MEDINAH, Ill. — Considering the collective talent amassed on the European and U.S. teams, the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club shouldn’t disappoint.
All 24 Ryder Cup players are ranked in the top 35 in the world, including the top five in Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose.
“I think both teams are pretty much even and it’s going to be a close match,” European Ryder Cup Team Captain Jose Maria Olazabal said. “From that point of view, I don’t see any favorites.”
While Europe boasts four of those top five players in the world, the U.S. has seven major champions on its roster to four for Europe.
The U.S. team has four Ryder Cup rookies, but unlike 2010 when young rookie Rickie Fowler had yet to win on the PGA Tour, the new U.S. faces are extremely accomplished.
Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley are major champions, Brandt Snedeker just won the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup title Sunday, and Jason Dufner has won twice this year, was a runner-up in the 2011 PGA Championship and is ranked in the top 10 in the world.
“They may be rookies here at the Ryder Cup, but they’re major championship winners, they’re FedExCup winners, they’re veterans,” U.S. captain Davis Love III said. “. . . So I think that’s the difference is they’ve done a lot, they’ve played a lot of great golf, and they’re really comfortable, confident guys. It doesn’t look like rookies versus veterans or picks versus guys that made it [on points].”
Europe has won six of the past eight Ryder Cups and either gained or retained the cup in nine of the past 13 matches. That run came after the U.S. went 21-3-1 in the matches that began in 1927 and included all of Europe rather than just Great Britain beginning in 1979.
The European success is reflected in the personal records of its team members. While eight members of the European team have winning individual Ryder Cup records, not a single member of the U.S. squad has a mark above .500.
Eight U.S. players will try to improve upon their records in the morning foursome (alternate shot) matches.
The first match at 7:20 a.m. (8:20 a.m. Eastern) features Americans Jim Furyk and Snedeker against McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. “We like the way both of them have been playing lately,” Love said of his opening pairing. “Order-wise there was not a whole lot of rhyme or reason to it except for maybe pace of play, we wanted to get Brandt going. Brandt likes to get out there and get after it, so he was a good one to lead off.”
The second match features Americans Phil Mickelson and Bradley, who regularly play practice rounds together, against the most formidable foursomes team in the event in Englishman Luke Donald and Spaniard Sergio Garcia at 7:35 a.m.
They have a combined record in foursomes of 14-0-1, as Donald is 6-0 and Garcia is 8-0-1. “Sergio and Luke have an unbelievable record,” Bradley said. “They are both legends in the Ryder Cup, and I think it’s going to be fun for me and Phil to go up against them.”
Olazabal wanted his team to come out with a bang, and wasn’t afraid of being top heavy with the best player in the world and 2010 U.S. Open champion in the first match, and the tournament’s two best foursomes players in the second.
“We are not hiding anything,” Olazabal said. “We are not second-guessing here. We are just going out and try to win points, period, that’s it. That’s the only way I see we might have a chance of winning this event. We have to go for it.”
Americans Dufner and Zach Johnson will face Westwood and Francesco Molinari in the third match at 7:50 a.m. Molinari, ranked 31st in the world, may be the surprise pick of the morning matches.
“When you look at Francesco’s game, he’s a steady player,” Olazabal said. “He very rarely misses a shot. He’s straight off the tee. He hits good iron shots. And that’s pretty much what you look for when you are playing foursomes.”
The anchor team for the U.S. is Steve Stricker and Woods, who will take on Englishmen Ian Poulter and Rose at 8:05 a.m.
Woods and Stricker began their international team match partnership by winning their first six matches, but in their past two matches in the Ryder and Presidents cups they’ve been trounced by the shocking scores of 6 and 5 against Lee Westwood and Luke Donald two years ago and 7 and 6 against Adam Scott and K.J. Choi last year.
“They have won a lot of matches, too, in both international competitions,” Love said. “… They wanted to play together and they have done pretty well together, so I’m going to let them go.”
Sitting in the morning for the U.S. are Coastal Carolina alumnus and former Myrtle Beach resident Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar, who are a probable pairing for the afternoon fourball (best ball) matches, as well as Simpson and Bubba Watson.
“We had a tough decision, and it wasn’t who to send out, it was who to sit down,” Love said. “I had to talk to four of my guys and somehow come up with a rational explanation of why they weren’t going to play. … I’ve got four of the best players in the world that love this golf course sitting on the bench, and I’m going to have to get them in the game.”
Held out of action in the morning by Olazabal are Nicolas Colsaerts, Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer and Paul Lawrie.
The teams have been at Medinah since Sunday night or Monday, and have taken part in dinners, functions, galas, speeches, interviews, practice rounds, practice sessions, and ceremonial pomp and circumstance. It’s finally time for golf.
“The closer we get to that [first tee shot], obviously the more excitement you feel, the more pressure, the more tension,” Olazabal said. “I think Friday morning is going to be amazing. It’s going to be loud. Well, that’s the beauty of this event. That’s why this event is what it is.”
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.