The 2015-16 season ended in way more thrilling that it could have been written up. We saw one of the greats in the sport of golf, Rory McIlroy, put together an all-time performance in capturing the FedEx Cup.
Now, before the fall series, we have the best event in golf: the Ryder Cup. As great as The Olympics were, many players were hesitant about participated, and many passed, including McIlroy, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, and Dustin Johnson, among others.
It sort of made sense, while it was an historic Olympics, and those who did make it to Rio seem to unanimously believe it was the right decision, these golfers did not grow up dreaming about winning an Olympic medal. They never believed that would become an option. The Ryder Cup, however, everyone wants to be in that. Hazeltine National Golf Club is the host of this year’s edition, with two elite squads led by Davis Love III of the U.S. and Darren Clarke of Europe.
The Europeans have dominated the competition in recent years, including winning the past three, but an impressive American squad highlighted by star golfers Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth give the Americans the most hope they have had in this event in a long time.
Name: Hazeltine National Golf Club
Where: Chaska, Minnesota
Distance: 7,628 yards
Architect: Robert Trent Jones
Winner’s Share: Ryder Cup immortality, plus two years of bragging rights.
One of the longest courses on Tour, distance is king at this event. With a plethora of hills and water, it is an extremely challenging course. It most recently hosted the 2009 PGA Championship, which was highlighted by Y.E. Yang’s came from behind victory to shock Tiger Woods and the rest of the golf world. Hazeltine also held the 2002 PGA Championship (won by Rich Beem), and the U.S. Open in 1970 (Tony Jacklin) and 1991 (Payne Stewart).
The three-time defending champion of the Ryder Cup is Team Europe. They won a lopsided 2014 Cup 16.5 to 11.5 at Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. Europe’s Captain was Paul McGinley, and they were lead by 4 points from Justin Rose, and 3 a piece from Jamie Donaldson, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, and Henrik Stenson. The cup was clinched for Europe when Donaldson defeated Keegan Bradley 5&3.
The U.S. Captain was Tom Watson, who had Captained the Ryder Cup Team before. The stars for the U.S. were the unstoppable team of Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, two Ryder Cup rookies who went 2-0-1 in team play. Reed’s 3.5 points led the U.S. followed by 2.5 from Spieth and Jimmy Walker. Phil Mickelson was the only other member to hit 2 points.
Friday: 8:30a – 7:00p (Golf Channel)
Saturday: 9:00a – 7:00p (NBC)
Sunday: 12:00p – 6:00p (NBC)
Facebook: www.facebook.com/RyderCupUSA and www.facebook.com/EuropeanTeam
Twitter: @rydercup, @RyderCupUSA, and @RyderCupEurope
Instagram: @rydercupusa and @rydercupteameurope
There is one major storyline for this tournament: The United States versus Europe for the Ryder Cup. The U.S. is trying to win for the first time since 2008, while Europe are trying to retain the Cup for the fourth straight Ryder Cup year.
His recent form has not been especially impressive with nothing better than a T7 (The Barclays) over his last 12 tournaments. He also is winless in two appearances in the Ryder Cup.
In 2014 he was obliterated by Rory McIlroy in 2014 singles, his 5 & 4 loss being the biggest blowout on Sunday, although he and Jimmy Walker made a solid team together the previous two days, halving three of their four matches, including two against teams with McIlroy.
Fowler is likely on the team more for his charisma, energy, and teamwork than his actual play, although he is very talented, winning The Players in 2015 and finishing in the top 5 of all four 2014 majors.
3rd Appearance (0-3-5)
Holmes finished in the top 12 of six of his first seven events, and posted impressive finishes at majors with a T4 at The Masters and solo-third at The Open Championship (although that was still 14 strokes out Henrik Stenson’s lead, and 11 strokes behind Phil Mickelson for second).
After The Open he looked like a near lock to qualify automatically, but a five-event slump (CUT, CUT, CUT, T41, T33) left him at 9th in the standings with the top 8 qualifying automatically. After that, many thought he was on the outside looking in.
