The Ryder Cup is golf’s ultimate team competition but there are plenty of personal undercurrents beneath the smooth surface of the pre-tournament niceties.
You don’t think Keegan Bradley wants to hammer Rory McIlroy, who has been known to tease the American over the last two years about what happened at Medinah?
As for Patrick “I’m a top five player” Reed – there isn’t a European team member who wouldn’t fancy putting the cocky Mr Reed in his place.
Rivalries also exist within the team. Every player is out to secure the ultimate prize of a team victory but they will also have set personal goals. Winning a major matters most to the likes of Rory McIlroy but for those who might never win one of golf’s biggest prizes, finishing as the top points scorer at a Ryder Cup counts as a major consolation prize.
Ever wonder why Colin Montgomerie is always droning on about his (admittedly brilliant) record in this event?
Who will follow Monty into the exclusive club of Ryder Cup totems, the men who provided the vertebrae of their team? As always, it depends on who catches their captain’s fancy.
You can only win five points if you play in five matches – an arithmetical certainty that means Reed (unlikely to play much before Sunday’s singles) won’t be collecting this unofficial honour, while Rory McIlroy (young, fit and brilliant) very well might.
Other factors come into play, such as form and who a player is paired with. Still, it is possible to make some educated guesses …..
Ian Poulter will be the choice of many in this category but desire and guts can only take a man so far. He arrives in Scotland with little form. It is always possible he somehow conjures up a performance to equal what he did in Medinah. But even if he does he – and every other European player – will struggle to match RORY McILROY.
The Irishman is rested, he is in form and the golf course – long and playing on the soft side – will suit him perfectly. If he wants to play five times, McGinley will let him in the hope that he can win at least four points.
Let’s start by stating the obvious. NOT Jim Furyk. The bold James might have hoovered up cash on the PGA Tour this year but he’s not been Mr Ryder Cup over the years. It will take an epochal change in attitude and form for him to make much of an impression at Gleneagles.
USA captain Tom Watson is known to prefer unflashy types, scrappy players who let the clubs do the yapping. In which case expect the likes of Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar to play a lot. Rickie Fowler doesn’t exactly fit the same profile but he played brilliantly as a rookie in 2010 and has been in great form this year.
— Rickie Fowler (@RickieFowlerPGA) September 21, 2014
Keegan Bradley, one of three captain’s picks, is another with a lot to prove in a team without an obvious leader. It could come down to the singles in the end, with RICKIE FOWLER confirming himself a modern day Lanny Wadkins, a player that American captains of the future will be able to depend on.
Will Stephen Gallacher, one of three European rookies and the only Scot on the team, be inspired by the prospect of playing on home soil? Or will Victor Dubuisson ride his brilliant short game to glory? Both could.
But it comes down to whether or not Captain McGinley values their talents over the experience of others, like Thomas Bjorn and Henrik Stenson. On the American side, Tom Watson can’t afford to ignore his most obvious rookie talent. JORDAN SPIETH will see plenty of action and, going by past performance in match-play situations, he will not let his captain down.
Europe are deserved favourites this week by virtue of the strength at the top of Paul McGinley’s line-up but it is hard to believe Watson’s squad won’t make them battle. The US captain is too proud and too smart to let the Team USA go quietly into the night.
He – and his vice-captain Ray Floyd – rank among the feistiest competitors of their era. Whether this is enough to carry the Yanks to victory remains in doubt but the presence of the two old stagers will undoubtedly be enough to stoke their competitive spirit.
Recent history suggests the era of Ryder Cup blow-outs is finished. The game is global and global standards have evened out. Expect a one-point victory. As for which team will be celebrating on Sunday night – my gut tells me the USA will shade it.
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