danny Willett – Ryder Cup debut
Chris Wood – Ryder Cup debut
Lee Westwood – 10th Ryder Cup appearance
Thomas Pieters – Ryder Cup appearance
Martin Kaymer – 4th Ryder Cup appearance
The 41st Ryder Cup kicks off Friday morning and concludes Sunday afternoon. You can catch all the action on NBC Golf Channel.