Fortunately for Holmes, he re-found his game at the right time with a T4 at The Barclays, the final tournament before Captain’s Picks were due, and impressed Love III enough to land a spot. It also helps that he lead the tour in driving distance, as that length is seen as an enormous asset to the team.
Holmes does have Ryder Cup experience as he was a Captain’s Choice for the 2008 Cup-winning team. On that epic day of Sunday Singles, Holmes did his part, knocking off Soren Hansen 2&1.
2nd Appearance (2-0-1)
DJ is a near lock to win Player of the Year after an incredible season where he won three times, with one of those at the U.S. Open at the extremely difficult Oakmont Country Club. He lead the tour in money, and top 10s, as his 15 in just 22 events was four more than the next highest player (Patrick Reed).
He also has a winning record at the Ryder Cup, most recently playing in the 2012 version (he missed the 2014 Ryder Cup when he took a six-month leave from Tour), where he and Phil Mickelson were a terrible team, losing both their matches 3&2. He did rebound nicely in singles, however, absolutely destroying Martin Kaymer 6&4.
DJ joked recently (we think he was joking anyway) that he will play with anyone except for Phil.
3rd Appearance (4-3-0)
With four previous appearances, Zach Johnson is the second most experienced player on the American side (Mickelson). 2016 has not been a banner year for him, but he still played well enough to make the team automatically.
It helped greatly that he won the 2015 Open Championship, although he hasn’t finished better than T33 anywhere since a 12th place tie at his Open defense over two months ago.
Johnson did not fare well at his last Ryder Cup, going (0-2-1) in 2014, although in 2012 he won three points for his team, which was tied for the most on the American side.
5th Appearance (6-6-2)
A Ryder Cup rookie, Brooks Kopeka is a rising star in the American ranks. He won the 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and has two runner-up finishes in 2016. He also has finished in the top 5 of the past two PGA Championships.
He didn’t play well in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, getting eliminated after the Deutsche Bank, but had four top 10s (3 in the top 4) in his previous five events. His game has no conspicuous weaknesses, and he ranks in the top 10 on Tour in scoring average, birdie average, and driving distance.
Kuchar has been a top-10 machine for the past seven years, has six career wins, and won the bronze medal at the Rio Olympics, the best performance among the four Americans in the field.
He has run hot and cold in big events this year, with a T3 at the Players, and two top-10s in WGC Events, but he was nowhere close to being a factor in any of the four majors (T24, T46, T46, CUT). In the 2014 Ryder Cup, he co-lead (with Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson) the American side with three losses, although he did have the largest American victory in singles, defeating Thomas Bjorn 4&3.
4th Appearance (4-5-2)
Mickelson is far and away the most experienced member of the American team with more than double the appearances of #2 Zach Johnson. He has not won since the 2013 Open Championship, but played well enough over the past two seasons to qualify comfortably.
He put together a major-winning caliber performance at Royal Troon at this year’s Open, but finished in second to Henrik Stenson’s unbelievable tournament. Mickelson finished 11 strokes ahead of third place J.B. Holmes. In 2016, Mickelson has finished in the top five six times, including three runner-ups. He finished fifth on Tour in scoring average.
His Ryder Cup record is not especially impressive when stacked against the all-time greats, but he is trending positively, with a 5-2-0 record over his last two appearances. In 2014, he had one of the four American victories in singles, knocking off an overmatched Stephan Gallagher 3&1.
11th Appearance (16-19-7)
Moore is the designated “hot hand”, being named the last Ryder Cup Captains pick after a recent tear where he won the John Deere, finished T2 at the Tour Championship, and added two other top eight finishes.
While this is his first Ryder Cup appearance, Moore was a match-play monster during his much-celebrated amateur career, and finished fifth at the WGC-Match Play this season, so he is familiar with the kind of pressure he will be facing. He has not won a major, but has finished in the top 15 of all four, and has five career PGA Tour victories.
