As the US heads into this week’s Ryder Cup, the question on everyone’s mind is, ‘when does European domination end”?
Since the turn of the century, the Europeans have won 6 of the 7 Ryder Cups. The only American victory came in 2008 when a spunky group of Americans upset the Europeans 16.5 to 11.5 at Valhalla. Other than that the Europeans have won in every fashion possible. The boat raced the Americans 18.5 to 9.5 in back to back meetings (2004 and 2006). They’ve won close matches 14.5 to 13.5 (2010) and staged historic comebacks (2012).
After creating a Ryder Cup task force, which garnered snickers from the Europeans, the US feels like they have a right mix of players. Davis Love III went so far as to say that this team is “the best team ever assembled”. When Rory McIlroy was informed of this he quipped “the best task force ever assembled”. Even Sergio Garcia had some words for the American Captain’s bravado. “You know what they say, opinions are like … we all have one. At the end of the day, you don’t win Ryder Cups with your mouth. You win them out there on the golf course.”
It’s fair for the Europeans to have the attitudes that they have. Not only have they dominated the Ryder Cup but most of the best European players play and live in the United States. There is not intimidation factor anymore. We are lightyears away from when it was a foregone conclusion that the Americans were going to win. Frankly, we don’t even know if the Americans will be close.
American staples like Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk will be Vice Captains not Captain’s picks. Even Bubba Watson, who missed out on qualifying via the point system, was passed by in favor in Ryan Moore. Moore will also be a Vice Captain. It might be good for Watson (and Tiger Woods) to watch and gain the love from the sideline similar to Sergio Garcia in 2010.
For the Americans, there’s no doubt that the leader of this team will be Phil Mickelson. Matt Kuchar will be the cool, calm influence. Patrick Reed will provide emotional fire when needed. Jordan Spieth will play the role of the unshakable closer.
Love III will have a lot of flexibility with his pairings and that’s where the Americans will have to win against one of the strongest European teams. Love III can’t worry about who plays, who sits. The number one goal will be to play the hottest guys in every session because as we have seen, no lead is large enough for the Americans.
The American roster looks like a transitional roster. You have new players Brooks Koepka and Ryan Moore, players who will have a much bigger role like Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson and then players with relatively little experience yet need to garner points like JB Holmes, Brandt Snedeker and Patrick Reed.
Rickie Fowler (Captain’s Pick): 0-4-4 Overall (Fourballs: 0-0-3, Foursomes: 0-2-1, Singles: 0-2-0)
JB Holmes (Captain’s Pick): 2-0-1 Overall (Fourballs: 1-0-1, Singles: 1-0-0)
Dustin Johnson: 4-3-0 Overall (Fourballs: 2-2-0, Foursomes: 0-1-0, Singles: 2-0-0)
Zach Johnson: 6-6-2 Overall (Fourballs: 1-1-0, Foursomes: 3-4-1, Singles: 2-1-1)
Brooks Koepka: 0-0-0 Overall
Matt Kuchar: 4-5-2 Overall (Fourballs: 2-1-2, Foursomes: 1-2-0, Singles: 1-2)
Phil Mickelson: 16-19-7 Overall (Fourballs: 7-8-2, Foursomes: 4-6-4, Singles: 5-5-1)
Ryan Moore: 0-0-0 Overall
Patrick Reed: 3-1-0 Overall (Fourballs: 2-0-0, Foursomes: 0-1-0, Singles: 1-0-0)
Brandt Snedeker: 1-2-0 Overall (Fourballs: 0-0-0, Foursomes: 1-1-0, Singles: 0-1-0)
Jordan Spieth: 2-1-1 Overall (Fourballs: 2-0-0, Foursomes: 0-0-1, Singles: 0-1-0)
Jimmy Walker: 1-1-3 Overall (Fourballs: 0-0-2, Foursomes: 0-1-1, Singles: 1-0-0)
Captain Darren Clarke is in a much different position than the Americans. He will gladly allow the largely unsuccessful American talk all the talk before the competition and then go to his guys and tell them that they are being disrespected despite having dominated the competition in recent history.
There are six European rookies on this year’s team. Making their first appearances are Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Thomas Pieters, Andy Sullivan, Danny Willet, and Chris Wood. That might be where the Americans are getting their confidence from. There is hope from the American side that the rookie Europeans on foreign soil will shrink from the pressure.
Even Johnny Miller has jumped into the act calling this team “on paper, the worst team they’ve had in many years”. It’s obvious that Clarke feels as if his squad will be just fine on foreign soil. He responded to being asked about the comments about his roster with “…we have the Masters champion, we have The Open champion, we have the Olympic champion and we have the FedEx champion”.
He also has players who have come up huge in Ryder Cup competition like Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer. Lee Westwood is the European version of Phil Mickelson. A well-oiled Ryder Cup veteran except Westwood has a winning record and Mickelson doesn’t.
There’s no doubt that the Americans are happy that Ian Poulter, who is notorious for being a pain in the side of the Americans, is a Vice Captain and not on the roster. Along with Poulter, the other European Vice Captains are Thomas Bjorn, Padraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie, and Sam Torrance.
Rafa Cabrera Bello: 0-0-0 Overall
Matthew Fitzpatrick: 0-0-0 Overall
Sergio Garcia: 18-9-5 Overall (Fourballs: 6-3-3, Foursomes: 9-2-2, Singles: 3-4-0)
Martin Kaymer: 4-3-3 Overall (Fourballs: 2-2-1, Foursomes: 0-0-2, Singles: 2-1-0)
Rory McIlroy: 6-4-4 Overall (Fourballs: 1-2-2, Foursomes: 3-2-1, Singles: 2-0-1)
Thomas Pieters: 0-0-0 Overall
Justin Rose: 9-3-2 Overall (Fourballs: 3-2-0, Foursomes: 4-1-1, Singles: 2-0-1)
Henrik Stenson: 5-4-2 Overall (Fourballs: 2-1-1, Foursomes: 2-1-1, Singles: 1-2-0)
Andy Sullivan: 0-0-0 Overall
Lee Westwood: 20-15-6 Overall (Fourballs: 8-5-2, Foursomes: 9-4-4, Singles: 3-6-0)
Danny Willet: 0-0-0 Overall
Chris Wood: 0-0-0 Overall
The Ryder Cup European inexperience should keep this close going into Sunday singles that would make you think that the Americans have a distinct advantage but since we’ve seen the Americans blow a big lead on Sunday, it will be anyone’s ballgame. The Captains will play a bigger part in this competition than we’ve seen in the last few. This could come down truly to who makes the better moves, Loves III or Clarke.
Marcus “Mook” Washington is the host of Making The Cut. Follow Mook on Twitter: @mtcwithmook and IG: MTCWithMook