September 26th, 2018

Team America: Who’s Playing At The Ryder Cup

The American team, in theory, is a frightening prospect, they have six of the top 10 players in the world. Phil Mickelson is the only who sits outside the top 20 in the world. Furyk certainly has talent at his disposal this week.

The automatic qualifiers

Brooks Koepka

Brooks has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of the game. Winning 3 of the last seven majors, Captain Jim Furyk will be impressed with the resume Brooks brings to his side.

He enjoyed a successful debut in 2016 in an understated style golf fans have become accustomed to seeing. Unflustered, composed and confident, the American won 3 of his four matches including a dominant singles performance dispatching the then Masters champion, Danny Willet. I think Brooks will perform well with his training partner and good friend Dustin Johnson. They have very similar playing styles, the same coach and similar temperaments.

Brooks Koepka

Dustin Johnson

An ever-present player in the top 10 in the world for the best part of a decade, Johnson oozes class and is well equipped to become a modern great. When put into perspective, there are only two active members of the PGA Tour who have more wins than DJ, ironically, they are teammates Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

Dustin has a positive Ryder Cup record – in eleven matches played he has six wins and five losses. Notably, the former world number one is three from three from singles matches; this illustrates how hard he is to beat one on one. He has played in 3 Ryder Cups with his first overall win coming last time out; he will be hoping for victory this week.

Dustin Johnson

Justin Thomas

The talented 25-year-old will make his first appearance this year in the Ryder Cup. After missing out on a Captain’s pick in 2016, he was determined to qualify for the team in his own right. He did so in emphatic fashion, notching up eight victories to establish himself as an automatic qualifyer. Thomas was the only player to make the trip over to Le Golf National earlier in the year for French Open; this experience could make him an essential player for the US.

2017 was the year he cemented his place amongst golf’s elite; he seized his maiden major at the PGA and contributed to an American President’s Cup win. He played all five matches winning 3 and halving one. An excellent illustration in maturity that defies his youth and underlines his gameplay credentials. It would be foolish for Europe to take Thomas lightly.

Justin Thomas

Patrick Reed

Dubbed “Captain America”, the fiery player certainly lives up to his title. Spurred on in hostile atmospheres, Reed will relish the opportunity to take on the Europeans on their patch.

His Ryder Cup record is awe-inspiring, he was unbeaten on his debut developing a formidable partnership with Jordan Spieth. Overall his record is (Wins, Losses, Halves): 6-1-2. Bjorn will have his work cut out to silence the American’s big track record.

Patrick Reed.jpg

Bubba Watson

Bubba makes his return to the team after a vice-captaincy role in 2016. Frankly, his Ryder Cup record is terrible; in three previous outings, he has been on the losing side, each time with eight losses in eleven matches.

However, the lefty qualified automatically for Furyk’s side, notching up three victories on tour. He’ll hope to bring this new confidence and form to contribute to an American win, his first as an individual.

Bubba Watson

Jordan Spieth

By Jordan’s high standards, he has had an underwhelming 2018 season, failing to qualify for the end of season Tour Championship. Notably, he was the only player in the American team not to qualify for the event.

Like Reed, Spieth made his debut at Gleneagles in 2014. Critics believe he owes his successful Ryder Cup record to his partner Reed; although this may appear harsh, the stats do support their theory. Jordan is yet to contribute a point without Reed, suffering two defeats from two in Ryder Cup singles. Also, he is yet to win a singles match in the President’s Cup, losing three from three. Spieth will be hoping to prove he is more than Reed’s sidekick this week.

To many, it would appear foolish to split up Reed and Spieth. However, with Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth being childhood friends, and Spieth needing an added spark, could the Spieth /Reed dream team be split up?

jordan-spieth

Rickie Fowler

Fowler holds an accolade he wishes he didn’t. He is arguably the best player in the world right now yet to win a major. Fowler is respected by players and fans alike, they recognise his talent and consistency and if/when he wins a major, he’ll be a very popular winner.

At the age of 29, this will be his fourth Ryder Cup. In 2010, a fresh-faced Fowler played his first Ryder Cup event at Celtic Manor. He has a modest Ryder Cup record, winning just two of his 11 matches. However, after missing out on the 2012 Ryder Cup, he has earned at least a half in five of eight matches.

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Webb Simpson

Simpson had to reinvent himself after the anchored putter being banned. It was particularly harsh on Webb as he was one of the first to use the anchored method; the former US Open champ has shown resilience to find a plan that works for him. He qualified automatically for this year’s team primarily due to his win at the Players Championship.

His Ryder Cup record is modest. He has played in two events, both ending in American defeats. Watch out for the Simpson Watson duo as the two friends will look to renew their previous partnership.

Webb-Simpson

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The Captain’s Picks

Tiger Woods

One thing we can all agree on is that golf is in a better place with Tiger back. Despite being part of the previous two Ryder Cup’s as a Vice Captain, it was strange to see him walking the course as a mentor rather than a player.

Fresh off the back of a Tour Championship win last week, his first since 2013, Tiger could be a massive thorn in the European side. An interesting point about Tiger is that no one is sure that physically, can his body take 36 holes in a day? We could see restriction his playing time; on the other hand, this could ensure Tiger is fresh for every match he plays.

It will be Tiger’s eighth Ryder Cup. Considering he is one of the best players ever to walk this planet, his record doesn’t correlate to his immense ability. Perhaps his Ryder Cup issues have stemmed from an inability of previous Captain’s to find him a suitable partner. In theory, partnering Woods would be a dream proposition. However, the pressure of playing with Tiger surely outweighs the burdens of playing with any other partner – this could explain his record. This year, however, he seems rejuvenated at the prospect of playing with Bryson DeChambeau.

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Phil Mickelson

The 48-year-old brings a wealth of experience to the American team. However, the more pressing worry for Furyk and Team USA is not what he can bring off the course, but what can he bring on it? He has struggled to find form and consistency this season.

Similarly, to Tiger, Phil holds a modest Ryder Cup record by his high standards. They both have superior singles records in their career at team format. It is unclear who will partner Mickelson, coupled with his lack of form, could see his playing time restricted. I think he could partner debutant Finau in the fourballs; this could spark him into action.

One thing is for sure, Mickelson won’t lack motivation. When he plays, it will be his 12th Ryder Cup – an appearance stat not matched by any player in the history of the Ryder Cup. Mickelson has also never won on foreign soil despite being part of every squad since 1995. He’ll be desperate to play his best golf this week.

Phil Mickleson

Bryson DeChambeau

Bryson’s approach to golf has brought him success in 2018. An “in form” pick for the American side, Bryson comes into his first Ryder Cup filled with confidence. Over the recent FedEx Cup series, he won back to back titles to force his way into Furyk’s plans. Also, it wouldn’t have hurt his chances that Tiger was vocal, praising his game and eager to start a partnership with him.

With a strong mentality and repetitive golf game, he seems the type who will slot seamlessly into the loud atmosphere of the Ryder Cup. Aged just 25, this could be the first of many Ryder Cups for Bryson.

Bryson DeChambeau

Tony Finau

There are few who would begrudge Finau that final pick; the athletic American has enjoyed a successful 2018, peaking at the right time to make him a certainty for the team. He has finished in the top 10 in 6 of his last ten events on tour.

He seems in the mould of Koepka and Johnson – aggressive, powerful and calm- an undoubtedly successful recipe for a Ryder Cup player. His style seems made for the fourball format; his mistakes won’t be too penalised, whereas his ability to score birdies in waves will make him a considerable danger to the European side.

Tony Finau

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