By Jason Bruno
Ok, it's almost "Go Time" at Gleneagles for the 40th playing of the Ryder Cup.
The Europeans are big favorites in this edition . . . and understandably so. After
the "Miracle at Medinah", there is a clear sense that the Euro's have figured out
the formula for victory. The European PGA keeps the half dozen past captains in
the loop as consultants and vice captains and often grooms the future team leaders
by having them aboard as assistants or observers. The term being thrown around
by the Euro hierchy is "template", which Captain Paul McGinley has mentioned many
times this week. The PGA of America hasn't embraced such a concept - successful
past captains and their methods are left to be, choosing to turnover regimes without
Team Europe, not just top heavy as in years past, has McIlroy, Rose, Garcia,
and Stenson as front runners, but McDowell, Kaymer and Bjorn might be the
backbone. Ryder Cup intensity and pressure is like no other, and Euro 1st
timers: Stephen Gallacher, Jamie Donaldson and young Frenchman Victor
Dubuisson (aka - V Dub) are the wild cards. Westwood and Yankee dominator -
Ian Poulter have been in sub-par form all year, and come in to the event as
perhaps Team Blue's biggest question marks.
Winners of 7 of the last 9 Cup matches, the European contingent appears
loose and confident, and for good reason. The Euro's return 7 of the 12 miracle
makers from Chicago (and Captain Paul McGinley - who was a vice captain at
Medinah in 2012). Can the American's motivation overcome Europe's confidence?
It will be no easy task for Team USA to emerge with Samuel Ryder's trophy.
The venue is Jack Nicklaus' Centenary course at Gleneagles - an American style
parkland course that features tight fairways, heavy rough and softer & slower
greens than the Americans see on a weekly basis on the PGA Tour. . . but for the
most part, the layout favors neither side. If the weather gets ugly, combine that
with a raucous Euro home crowd for two factors that fall heavily in Europe's favor.
Do the Americans and Captain Tom Watson have the horses to make it a dogfight?
Clearly on the top half of the squad - they do. Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk,
Jordan Spieth and Jimmy Walker have been solid all year. Players like Bubba Watson,
Keegan Bradley, Zach Johnson and Patrick Reed have been up and down throughout
2014 and may end up deciding the final tally. Webb Simpson, Hunter Mahan and Phil
Mickelson have had down years and have only shown short glimpses of brilliance this
year. It will all depend on the chemistry of each pairing, and how the team gels as a
Likely we'll see Phil/Keegan, Bubba/Webb and Spieth/Kuchar, with the other pairings
still unknown. For certain the European Team will toss out combinations of Rory/Sergio,
Rory/Poulter, and Rose/Poulter. If McIlroy and Ian Poulter gain momentum early on, it
could ease the nerves of rookies - Gallacher, Donaldson, and Dubuisson - pulling them
along for the ride. If that's the case, the matches could get lopsided quick.
Here's to hoping the singles matches on Sunday are as compelling as Brookline
Prediction: In the end it comes down to who hits the best golf shots and holes
putts, but it'll take a huge week from new comers Spieth, Walker, and Patrick Reed
for Team USA to have a punchers chance. The two middle aged vets Furyk and
Mickelson will probably need to have a winning record for the Cup to make its way
back to America . . . Europe 15 - USA 13