The number one team event in golf is back this weekend as Europe and the USA go head-to-head in the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits Golf Course, in Wisconsin.
On paper, the event should be as one-sided as it has ever been with the Americans selecting one of the most talented (and youthful) teams it has had in recent decades.
In contrast, Europe does have experience. The European team have a collective 38 Ryder Cup appearances between them, which is 26 more than the Americans.
The Ryder Cup could put to test a major theory: new is always better. (Barney Stinson fans know what I’m talking about)
Ryder Cup Schedule
The Ryder Cup is played over three days and follows match-play rules. So, the lowest number of shots taken wins that hole, and the team gets a point. If the competing players hit the same number of shots, then the point is halved and they continue until someone wins, or the match is tied.
Days 1 and 2 will be played on Friday, September 24th and Saturday, September 25th. Both days follow identical schedules, with four games of four-ball, and four of foursome matches. (Not the kind of foursome you might be thinking of, so take your mind out of the gutter …)
In four-ball: Each player plays their own ball, and the lowest score is taken. So, for example, if the American team players score 4 and 5, their overall score is 4.
In foursomes: Each pair plays the same ball by taking alternate shots. One player tees off on all of the odd-numbered holes, and the other on the even-numbered ones.
Note: foursomes will take place in the morning session, and four-balls in the afternoon.
Day 3 will be played on Sunday, September 26th, and consists of all 12 players playing head-to-head matches against a single player from the opposition side.
The first team to 14.5 points wins. If they are tied on 14, then the reigning champions – Europe – will retain the trophy.
US Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker is in the most luxurious position of all having a whole host of players to pick from, that are ranked as some of the best in the world.
Luxury for Stricker
When it came down to picking their wildcards, Stricker selected Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger, Tony Finau, and Scottie Scheffler, all of whom are ranked higher in the golf rankings than the three players European captain Padraig Harrington decided to take to Wisconsin. In fact, Scottie Scheffler is the lowest ranked American (21) in the team, which is higher than seven of the Europeans.
Harrington decided to take the tournaments record point scorer Sergio Garcia, and Englishman Ian Poulter – who will be making his seventh appearance this year.
The last decision was a toss-up between Justin Rose, and Shane Lowry. Harrington opted for fellow countryman Lowry.
Can Europe actually win?
In the end, for Europe, it all comes down to team spirit. The team in blue always give the impression of a tightly knit group, which is not something you can say about the US team.
It is that team spirit that has guided the Europeans to success in recent competitions, winning seven of the last nine Ryder Cups.
No American captain seems to have managed to find the formula that will help the PGA Tour’s best to put aside their differences and try to get along for a week. The inability to work as a team has always played into the hands of the Europeans who are willing to do whatever it takes to help the team.
Take this year as an example… Brooks Koepka has spoken out about his dislike of the tournament, to which he was told, “don’t play it then…”
Maybe it’s not the tournament, but one of his “teammates” he dislikes.
It’s no surprise that Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are not the greatest of friends. It would be an absolute delight to watch them be paired up…sparks could fly, and a few heated discussions, too.
Steve Stricker, however, was quick to dismiss any talk of team issues, referring to it as a myth. Yet, the lack of togetherness (or belief of it) has given Europe an advantage over the years, and could do so again this year, except for one problem; USA are just way too stacked!
The gap between the sides are of gargantuan proportions, which is going to require more than a few spats amongst the home team players to even make a difference. Such spats will only occur, if Europe can get their noses in front.
All is not lost for Europe, if the elements conspire against the US team. Whistling Straits is a links style course which suits the Europeans more, who are more accustomed to this style of course, so if the wind picks up, it could be all that the reigning champions need to retain the Ryder Cup.
The team in red seem to always be the better on paper, yet the blue flags of Europe have been the more successful in recent years.
If Europe can get a lead, play beyond their ranking and get a little help from the weather, then they have a chance…
Unfortunately that feels like a few too many variables.
The Americans are likely to take the lead in session one, and just keep pulling away from a European side that lacks the quality of previous years.