Can The Americans
Take Back Ryder Cup?

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Which team will win the Ryder Cup?

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EUROPE
TEAM USA

Expect winning ways to continue

Wojciechowski By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN.com
Archive

MEDINAH, Ill. -- For the record, Riles had the first pick in our Ryder Cup draft and he took Team USA. Very cagey on his part. He gets to be Captain America and I get stuck explaining an uncomfortable truth:

Team Europe is going to win.

I'm certainly not rooting against the Americans, but how can you objectively look at this matchup and think Team USA is going to be showering in champagne late Sunday? How can you crunch the numbers and somehow come up with a home team victory?

Answer: You can't.

The Europeans have won six of the past eight Ryder Cups. They've won huge (in 2006, 2004). They've won small (2010, 2002, 1997, 1995). They've won over there (2010, 2006, 2002, 1997). They've won over here (2004, 1995).

They've got the best golfer on the planet -- Rory McIlroy. Greg Norman says he's so good that he intimidates the second best player in the world, Tiger Woods.

Actually, I think the only things that bother Tiger are camera shutters, TMZ and male pattern baldness. So I'm not buying what Norman is selling. But put it this way: McIlroy isn't intimidated by Woods, or any member of Team USA. And that probably goes for most, if not all, of Team Europe's players.

If you're European captain Jose Maria Olazabal, your head hits the pillow each night knowing that Team USA doesn't have a player with a winning Ryder Cup record. Not Tiger. Not Phil Mickelson. Not anybody on the 12-man roster.

Team Europe has eight players with winning records, including Sergio Garcia (14-6-4), who suddenly remembers how to putt whenever a Ryder Cup rolls around. And the only thing louder than Ian Poulter's clothes is his play during the Cup. He's 8-3-1, unbeaten in singles and generally acts like somebody plunged an adrenalin needle into his heart.

Luke Donald is 8-2-1 overall. Lee Westwood is 16-11-6. And nobody on Team USA is in a hurry to see Graeme McDowell's name (4-2-2) on the daily pairings sheet.

Did I mention that Team USA has four rookies on its team? Team Europe has just one -- Nicolas Colsaerts, and he just happens to hit the ball longer than anybody in the field.

Experience matters in the Ryder Cup. A lot. One-third of the Team USA roster has never stood on the first tee of a Ryder Cup match and experienced the sheer terror and pressure of playing in this event. Nothing against Webb Simpson and his Presidents Cup appearance, but it's not the Ryder Cup.

The Europeans have four players (McIlroy, Donald, Westwood and Martin Kaymer) who know what it's like to be the No. 1-ranked player in the world. Team USA has one (Woods).

The Europeans live for the Ryder Cup. So does their captain. Olazabal had a career 18-8-5 record in the Cup and was part of the first European team to win on American soil (1987). So he's not going to be flustered by the pro-USA crowds at Medinah. Nor will his team.

This is going to be close. Very close.

The "Medinah Maulers," as Riles calls Team USA (sounds like someone I know has already applied for a copyright and purchased a silk-screening machine), are formidable. On paper, it could be one of the strongest teams the USA has had.

But Olazabal didn't just fall off the golf cart. He isn't going to back down to DLIII, or to this being an away game. You don't think he has a plan, too?

I'll give Riles this much: the Medinah crowds will be fully engaged come Sunday. No Bears game that day; they play Monday night.

I won't be surprised if Team USA wins. But I'm still going with the defending champs, barely. A 14½-13½ finish sounds about right.

These are the facts. And sorry, but not even Captain America can refute them.

Home cooking rules the day

Reilly By Rick Reilly
ESPN.com
Archive

MEDINAH, Ill. -- Gene Wojciechowski has been my best friend for 33 years. But after hearing him say the Europeans will win the Ryder Cup in Chicago this week, I'm calling Homeland Security.

Turning on Davis Love III's Medinah Maulers? Maybe the best American team ever put together? A team that includes 10 of the top 16 ranked players in the world? What'd he do, buy a time share in Oslo?

Yes, Europe has three of the top four ranked players in the world, but two of them shrink like O.J.'s glove under pressure. Lee Westwood (No. 4) just finished 25 shots behind at the FedEx Cup final Sunday. And Luke Donald (No. 3) has the heart of Luke Skywalker when the big light is off and Donald Duck when it's on.

And yes, the Euros have the hottest player in the world in Rory McIlroy, but the idea that Tiger Woods would be "intimidated" by him? Please. Tiger Woods is intimidated by no man. Ex-wife, maybe. Man? No.

Captain Love (great porn name, by the way) has set up Medinah for bombers and birdie bangers, so the USA has a monster advantage. This team has three guys who hit it longer than a bad Russian novel -- Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson. And it has six of the top eight birdie makers on the PGA Tour.

Europe? Two of the top eight.

With Paul Azinger cracking the Why Can't The USA Win These Things? dilemma in 2008 with his ingenious "pod system," this team is together and powerful. And can we clear up this bull that there's tension between Woods and Phil Mickelson? Maybe years ago. But they've played on 13 Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams together now. They're partners in team-room Ping-Pong matches. They give each other good-natured crap.

"Like, I'll come in after a round and say, 'What'd you shoot?'" Mickelson says. "'Please say 72 or higher.' We have fun with it."

Woods is only a few holed putts from being his old trophy-hoarding self. (Can somebody PLEASE tell him to go back to the Scotty Cameron putter?) He'll be a cat trapped in a dairy at Medinah, the place where he won two PGA Championships. He won three times this year alone and was right there in two majors until he collapsed the fourth day. But here's the beautiful thing: The Ryder Cup is a three-day tournament.

And yes, America has four rookies compared to Europe's one, but two -- Bradley and Simpson -- won majors within the past two years.

And how about that fourth rookie, Jason Dufner? Yes, he shows all the emotion of an Easter Island statue. That's the same face you'll see when he beats you 4 and 3.

The only weak link is Jim Furyk, who hasn't won the past two years, but as long as Love doesn't play him more than once a day, he'll be fine. After all, those energy drinks are only good for five hours.

Now let's look at Geno's unbeatable European team.

Paul Lawrie? Really? He's still playing golf? I see he won the Qatar Masters. Who'd he beat, three camels?

Nicolas Colsaerts? Isn't he the pastry chef on Top Chef Belgium?

Martin Kaymer, the weakest world No. 1 since Jimmy Carter?

Peter Hanson? He'll need ID to get in the team room.

True, Europe has some strong players -- McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose, especially. And Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter go from whiners to whackers at these things, holing putts like they're aiming at kiddie pools. But this American team finally has some putters, too. Brandt Snedeker is the No. 1 putter on the PGA Tour and if he can keep his backstroke from bumping against the $11.4M in his wallet, he'll be fine. Steve Stricker putts the way Monet painted, and Matt Kuchar's putting borders on the occult, too.

Home teams have won the past three Ryder Cups, don't forget, and Chicago fans are not afraid to razz visiting dignitaries. This is the home of the Cubs. That's sometimes all they have.

All of which comes out to USA 15, Europe 13, all-night beer blast on Rush Street, and Geno taking a job covering soccer for the Stockholm Shopper.