With all the euphoria over the return of Tigermania, it’s easy to forget that the US Ryder Cup team hasn’t won on foreign soil since 1993. Even in that year, the US looked like it was in danger of losing until the Americans took three of four points in the Saturday Afternoon Four-Ball. Heading into Sunday, the Americans were down by a point going into their strength… Sunday Singles. The 7.5-4.5 results that day enabled the Americans to win the competition 15-13 and bring the Ryder Cup back stateside.
Since then though, the travel overseas has been a disaster. In 1997 there was the 14.5-13.5 loss. Tiger Woods was a disappointing 1-3-1 including a 4&2 loss to Constantine Rocca in Sunday Singles. In 2002 and 2006, the Americans came up short. And then in what could’ve been the most painful loss, 2010 saw the flubbed chip by Hunter Mahan in the final match allowing the Graeme McDowell and the Europeans to walk away with a 14.5.-13.5 win at Celtic Manor. Another loss in 2014 at Gleneagles and you see why the Americans are underdogs despite a 17-11 win two years ago.
Despite the fact that the Americans won three out of four majors on Tour this season, the team aspect of the Ryder Cup means you have to work well with your partner until Sunday. That is where Jim Furyk will earn his stripes. He’ll have Cup deciding decisions to make throughout the three day competition.
How much will each golfer play? Who will they play with? How do you keep an older guy like Phil Mickelson fresh? Tiger is red hot but how do you not let that break up team chemistry? Tony Finau has the power to reduce any course to rubble but will the Europeans take this advantage away via course setup?
Luckily for the Americans, the young guns should respond well even to a hostile crowd. We all know Patrick Reed will have no problem being motivated with the galleries rooting against him. He’s the US team’s version on Ian Poulter and he embraces the role.
“This week,” said Reed, flashing that wry and mischievous grin, “I’m definitely Captain America.”
Justin Thomas is mentally tough well beyond his years. Brooks Koepka has won two majors this season and is the back to back US Open champion. That is definitely a good start. Rickie Fowler has earned the right to be one of the leaders on the course by having some clutch performances in this competition.
There is some concern on the US side. Mickelson and Jordan Spieth have struggle of late. How will the sometimes emotional Bryson DeChambeau react if things start going sideways? Earlier this year, DeChambeau blew a lead in the final four holes at the European Open and didn’t show the proper level of congratulations to winner Richard McEvoy.
There’s no doubt the US feels the momentum of Tiger Woods’ victory but it can’t serve as a negative. Woods will need to fit into a team where him and Mickelson are more older statesmen than leaders. They’re ability to get out of the way and let the younger guys have their room will be key to the US having the proper level of team chemistry. That could be as important as any shot taken in competition.
On the European side, they will be well motivated after the 17-11 drubbing bestowed on them two years ago. “I’ve been excited for this for basically since the last day in Hazeltine whenever we weren’t the ones spraying champagne for a change,” he (Rory McIlroy) said. “I’ve been excited for it.
The Europeans have their own questions. How much will Thomas Bjorn play the solid but emotional Tyrrell Hatton? There’s no one funnier on Twitter than Hatton who seems to do a lot of self-evaluation on his feed. Then there’s Sergio Garcia. It’s fair to say Garcia hasn’t had the year he’s wanted but will that change in the Ryder Cup? One could easily argue that Matthew Fitzpatrick should’ve been a Captain’s Pick over Garcia.
This could be the most intriguing Ryder Cup in years. In the last few Ryder Cups, it could be argued that there was a favorite coming into the competition. This year’s event doesn’t have that feel. It’s what’s driving even more excitement to an event that’s always been tremendous. Had this been on US soil, the Americans would be looking at something similar to their 17-11 win 2016. But it’s in Europe and the Europeans will play well. There will be a lot of emotion. A lot of ebbs and flows. A lot of drama. It’s too close to call. How about a 14-14 tie? How great would that be?