Monday, September 24, 2012
Americans early favorites at Medinah
Ryder Cup week is finally here. With seven American team members finishing inside the top 10 at the Tour Championship, the U.S. squad certainly appears to be rounding into fine form.
As for the Europeans, they've owned the biennial competition this century after having won four of the past five Ryder Cups.
So who holds the edge heading into the tournament at Medinah? Our experts tackle those topics and more in our latest edition of Ryder Cup Four-Ball.
1. What's the key for the Americans to win back the Ryder Cup this week at Medinah?
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Foursomes. I'm just not as concerned with four-ball format and the individual matches on Sunday. The alternate shot format is one in which the Americans seem to lose all their momentum. There are many theories as to why the European players play better as a team, but I believe they have a switch under their hairline that allows them to transition to team play that we don't have.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: At Celtic Manor in 2010, the Americans lost the Ryder Cup in the third session when they managed to earn only a halve in six matches. For the Americans to win, they can't have a lopsided session like that at Medinah.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Putting. So much of it is making clutch putts, to either steal or thwart momentum. For much of the past 20 years, this part of the game has eluded the Americans.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Momentum. Like an NCAA tournament basketball game, both sides in nearly every match will make a run. If the Americans can answer when the Europeans drain a few clutch putts, Team USA will have a great chance to win back the Ryder Cup.
2. What does Brandt Snedeker's Tour Championship and FedEx Cup victory Sunday mean for him this week in his Ryder Cup debut?
Michael Collins: He's buying the first team dinner! Honestly, it'll give him even more confidence with an already hot putter. Of course it could backfire and he could put a bunch of extra pressure on himself trying to do too much and prove his being picked was justified, but I don't see him going that direction.
Farrell Evans: Sneds just needs to keep playing golf. He's on a marathon pace right now with the highs of winning the FedEx Cup playoffs and the lows of seeing his teacher's son go through a difficult time after a serious car accident. I'm afraid that if the former U.S. Amateur Public Links champion tries to decompress before the start of the matches, he might lose some of the late-season edge that got him to Medinah. With $15 million in earnings in 2012, he can afford to take off the rest of the year after the Ryder Cup.
Bob Harig: It's a good boost of confidence. Snedeker beat all 11 Americans on the team and the five European players who were in Atlanta. And while Ryder Cup pressure is intense, so is playing for $10 million.
Kevin Maguire: For such an emotional guy, it'll be hard for Snedeker to come down from that high. That $10 million bonus will of course help in the future, but it's got to weigh on his mind right now. For an event that produces so much emotion like the Ryder Cup, it'll be difficult for Snedeker not to come in emotionally spent after his win at East Lake.
3. Give us one under-the-radar player who could make a big impact at Medinah.
Michael Collins: Nicolas Colsaerts. He was a captain's pick and he's the only rookie on the European squad. But this guy turned pro three days before European Tour Q-School and made it thru all three stages easily, so he can handle pressure. He's a bomber who can keep up with Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson while also having a personality that will make it easy for him to pair with anyone comfortably.
Farrell Evans: I can't think of an American player at Medinah under the radar more than Jason Dufner. The first-time Ryder Cupper didn't have a great playoffs, but he's a cool customer with a killer instinct. Dufner isn't likely to rile his teammates up with great speeches, but he's a two-time winner in 2012 whose steady play will get him plenty of attention.
Bob Harig: Martin Kaymer. The German has had a disappointing season and barely hung on to the last qualifying spot for Europe. Had he fallen out, there's a good chance he would not have been picked. But Ryder Cups are often filled with unsuspecting stars. Perhaps it is Kaymer this week.
Kevin Maguire: Keegan Bradley. Ryder Cup rookies aren't expected to carry much of the load, but Bradley has been overlooked his entire career. He's a three-time PGA Tour winner and major champion, so don't expect the St. John's product to be intimidated with the Ryder Cup pressure.
4. We won't hold you to it later in the week when we make our expert picks, but going into Ryder Cup week, who's your prediction to win at Medinah?
Michael Collins: I know I said two weeks ago that I thought the European Team had the advantage, but after talking to Captain DL III, I've changed my mind. I think the course not having rough will be a huge advantage to the U.S. squad, but I also think the crowd is going to play a bigger part than people are talking about. Chicago can be a tough place to play if you're the away team.
Farrell Evans: The U.S. won't win 16½-11½ like they did in 2008 at Valhalla, but I expect them to easily beat the Europeans. Rory McIlroy will have a hard time lifting his teammates to his level for three days.
Bob Harig: The Americans. The home-field advantage plus one of the most potent teams in a decade will be just enough to get past an equally loaded European team.
Kevin Maguire: Please don't revoke my citizenship, but I'm going with Europe. If not a single American has a winning Ryder Cup record, how do we expect them to come up with 14½ points at Medinah?
Plus the Europeans have only a single rookie on their squad -- Nicolas Colsaerts, who won the Volvo World Match Play earlier this year -- so he's clearly comfortable in the format. As for the Americans, one-third are newbies to the biennial matches, which doesn't bode well for a competition in which experience matters so much.