2012 Ryder Cup

Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au/AFP
Tiger Woods is in good form leading in to the Ryder Cup. Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au/AFP
The fiercest battle in professional golf begins on Friday night when the United States hosts Europe in the Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club, near Chicago. The Europeans have lifted the cup on six of the last nine occasions, but the US team looks strong with a new breed of major winners in Webb Simpson (US Open) and Keegan Bradley (US PGA) making their debuts, while Masters champion Bubba Watson is back for his second appearance.

The last PGA Tour event played at Medinah was the US PGA back in 2006. Tiger Woods streeted the field by five strokes, winning on 18-under. While he isn’t back to his best yet, the 14-time major winner has won three events this year and finished top ten in his last three tournaments. Woods has a 13-13-3 (W-L-D) record in Ryder Cup play, which is far superior to fellow veterans Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk .

Europe features four of the world’s top five players. Justin Rose and Luke Donald tuned up for the international contest with a second and third placing, respectively, in last week’s Tour Championship, won by American wildcard Brandt Snedeker . Donald attended Northwestern University in Chicago, and the Englishman looked right at home tying for third in the 2006 US PGA at Medinah. Fellow Team Europe members Sergio Garcia (T3rd) and Ian Poulter (T9th) also finished in the top ten at that major. Garcia could have claims to be the standout Ryder Cup player of his generation, but his overall 14-6-4 record has been blotted by a 1-4-0 return from his singles matches.

World number one Rory McIlroy chalked up two points from four matches in his debut at Celtic Manor in 2010. Expect him to be paired up with compatriot Graeme McDowell in pairs play. While he hasn’t set the world on fire this year, the Northern Irishman did win the US PGA by a record margin at Kiawah Island, where, incidentally, the 1991 Ryder Cup was staged.

Recent history shows the top overall pointscorer is more likely to come from Europe than the US. Ever since Colin Montgomerie’s dominant performance at The Belfry in 2002, a European has finished with the best individual pointscore. Woods and Steve Stricker did manage to tie with Donald and Poulter in the chaotic conditions in Wales in 2010, although players were restricted to a maximum of four matches each.

If the US is to end the Europeans’ recent stranglehold on the cup, it will have to find a way to perform better in the foursomes. Over the last nine editions of the event, Europe leads foursomes play 43.5 to 28.5. The Americans certainly perform better on home soil, though. If you’re looking for a day one winner, over the last four Ryder Cups in the States, the US has posted 17 Friday points compared to Europe’s 15 .

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