Aug 29th, 2018
How golf's Ryder Cup teams will square up in Paris
Europe v USA. Here's our predicted teams and outcome...
Words: Tim Southwell
The Ryder Cup. It's back on September 28th. The anticipation is building. and it promises to be one of the most exciting for years.
But the reaction I've been getting in every pub or cafe I've been to in the last three weeks has been virtually the same when I've asked them who they think will win. "Obvious," they shrug... "USA, just look at the team."
It's hard to argue. On paper, it's a ludicrously powerful lineup, featuring the world's top 3 players and six of the world's top 12 players: (1st Dustin Johnson; 2nd Brooks Koepka; 3rd Justin Thomas; 8th Jordan Spieth; 9th Rickie Fowler; 12th Patrick Reed).
Talking of Patrick Reed...
American players have also won three of this year's majors: Patrick Reed (Masters); Brooks Koepka (US Open & US PGA). Brooks Kopeka? Well, he's the hottest player on the planet and just on his own has won three of the last six major championships.
It's easy to get carried away and see your Team Europe belief begin to wane. Especially when you look at the players currently occupying places 9-12.
Tiger Woods, currently ranked 11th, is shoe-in. Even Jim Furyk is struggling to keep a straight face when asked if he will be a captain's pick. His Ryder Cup record (13-17-3) isn't the greatest when you compare it to Lanny Wadkins (20-11-3), Arnie (22-8-2) etc but only a man with severe learning deficiencies would – even for a second – consider not having in the team. His 'big-moment' form looks to be back with mesmerising performances at the Open and US PGA.
The key is going to be who you pair him with, as previous foursomes and four-balls have seen more defeats than victories. Looking at the rest of the US team, I'd be leaning towards pairing him with Koepka. Their golf-love-in following Kopeka's PGA win will have gone a long way to establishing a rapport.
Tiger's record (33 matches)
- Singles (W-L-H): 4-1-2
- Foursomes (W-L-H): 4-8-1
- Four-balls (W-L-H): 5-8-0
Phil Mickelson (18-20-7) sits at World number 22. You might not remember him doing all that much this year but Phil is Phil and he'll surely be teeing it up on the 28th.
Bryson Dehambeau will have every right to consider himself slighted if he doesn't get a pick. He's ranked 9th on the World list and just won the Northern Trust. Absolute shoe-in.
Go on, Tiger!!
Or is he? Maybe we have to consider the whole Golf Scientist thing. While we applaud individuality here at GP, there is something very uncomfortable about watching a man applying geometric precision to everything he does on the golf course. The putts keep rolling in and the results keep coming but he has all the fluidity of a frozen ironing board. Whoever partners up with him in the foursomes and four balls will need a will of iron to keep his spirits up.
Matt Kuchar looks like a pretty easy choice also. His affable nature and ability with a ping-pong bat will keep the troops happy in the locker room. Plus he has four Ryder Cups under his belt and a pretty decent record (6-7-2).
Xander Scaffele is next on the list and the man who heroically stared Justin Thomas down at last September's Tour Championship could well be on the plane.
That's quite enough of that...
Anyone with serious ambitions to make the team will be looking for big performances at this week's Dell Technologies in Boston, after which Furyk will name three of his four Captain's picks.
Last chance saloon for 12th place in the team comes after the BMW Championship which finishes September 9th. Only then will we know who Furyk's 12 will actually be.
So what of Team Europe? After the 17-11 drubbing at the hands of Team USA at Hazeltine in 2016, European fans will be hoping for at the very least a major improvement.
2016 saw Europe go into the lion's den with six rookies. Only Thomas Pieters (a rookie record-breaking four points from five matches) and Rafa Cabrera Bello (2.5 points) came out of the week with their heads held high.
Danny Willett, Chris Wood, Andy Sullivan and Matt Fitzpatrick had a miserable time, contributing just one point between them. Lee Westwood, badly out of form, brought in to add some much-needed experience faired no better, playing three matches and bringing home nil points.
Ross Fisher staunches it up at Celtic Manor
This year Europe has no such issues. A return to form of key Ryder Cup specialists and a rise up the word rakings of our best players, means we have a rich pool of automatic qualifiers backed up with some real bonuses for Captain's Picks.
Ian Poulter (World 32) and Paul Casey (15) will surely get the nod from TB, leaving two places up for grabs. Poulter won the Houston Open earlier in the season and has made an impressive rise from the world ranking depths. Casey has been Mr. Consistent and was sorely missed at Hazeltine due to tour regulation red tape meaning he wasn't eligible.
That shot by Christie O'Connor Jr
Rookie wise, Europe are realistically looking at Alex Noren, Tyrrell Hatton (Qualified on European List), Eddie Pepperell, Russell Knox and possibly Matt Wallace. Then you need to add into the mix Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, and Rafa Cabrera Bello.
Wow, that's quite a conundrum. What would you do? Stenson (RC: 5-4-2) shot a 64 on the final day at the Wyndham but has withdrawn from the Northern Trust with an elbow injury. He's currently ranked 19 in the world.
Sergio Garcia ended 2017 as world number 10 following his Masters triumph. He's now 25th and has recorded just three top 10 finishes on the PGA Tour. Crucially, he has finished outside the PGA Tour's Top 64 and will not be able to improve his position as he hasn't qualified for the lucrative FedEx Playoffs.
But it's impossible to imagine a Ryder Cup without him. His record (18-20-7) spans eight different Ryder Cups. Plus, a partnership with fellow Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello or Jon Rahm must be in Bjorn's thinking.
Any two of these five players can make a serious claim with a win or a top-five finish. Their problem is they only have two tournaments to catch Bjorn's eye: The Real Czech Masters this weekend and the Made In Denmark tournament which finishes September 2nd at which point Bjorn will announce his four Captain's picks...
Here's how we think the two teams will line up. We've randomly arranged them in singles format for possible Sunday match ups. This'll give you a good idea who you reckon is going to win it!
Justin Rose versus Tiger Woods
Francesco Molinari versus Jordan Spieth
Jon Rahm versus Justin Thomas
Rory McIlroy versus Dustin Johnson
Ian Poulter versus Brooks Koepka
Paul Casey versus Patrick Reed
Tommy Fleetwood versus Bubba Watson
Alex Noren versus Rickie Fowler
Tyrrell Hatton versus Phil Mickelson
Thorbjorn Olesen versus Webb Simpson
Sergio Garcia versus Matt Kuchar
Rafa Cabrera Bello versus Bryson DeChambeau
Put that in your Paris pipe and smoke it.
European Points List
|7||Rory McIlroy||Northern Ireland||3,482,791.06|
World Points List
|4||Rory McIlroy||Northern Ireland||309.29|
|9||Rafa Cabrera Bello||Spain||168.75|