By: Patrick Donnelly
The United States may have 26 Ryder Cups to Europe’s 10, but to put it bluntly, Team Europe has owned the United States’ squad for the better part of almost 25 years, claiming eight Ryder Cups to USA’s three.
However, the tides turned in 2016 as the Davis Love III’s Team USA trounced Darren Clarke’s Team Europe 17-11, with the highlight of the tournament coming in an electric singles match between Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy.
2016 was different, though; that was on American soil at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota with a home crowd for the Americans. This year, Europe opens its doors as Team USA marches onto Le Golf National in Paris with a rabid European crowd that lives for the Ryder Cup.
The quality of play this year should be no different than 2016, with captains Jim Furyk (Team USA) and Thomas Bjorn (Europe) both boasting two of the most talented squads ever. This iteration of Team USA could very well be the most talented team in history, but enough with the glorification; let’s take a look at the two teams.
Starting with Team USA:
This man needs no introduction; his resumé speaks for itself. Tiger’s game could not be coming together at a more opportune time entering his eighth Ryder Cup. However, Tiger’s record in the Ryder Cup is not spotless, 13-17-3 to be exact. Hopefully, the 14-time major champion can catch fire and be a leader on the course for Team USA, after serving such a role off the course during the last few team events. Tiger will be paired with Patrick Reed on Friday as the two hope to establish dominance early.
This will be DJ’s fourth Ryder Cup. Although he cooled off towards the end of the summer, before the Open Championship, it seemed as if Johnson could seemingly win on-demand. The former U.S. Open Champion will look to build on a solid record of 6-5 in his Ryder Cup matches as well as build a formidable tandem with fellow long-hitter and best friend, Brooks Koepka.
2018 has been nothing short of a disappointment in Spieth’s book after failing to record a win or qualify for the TOUR Championship. However, the three-time major champion has been dominant in his two Ryder Cup appearances, especially in doubles matches (8-1-3 with Patrick Reed, 4-3-2 in singles play), although it looks like Jim Furyk has broken up the dynamic due. A key cog in the United States’ resurgence, Spieth looks to bounce back from the regular season and pick up where he left off at the Ryder Cup. He will be paired with best friend Justin Thomas to kick things off.
Dubbed “Captain America” by many, Reed is the United States’ answer to Ian Poulter. Reed has been a dynamo for Team USA in his two Ryder Cups going 6-1-2 in his singles matches, while formerly comprising one half of a lethal duo with Jordan Spieth. Reed proved he could do it individually by taking home The Masters this year and will need to continue his dominance at the Ryder Cup.
Since taking home three out of four points (a record of 3-1-0) in 2016, Koepka has taken the golf world by storm, winning three majors (the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Opens and the 2018 PGA Championship). Koepka will try to ride the hot hand entering his second Ryder Cup.
The lefty has struggled in the Ryder Cup (3-8-0) and is yet to be on the winning side. Coming into his fourth Ryder Cup, Bubba has had a fairly strong 2018 and will hope to use his success this season as well as his history at Le Golf National to his advantage.
Like Bubba, Simpson has struggled under the pressure of the Ryder Cup, but has had a solid 2018 season, winning the Players’ Championship. In just his third time at the event, Simpson, who has a record of 2-3-1, is looking to free himself from his Ryder Cup demons.
JT has had one of the hottest 365 days of any golfer right now. Although he is technically a Ryder Cup rookie, Thomas has all the talent he needs and has dreamt of this moment his entire life. He also got a sneak peak at the course in the French Open this summer.
Lefty has struggled in 2018, highlighted by his debacle at Shinnecock Hills during the U.S. Open, but don’t let that fool you; the Ryder Cup is its own game. Phil is setting a new appearance record, appearing in his twelfth Ryder Cup. The 48-year-old (18-20-7 in the Ryder Cup) may be hungrier than anyone, having never won across the pond and looking to silence his doubters.
One of the hottest commodities in golf, Fowler has missed time due to injury recently, although everyone maintains he is ready to go. This will be his third appearance in the event and he owns a record of 2-4-5.
DeChambeau, the “mad scientist,” took hold of the golf world this year, winning three times, dusting the rest of the field in two of them. Another Ryder Cup rookie, DeChambeau will look to recreate his winning formula this weekend.
