When Justin Leonard made the miracle putt on the 17th hole of the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline to effectively clinch the Cup, Jose Maria Olazabal was still waiting to putt. The U.S. danced across the green, including right over Olazabal’s line, and took a couple minutes to get out of the way. This moment was the cause of much debate, and Europe was not happy with the sportsmanship shown by the U.S. while the match was still in progress.
Of course, Olazabal is now the captain of the European side, and faces the same 10-6 deficit that the Americans faced going into Sunday of those 1999 matches. If you believe in the Golf Gods, do they perhaps have sweet revenge in store for Olazabal? I don’t know about that, but it certainly is an interesting storyline. If there is any sort of comeback in store for Europe, it will done one point at a time in the twelve matches listed below.
In order of play –
Luke Donald vs. Bubba Watson
An interesting contrast of styles in the opening match. Watson will be at least 50 yards past Donald off the tee, if not more. Don’t expect Donald to make many mistakes, so it will be up to Watson to make birdies and win holes. Of the two, Watson appears to be in better form so far this week.
Ian Poulter vs. Webb Simpson
Looking at the European lineup, it’s obvious that Olazabal is shooting for a fast start in order to get some momentum built for a comeback. Donald is leading off, and the red hot Poulter is going here in the second match. Simpson is a very capable opponent, but does not have near the pedigree in this event that Poulter does.
Rory McIlroy vs. Keegan Bradley
What a match. The best player in the world vs. the hottest player at Medinah this week. Bradley will be yelling his way around the course, and is sure to have tremendous crowd support. McIlroy hasn’t quite been in top form this week, but singles is a different animal and he still is the best player on the planet.
Justin Rose vs. Phil Mickelson
Rose and Mickelson have both spent time this week playing second fiddle to their partners, but neither is new to the big stage. They play contrasting styles of golf, and it should be obvious early on if Phil has his swing together. Rose will be slow and steady, and could cruise if Mickelson is making some mistakes.
Paul Lawrie vs. Brandt Snedeker
In a Ryder Cup drawing comparisons to 1999, here we have Lawrie whose greatest accomplishment came in that ’99 season. Lawrie was on the receiving end of the gift from Jean Van de Velde in the British Open, and won the Claret Jug in a playoff with Van de Velde and the a fore mentioned Justin Leonard. That was a long time ago, however, and the FedEx Cup champ is likely too much for Lawrie to handle.
Nicolas Colsaerts vs. Dustin Johnson
This is very likely the longest hitting singles match in Ryder Cup history. These two can absolutely bomb it. There will be lots of birdies, and it could be a wild match if both players are in rhythm.
Graeme McDowell vs. Zach Johnson
These are two players that hit tons of fairways and play steady golf. Both have major championship titles under their belt, and won’t shrink from the stage. This should be a good one.
Sergio Garcia vs. Jim Furyk
Both veteran players, Garcia and Furyk should both be up to the task if this later-in-the-day match winds up being critical. Garcia lives for the Ryder Cup and seems to have his game back in form. Furyk can play with the best to be sure, but may still be shaken under pressure by his U.S. Open meltdown.
Peter Hanson vs. Jason Dufner
This will maybe be the most overlooked match of the day, but both are great players. Dufner is twice a winner on tour this year, and Hanson had a great run at this year’s Masters.
Lee Westwood vs. Matt Kuchar
Westwood has been quiet thus far at Medinah, and Kuchar has been as well. Both can have issues on the greens at times, so whichever play can hole out from the five to ten foot range will probably take this one.
Martin Kaymer vs. Steve Stricker
Interesting choice for Captain Love to go with Stricker and Woods to wind down the matches. There is a good chance these points won’t matter, but it could be sticky if they do. Stricker isn’t playing great, but Kaymer has only played in one match so far, dropping a four ball match on Friday.
Francesco Molinari vs. Tiger Woods
What a scene this could be. The legend Woods against a relative unknown in Molinari. If a scenario develops that makes this match important, Woods will have to shake off his rough week and get the job done for the U.S. There is no doubt he can handle the pressure, but can his swing hold up? This could get good.
Will the U.S. finish this off on Sunday? Probably. Is it over? Not yet. The Ryder Cup, maybe more than any other sporting event, is about momentum. If Europe is able to put up some early leads in a few matches, the U.S. will no doubt feel the heat. Regardless which side of the pond you root for, I think all golf fans would enjoy seeing the matches tighten up tomorrow. Sunday afternoon at the Ryder Cup can be like nothing else in golf – here’s hoping it a good one.