Reed was the American MVP at the last Ryder Cup winning 2 points in two matches paired with Jordan Spieth (both wins were blowouts: 5&4 and 5&3), and halving with Jimmy Walker before defeating Henrik Stenson 1-up in Sunday Singles. It is very likely that he and Spieth will be paired up again.
Reed is coming into the Ryder Cup hot, winning The Barclays and finishing T5 and T13 at the next two FedEx Cup Playoff events. He finished third in the final FedEx Cup Standings, a great ending to a season where he was #2 on Tour in top 10 finishes, with 11.
2nd Appearance (3-0-1)
We are still waiting for Snedeker’s major breakthrough, but he has won at least one tournament in five of the past six seasons. He went on a three-week tear in January where he finished T3 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, P2 at the Sony Open, and won the Farmer’s Insurance Open.
He was not quite as impressive over the second half of the season, but he did finish in the top 5 at both the RBC Canadian Open and the Wyndham Championship.
Snedeker did not qualify for the 2014 Ryder Cup, and got the American side just one point in 2012, winning one match teamed up with Jim Furyk before getting destroyed 5&3 in his singles match against Paul Lawrie.
2nd Appearance (1-2-0)
As mentioned earlier, Spieth and Patrick Reed were an absolute force to be reckoned with as Ryder Cup rookies in 2014. Spieth has shown a propensity for the bigger events, finishing in the top 2 of the past three Masters (winning in 2015), winning the 2015 U.S. Open, posting T4 at the 2015 Open Championship, and finishing runner up at the 2015 PGA Championship.
Only Dustin Johnson had more points in the Ryder Cup standings, and Spieth had nearly double the points of #3 Phil Mickelson. This season has been seen as a minor let-down for the extremely talented 23 year old, despite winning twice (the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, and the Dean & Deluca). His recent form has been good, with five consecutive top-21 finishes, including 9th at the BMW.
One of the most popular players on Tour, Spieth also brings a lot of intangibles to the Ryder Cup team.
2nd Appearance (2-1-1)
Walker was the winner of the most recent major, the PGA Championship, so it will be fascinating to see how much confidence he brings to the Ryder Cup. Since that breakthrough major, Walker has been very up and down with two great performances: solo-third at the Deutsche Bank and T13 at the BMW, and three terrible performances: two missed cuts and a solo-28th out of 29 golfers at the Tour Championship.
After no wins in his first 12 seasons after turning pro, Walker has won six times in the past three seasons.
Walker put up a respectable performance at the 2014 Ryder Cup, halving his first three matches, all with Rickie Fowler as his partner, and won his singles match 3&2 against Lee Westwood.
2nd Appearance (1-1-3)
Team: 26 Appearances, 57 wins, 49 losses, 20 halves
Captain: Davis Loves III
Vice Captains: Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Tom Lehman
Cabrera-Bello has played just once in the past month and a half: a T12 at the Italian Open. Prior to that he just missed the medal stand at the Olympics with a T5.
Between the PGA and European Tours, he has only missed one cut (The Players), with 7 top 10s and a pair of runner-ups. He finished the season fourth on the Race to Dubai rankings.
One of six Ryder Cup Rookies, Fitzpatrick won the Nordea Masters back in May. He is coming in as one of the hotter Europeans, with top 16 finishes in four of his past five. He qualified for all four majors, with a T7 at The Masters being his best result.
He’s a relatively short hitter at just under 280 yards on an average drive, and he has struggled with the putter at times, but he is 10th on the European Tour in GIR.
With a winning percentage of 64%, only a handful of players have a better Ryder Cup record than Sergio. In his first appearance, he was just 19 (the youngest ever at the Ryder Cup) and went 3-1-1, winning 4&3 in singles over Jim Furyk, and earning 3.5 points for Team Europe.
He has a losing record in singles (3-4-1), but has consistently been fantastic in team events. He went 2-1-1 in 2014 again beating Jim Furyk in singles. He has one win on the PGA season (Byron Nelson) in addition to a runner-up (Honda Classic).