The last of Jim Furyk’s captain’s picks, Finau is another rookie coming into this weekend. The 28-year-old has been one of the most consistent players this year, but has failed to reach the winner’s circle with 11 top-10s. Finau needs to continue his consistency for success this week.
Moving on to our host for this weekend’s festivities, Team Europe:
Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland)
Coming off a disappointing finish at the TOUR Championship, McIlroy is entering his fifth Ryder Cup with a record of 9-6-4. The most talented golfer on the team and the most successful with four majors, McIlroy will need to fully regain his form after struggling with his putting recently.
Sergio Garcia (Spain)
Sergio is entering his ninth Ryder Cup with a record of 19-11-7. The 38-year-old Spaniard has been one of Europe’s most dominant pieces, but has struggled mightily since winning the 2017 Masters, most recently missing seven of his last twelve cuts and making him Thomas Bjorn’s most controversial captain’s pick. Garcia needs to build off a strong showing at the Portugal Masters last week.
Paul Casey (England)
Casey has a record of 3-2-4 and is strong in his match play events, but he is making his first appearance in a decade (this is his fourth Ryder Cup overall). Casey has been consistent and has revitalized his game in recent years. He will need to be strong once again this weekend.
Tommy Fleetwood (England)
The 27-year-old native of England is making his first appearance in the event this weekend. Fleetwood has been among the best in the last year-and-a-half and nearly won the U.S. Open at Shinnecock this year, finishing second and shooting a 63 in the final round. He won the French Open last year at Le Golf National, but missed the cut this season.
Tyrrell Hatton (England)
Hatton’s fiery character seems built for the Ryder Cup, but this is his debut in the contest. Hatton is yet to win in 2018, but has six top-10s on the PGA and European Tours, including at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. He could be a sleeper for the Europeans this week in Paris.
Francesco Molinari (Italy)
This is Molinari’s third go at the Ryder Cup, but he doesn’t have a shiny record (0-3-2). Molinari had an outstanding summer and his best year to date, winning The Open Championship and the European Tour’s biggest event, The BMW PGA Championship. An excellent ball-striker in his own right, Molinari will try to silence his Ryder Cup critics.
Alex Noren (Sweden)
Another rookie on Bjorn’s team, Noren has been a steady fixture in the world’s top-20 for a few years. The 36-year-old is sort of a late-bloomer and has 10 European Tour wins, including the French Open this year at Le Golf National where this event is being played.
Justin Rose (England)
Fresh off a strong showing at the TOUR Championship and winning the FedEx Cup, Rose is making his fifth appearance with a successful record of 11-6-2. One of the world’s most consistent players, Rose has had a very hot month and is the exact person Bjorn wants representing Europe.
Jon Rahm (Spain)
Rahm has had a meteoric rise to stardom in his first two years as a pro, winning five times on the two major tours and rising as high as second in the world at one point this year. Rahm is also making his Ryder Cup debut this weekend and will look to use his intensity to his advantage while also keeping his temper in check.
Ian Poulter (England)
A villain for the Americans, a hero for his own side, Poulter is set to play in his sixth Ryder Cup with a dominant record of 12-4-2. Although he missed the 2016 Ryder Cup, Poulter seems to have mostly gotten over his struggles, winning for the first time since 2012 earlier this year. He is set to be a key player once again for Europe.
Thorbjorn Oleson (Denmark)
Oleson is another rookie on this squad, but a favorite and close colleague of Bjorn. The 28-year-old has just begun to build on his loads of potential this year with a win at the Italian Open and is looking to make his mark at the event.
Henrik Stenson (Sweden)
Stenson, coming into his fifth Ryder Cup, has struggled with an elbow injury since winning his first major at the 2016 Open Championship. If healthy, Stenson (7-7-2) will be a major fixture for the European side this weekend in his likely duo with Justin Rose as the two have been successful together in recent Ryder Cups.
Final outlook on the two sides heading into this weekend:
Team USA seems to be the favorite heading into this weekend as it is absolutely loaded with talent and boasts a far more experienced squad than Europe. On the other hand, Team Europe has no shortage of talent either, and it will need to overcome inexperience and recent individual struggles in order to come out on top in Paris this weekend. However, this is the Ryder Cup, folks, and anything can happen. The first groups tee-off at 2:10am eastern in the Friday morning matches to kick things off this weekend at Le Golf National.