2012 Ryder Cup Preview – Heroes or Zeroes, does the US have the juice to take back the cup?

The 2012 Ryder Cup will be getting underway this Friday, September 28th, at the Medinah Country Club just outside Chicago. The bi-annual event is being played on U.S. soil for the first time since 2008, when it was won by the United States team at Valhalla Country Club in Kentucky. Europe currently holds the cup, having won the 2010 matches by a single point.

Recent history indicates that United States squad will have its work cut out for it if they want to hoist the cup on Sunday night. Six out of the last eight contests have been won by the Europeans, with the only two U.S. wins coming in ’08, and the dramatic 1999 comeback at Brookline. This year, the U.S squad will be captained by accomplished veteran and World Golf Hall of Fame runner up, Davis Love III who has  won 20 titles on the PGA Tour, including his one and only major championship at the 1997 PGA Championship at Winged Foot. He is one of the most popular players on the Tour, and remains a competitive player in his own right.

On the opposite side, the European team will be led by the legendary Jose Maria Olazabal. Olazabal is twice a major champion, winning The Masters in both 1994 and 1999. He also holds a piece of Ryder Cup history, having paired with Ian Woosnam to form the most successful Four-Ball team in the history of the event. Much like Love, Olazabal is a popular player among his fellow players, and will have no problem bringing the best out of the European team.

Of course, the real heart of the event is the players on both sides. By far the most notable name in the competition plays for the U.S. – Tiger Woods. Despite being one of the two best players in the history of golf, Woods actually has a losing record over his 6 cup appearances. His 13-14-2 mark has been dragged down by inconsistent performance in the team matches. He does hold an excellent 4-1-1 mark in the singles portion.

While he has nowhere near the name recognition of Woods, the player riding highest for the Americans is likely Brandt Snedeker. Newly minted as the FedEx Cup Champion, Snedeker won the Tour Championship in Atlanta on Sunday, along with a cool $10 million. This will be the first cup appearance for the Tennessee native.

Two more big names on the U.S. side are Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk. Although Mickelson and Furyk have been among the best in the world for a decade (reaching 1 and 2 in the rankings, respectively), they both hold poor Ryder Cup records. A combined 19-32-10, the U.S. squad will very likely need a better performance out of these two if they are to regain the cup.

Among other notables are Bubba Watson, 2012 Masters Champion, and Steve Stricker. These two are total opposites on the course, but could make an interesting pairing. Watson is among the longest, and most creative, players on Tour, while Stricker has made a career of hitting fairways and greens and letting his putter do the rest.
Rounding out the twelve U.S. members are the following, in alphabetical order – Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, and Webb Simpson (U.S. Open Champ).

Switching over to the European side, the obvious name to look at first is “The Intimidator” Rory McIlroy. The number one ranked player in the world, McIlroy has been tearing up the U.S. tour of late including winning the most recent major at the 2012 PGA Championship. The 23 year old looks poised to run with the title of best golfer in the world for the foreseeable future.

After McIlory, the attention probably moves to the veteran Sergio Garcia. Garcia seems to be a lightning rod in these events, with his fiery spirit being the cause of more than a few irritated looks from U.S. players over the years. They may be more annoyed with his record than anything else – Garcia has dominated the cup with an amazing 14-6-4 record.

Somehow lost in the shuffle are the number three and four ranked players in the world, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood. In contrast to the Mickelson/Furyk numbers, Donald and Westwood are Ryder Cup standouts, combining to go 24-13-10. If the U.S is to have any chance, winning some points against the three headed monster of McIlroy, Donald, and Westwood will be critical.

Rounding out the European squad are the following, in alphabetical order – Nicolas Colsaerts, Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer, Paul Lawrie, Graeme McDowell, Francesco Molinari, Ian Poulter, and Justin Rose.

The 2012 lineup is reminiscent of one of the most noteworthy Ryder Cup Events, the 1993 Ryder Cup played at The Belfry, which was featured in John Feinstein‘s “A Good Walk Spoiled.” The the US won 15 to 13 in 1993 and if you want to get an idea of the pressure an event like this has on a player, I strongly encourage reading this book!

Please check back throughout the week for coverage leading up to the Ryder Cup. Once the event starts, we will have daily posts covering all the action.

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