9th Appearance (18-9-5)
Best known for his clutch putt to clinch the 2012 Ryder Cup for Europe, Kaymer has been consistently good in this event. He is a two-time major winner, taking the 2010 PGA Championship and the 2014 U.S. Open.
He was an easy choice for Captain Darren Clarke.
5th Appearance (4-3-3)
McIlroy might be the player the Americans are most worried about having to face. He had what was considered somewhat of an off year, but still won two events in the U.S. and one in Europe, with those two U.S. wins coming in the last three weeks: the Deutsche Bank and the Tour Championship.
McIlroy also won the FedEx Cup’s $10 million prize. He was one of Team Europe’s best in 2014, going 2-1-2 to net three points, although he was annihilated 5&4 in singles by Rickie Fowler.
5th Appearance (6-4-4)
Pieters is a young Belgian who has been amazing in Europe as of late, winning the Made In Denmark Championship and finishing runner up at the Czech Masters. He was also relevant at the Olympics, just barely missing the podium with a solo-fourth.
Averaging over 300 yards off drives the past three seasons, Pieters definitely fits the classification of “bomber”.
Rose was the biggest beneficiary to the return of golf to the Olympics for the first time in 112 years, out-deuling Henrik Stenson down the stretch to win gold. Aside from the Olympics, however, he has not been in elite form as of late, with nothing better than a T22 since The Players in mid-May.
His Ryder Cup record is spectacular, and he should be going in as confident as anyone. At the 2014 Ryder Cup he had four points, the most of anyone on either side.
5th Appearance (9-3-2)
Stenson, the record-setting Open Champion and Olympic Silver Medalist, is coming off his finest season at the age of 40. He might be the best ball-striker in the game and will likely be leaned on heavily for the young European side.
Stenson recently sat out the BMW Championship, the third round of the FedEx Cup playoffs, in order to rest his surgically repaired knee for the Ryder Cup. It was a gamble that backfired on him, as he missed the Tour Championship, and was eliminated from winning its $10 million prize by just a few spots. He would be the first to say, however, that he would much rather win the Ryder Cup than the FedEx Cup.
5th Appearance (5-4-2)
Sullivan, another Ryder Cup rookie, was in contention early at the Open Championship, but a second-round 76 proved to be too much to overcome, especially with how low Stenson and Mickelson went.
He finished T12. He was a three-time European Tour Champion in 2015, and is coming off a T20 at the Italian Open, a positive trend after missing his three previous cuts.
With 10 previous appearances, Westwood is the most experienced player on the European Team and tied with Mickelson for the most experience overall. That experience was likely a big factor in him being a Captain’s pick ahead of Russell Knox, who has had a better season than Westwood.
He did finish in a tie for second at The Masters, and was in contention after three rounds of the U.S. Open before a nightmare Sunday 80 caused him to plummet into a tie for 32nd place. At both The Masters and the U.S. Open, Westwood was paired on Sunday with the player who ended up winning the tournament. In 2014, he went 2-2-0, playing well in team events, but struggled against Jimmy Walker in singles.
11th Appearance (20-15-6)
Willett had a breakthrough victory at The Masters this year, where he was the biggest beneficiary of Jordan Spieth’s collapse on the 12th hole. His final round 67 was good for the comeback victory. He also had two early-season T3s at WGC Events, but he has not played well in the U.S. since The Masters.
He is currently ranked 10th in the world and first in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai Standings. A solo-second at the Italian Open two weeks ago could be a sign that his game is coming back around.
Yet another Ryder Cup Rookie, Wood is finally cashing in on the promise he showed when he finished in the top 5 as an amateur at both the 2008 and 2009 Open Championships.
He won the BMW PGA Championship, the flagship event of the European Tour, in late May, but has not had a top-10 since.
Team: 34 Appearances – 62 wins, 38 Losses, 22 Halves
Captain: Darren Clarke
Vice Captains: Thomas Bjorn, Padraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie, Ian Poulter, Sam Torrance