The European team has 11 of their 12 members with previous Ryder Cup experience. Nicolas Colsaerts is the only rookie. The American side has four rookies: Brant Snedecker, Web Simpson, Jason Dufner, and Keegan Bradley. With your teammates and country relying on you, double the amount of pressure normally associated with a major in the Ryder Cup. How will the American rookies respond? Of the four, Simpson and Bradley have the best chance based on their performance on the world stage having recently won majors. Snedecker is a wonderful putter, which is so important in match play, but his performance in the majors has been less than stellar when working with a lead and on the weekends. Dufner is a great ball striker, which is an advantage in foursomes, but putting is his Achilles’ heel, and can be exploited in every format, especially singles.
Of the American veterans, Woods, Mickelson, and Furyk have the most experience, but none have an overall winning percentage with Woods at 13-14-2 being the closest. Of those with minimal Ryder Cup experience, Zach Johnson, Steve Stricker, and Matt Kuchar have even .500 records. On the Euro side, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, and Ian Poulter provide the veteran presence along with tremendous records for success. Of the 11 Euros with experience, only two have sub .500 records (Peter Hanson; 1-2, and Francesco Molinari; 0-2-1). World #1 player, Rory McIlroy is the only other non-winning Euro, with a 1-1-2 record in one appearance. Big advantage: European team.
Everyone is familiar with the post-affair revelations of Tiger Woods and the effect on his game. More than ever the Americans will need Tiger to be in top form, which he’s exhibited on occasion this year, but the difference in old Tiger vs. new Tiger has been his play on the weekends and in the majors where his ball striking, putting, and overall aggressiveness have faltered under pressure. Tiger will need to perform strong and set an example for the four rookies. An even larger concern is with Phil Mickelson. His play of late and specifically his putting concerns are mystifying. Phil is 16th ranked in putts per round and recently was tinkering in competition with the claw grip. What gives? Any indications of putting problems heading into Ryder Cup are a bad omen. Jim Furyk seems to be in good form, as is Zach Johnson. Both are known for their ability to roll the rock and should be pivotal for American team success. Dustin Johnson has one year of Ryder Cup experience and is playing well as of late. Dustin can bust it but his short game and putting are always the concern. Ryder Cup pressure exacerbates poor short games as was the case in 2010 with Hunter Mayhan.
On the Euro side, McIlory is obviously coming in as the best/hottest player on the planet and will be a force. Lee Westwood has been off his game recently and has never been a good putter, but something always switches on for him in the Ryder Cup. His 16-11-6 record is outstanding. Ian Poulter’s 9-2 record in Ryder Cup is so good it defies logic. Current form doesn’t seem to matter when Ian goes head-to-head. He’s got top 10s in the last two majors, so look out. Sergio Garcia has certainly found his game and seems to have taken a reset on his attitude. Add that to his 14-6-4 record in Ryder Cup and you’ve got a potential stud. My only concern on this side is Martin Kaymer. Missed cuts at The Open Championship and PGA Championship have been emblematic of his downfall. He’s clearly on the team from his performance in 2011 but is a current liability. Advantage European Team.
Home field for the American team is very big, as was the case in 2008 at Valhalla when an underdog U.S. squad dominated the matches, winning 16.5 to 11.5. Only three members of the current U.S. team (Mickelson, Furyk, Stricker) were on that 2008 squad and the infusion of new blood for the U.S. feels like a plus. The approach to team over individual continues to exemplify the European squad and is a plus for them. Revenge factor goes to the Americans and trying to avenge a very tough one-point loss in 2010 at Celtic Manor. No advantage to either side for new captains Davis Love III or Jose Maria Olazabal. Martin Kaymer feels like a liability on the Euro side and we’ll see how Olazabal uses/hides him. Advantage U.S. Team.
Final 2012 Ryder Cup Prediction: U.S. 14 – Europe 14; Europe keeps the cup.