The 39th Ryder Cup tees off at Medinah on Friday between the United Sates and Europe and you’ll need to know at least two players other then Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy if you want to stay on top of it.
The Money Men
Samuel Ryder’s trophy is unique among major sporting events as the players — 12 from Europe and 12 from the States — don’t actually get paid for playing. Not that they need to. Ryder Cup rookie Brandt Snedeker woke up on Monday morning with an extra $11.4m in his arse pocket courtesy of the $1.4m first prize in the Tour Championship and a $10m bonus for topping the four tournament FedEx Cup standings.
Europe’s Rory McIlroy has won four tournaments this season — including his second Major in the US PGA Championship — and trousered $3m for finishing runner-up in the FedEx standings behind Snedeker. The 23-year-old is on course to pocket almost $15m from his chosen career by season’s end.
Love rat Tiger Woods has got his career back on track and the 14 time Major winner recently broke the $100m prize money barrier dwarfing all other US team mates in the money stakes. They’re all still pretty rich dwarves though.
The God Squad
Apart from the home crowd, some Americans might have an extra man on the bag this weekend. We’re talking about the main man, the big Kahuna, JC or whatever you want to call him – the Yanks have a direct line. Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson and Zach Johnson are all part of Team USA’s God Squad who’ll be praying for divine intervention come Friday.
Snedeker justified US captain Davis Love III’s wild card pick in some style and the new FedEx champ is one of four Ryder Cup virgins who also count Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson among their number. They’re good rookies to have though as Bradley (2011 US PGA Championship) and Simpson (2012 US Open) are both Major winners while Dufner lost that 2011 PGA Championship to Bradley in a play-off.
Europe are more experienced and the Belguim bomber Nicolas Colsaerts is the only one not to have been through the pressure-cooker atmosphere of Ryder Cup weekend.
Ian Poulter is top of the list for the Americans for his teeth-clenching, eye-popping, fist bumping mania that is usually more associated with, em, Americans.
Expect Rory McIlroy to be targeted by the crowd. Particularly if he’s winning.
No standout figure on the US team just yet – but give them time. Expect someone to lose the run of themselves or whip up a frenzy with plenty of military references before the weekend is over. Steve Stricker has already made his feelings known about Poulter and will be a favourite with the Chicago crowd. Dustin Johnson is one to keep an eye on.
Both Davis Love III and Jose Maria Olazabal will live and die by their pairings. If either get these badly wrong it may be game over before the singles face-off.
Europe has form here and expect compatriots McIlroy and Graeme McDowell to be joined at the hip — for Europe that is. Justin Rose may act as a foil to Ian Poulter’s aggro image while Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer may pair off again — although neither is in great form at the moment.
Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald have won all four times they’ve played together but Olazabal might try to spark some life into the experienced Westwood by taking the only European rookie Colsaerts under his wing.
On the American side it could be a lot more difficult to find the right blend. Woods and Stricker are almost certainties to pair up while Phil Mickelson and Bradley also look like shoo-ins. With four rookies in the side the other calls are crucial.