Preview – 40th Ryder Cup – Gleneagles Golf Club – Perthshire, Scotland –
The stakes are high and anticipation runs over for the 40th playing of the Ryder Cup featuring the U.S. Team against Team Europe at Gleneagles in Scotland.
U.S. Team, led by Hall of Famer Tom Watson, is without its usual brand of seasoned players including Tiger Woods, who is not here thanks to injuries that limited his competition all season. Steve Stricker is also not playing, but he is serving as a vice-captain.
The U.S. comes in as an underdog both on and off paper this time. Younger and fresh faces make up the team including Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth (1st appearance), Jimmy Walker (35-year-old Ryder Cup rookie) and Patrick Reed (1st appearance). But, the core group of experienced titans and former major champions are here including Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson. Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan round out the U.S. team.
For Team Europe, Captain Paul McGinley has the task of rallying a team of superstars, who come in collectively as the hottest players on the planet. Rory McIlroy, World No. 1 after winning two majors and a WGC title, is the headliner. He is joined by U.S. Open and PLAYERS champion Martin Kaymer and Top 10 players Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. McGinley chose Ryder Cup veterans as captain picks including Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and local product Stephen Gallacher.
The freshest face on the squad is France’s Victory Dubuisson. His rise as a automatic qualifier was jump-started with a runner-up finish to Jason Day in the WGC Match Play earlier this year. Veteran Thomas Bjorn and Jamie Donaldson, who is third in the Race to Dubai standings behind Rory and Garcia, round out Team Europe.
Gleneagles is the “referee” in this title bout. The Jack Nicklaus-layout features what has been called an “American Style” of golf. But, the European players are more-than-familiar with Gleneagles as it’s a course played annually on the European Tour.
Mother Nature might have the final say this week. Certainly in Day One when high temperatures in the low 60s will be greeting with 25 to 35 mile per hour winds.
- Team Europe captured the cup for the second straight edition in dramatic fashion winning 14 ½ to 13 ½ in a surprising comeback in Sunday Singles. Poulter was the hero and catalyst, but Kaymer closed it out with a putt against Tiger.
Although the U.S. went 12-0-1 during a long stretch from 1959 to 1983, Team Europe has claimed seven of the last nine competitions. The U.S. squad has not defeated Europe on European soil since 1993.
At 2:35 a.m. eastern time Friday, the first tee shots are launched in Best Ball with Bubba Watson-Simpson against Rose-Stenson. The second match features Fowler-Walker verses Bjorn-Kaymer. The all-rookie due of Spieth and Reed take on Poulter-Gallacher. The U.S. team’s anchor in the morning session pits Mickelson-Bradley against Rory-Garcia in a made-for-TV, main-event match.
Captain Tom Watson decided to sit Kuchar and Furyk, the No. 4 player in the world ranking and arguably the American with the most momentum heading into the Ryder Cup, in the first session which will turn some heads. McGinley benched Westwood and G-Mac out of the gate.
FANTASY: Look for a surprise player – probably a rookie – on the American side to step up. The Mickelson-Bradley could be formidable. They turned away some European contenders in the last edition. Look for Garcia (14-6-4) to play well. After his run at the Open Championship, he’s in good form. Europe has won four straight editions at home in this match up. The Americans last won in Europe at the Belfry in 1993.
BETTORS: Team Europe is a 4-to-6 favorite at www.ladbrokes.com. But, the Draw Bet, at 10-1 odds, might be the best option. For individual player wagering, McIlroy is the top choice for Top Point Earner on the European side at 4-1 odds. On the U.S. side, World No. 10 Fowler is the top selection at 5-1. But, he has just an 0-1-2 record making his second appearance. Consider taking a grinder like Kuchar (8-1) in this spot — even though he is sitting out the first session. He held his own in cold temperatures in the past and has a great match-play history. Look for the game’s best scrambling to win out. Furyk and Garcia were 1-2 on the PGA Tour this year in Scrambling. Garcia was also second on the European Tour in the same category.
Other Golf News:
- American Dustin Johnson, who qualified on points for a roster spot, withdrew his name from consideration earlier this summer. DJ checked out for personal reasons to get his life straight. But, long-hitter would have been a factor here. He was also 3-0 in the last Ryder Cup for the U.S. Team.
- The U.S. Team has just one Ryder Cup team victory with Woods on the squad.
- Day, 8th in the Official World Golf Ranking, withdrew from the Australian Open already. Although the tournament is in late November, Day said he needs time to heal from a variety of injuries in 2014 so he is healthy for 2015. Day won the WGC-Match Play tournament and made a run at the FedEx Cup title.
- Average World Ranking for the U.S. team is 16, while Europe’s average team world ranking is 18.
- The Champions Tour hosts the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach this week. Kirk Triplett is the defending champion winning last year by two shots.