Sunday, September 2, 2012
Updated: September 5, 3:03 PM ET
U.S. (barely) the early favorite
After all the jockeying, the 24 players to tee it up at the 39th Ryder Cup are finally set, now that U.S. captain Davis Love III has made his wild-card selections.
So which of Love's picks will have the biggest impact for the Americans? And who might be destined to sit out a few matches?
Our experts tackle those topics and more in our latest edition of Ryder Cup Four-Ball.
1. Which pick brings the most to the table for the American squad?
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Brandt Snedeker brings the most to the table. He's the one who can make putts from anywhere and who can play with anyone on the team. He's not short off the tee, but he's not a bomber by any means, either. I'd say he's Team USA's "tofu" -- filling, goes with anything and in the long run is healthy for you. (I shouldn't write this when I'm hungry and on a diet.)
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Steve Stricker is a great team player and a great putter. He could be paired with anyone on the team.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Steve Stricker. He brings a little of both things Love was looking for: experience and putting prowess. Stricker will be in his third Ryder Cup but also has played in three Presidents Cups and has been a good partner to Tiger Woods. Stricker helps in several ways.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Brandt Snedeker. He's been putting lights out lately (and for a while now), which is why he's ranked No. 1 in strokes-gained putting on the PGA Tour this year. Sure, he'll be a Ryder Cup rookie, but if the vast majority of your Ryder Cup experience is on the losing side (which is the case for most of the Americans), he also doesn't have the scars of defeat.
2. Which team, on paper, has the overall advantage going into the Ryder Cup?
Michael Collins: On paper, stats-wise, the U.S. might seem to have the advantage. But when it comes to this competition, 10 Europeans have our number. Go back to '87 and see how many "away" matches the European team has won. I'll tell ya ... three of the past six times they've played here, Team USA lost. So take numbers, rankings, stats, etc., and just go ahead and throw them out the window.
Farrell Evans: The U.S. team is made up of players from the best tour on earth. Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy are playing some great golf, but overall from top to bottom, the U.S. team is stronger. However, it's close. Sweden's Peter Hanson showed the world that he was a competitor at the Masters, where he finished in a tie for third.
Bob Harig: Like usual, the Americans look better on paper, but just barely. Both have four players in the top 10, the U.S. has eight in the top 20 to Europe's four. Nobody on either side is ranked outside of the top 36. The Americans have won more this year, which gives them an edge, but this has proved to mean little in the Ryder Cup.
Kevin Maguire: You're only as good as your weakest link, and in this case, that favors the Americans. Of the 12 U.S. Ryder Cuppers, only Jim Furyk is without a victory in 2012. As for Europe? Well, one-third of its team has yet to raise a trophy this season.
3. How would you grade Davis Love III's selections?
Michael Collins: Three out of four isn't bad, and you knew because of the friendship between Davis Love III and Jim Furyk that as long as Furyk could walk, he would make the team. I really don't have that big a problem with Furyk as a pick ... until he loses. And he will lose. The problem is, if he loses early and has to sit, can he play the Sunday singles match without trying to prove he was a worthy selection? Playing that way would be a disaster.
Farrell Evans: DL3 didn't do anything crazy like pick a guy from 30th in the standings. His picks were very predictable and safe. I give him an A-plus.
Bob Harig: He gets a B-plus. You can argue against three of the picks, but they all certainly have their positive attributes. It was either a poor decision to leave Hunter Mahan off the team or simply a product of overall depth.
Kevin Maguire: Solid B. I'm not sure an A is even possible given his choices, but it's hard to leave a guy off the squad in Mahan, who has won twice this year on tour, including beating Rory McIlroy in the WGC-Match Play. Yes, that was in February and he's done little since the Masters, but some guys just get up for match play differently, and Mahan seems to be of that ilk.
4. Give us two players you think won't play five matches.
Michael Collins: Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson won't play all five matches on the U.S. side, age and health being factors.
Farrell Evans: Davis Love III said Tuesday that his hardest decision would be whom to sit on this very deep team. I might pick the two lefties, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson. They have been probably the two most erratic players from this team all year.
Bob Harig: Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar. It is tough to envision Furyk playing four-balls, given his poor record in the format. Kuchar has been a bit quiet lately and wasn't particularly a force in Wales or Melbourne for the Presidents Cup. And somebody has to sit.
Kevin Maguire: Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson. That's not to say both won't want to tee it up in every session, but Johnson's brief history in match play events isn't good, and despite two strong showings the past two weeks, his putting could hamper him in spite of his length off the tee. And speaking of putting, does any Ryder Cup captain want to see one of his automatic qualifiers changing his putting grip in the weeks before Medinah? That's what Mickelson has done, which doesn't bode well.