2014 Ryder Cup Preview

This Friday marks the start of the 40th Ryder Cup in golf history. Team U.S.A. and Team Europe will square off in the sport’s ultimate bid for international supremacy when they take to the links on European soil at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland. Team U.S.A. leads the all-time series 25-12-2 but are 1-5 in the last six events.

The Americans are led by Tom Watson, who will serve as the team’s captain for the second consecutive competition. Team U.S.A., though certainly young, doesn’t lack in talent. Fan favorite Bubba Watson led all U.S. players in the 2014 points standings. Arguably the most consistent player of 2014 and a staple of this year’s team is Rickie Fowler, who posted top-five finishes in each major championship this year. 

Another key member of Team U.S.A. is Phil Mickelson. Although he had one of his worst seasons on tour this year, look for Phil to bring his A-game as well as some valuable experience to Gleneagles this weekend. Budding stars Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Jimmy Walker, each playing in their first Ryder Cup, need to play exceptionally well for the Americans to pull off the upset. Perennial staples of Team U.S.A. Jim Fuyrk, Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson round out the top nine players who automatically qualified for the team. Captain selections Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson were each selected by Watson largely as a result of their 2012 Ryder Cup competition experience. 

Team U.S.A. will be without super-star and 14-time major champion Tiger Woods. After being named the PGA Player of the Year in 2013, Woods went through a year filled with injury and lackluster performances on the course. Tiger removed himself from Ryder Cup considerations after missing the 2014 Fed-Ex Cup Playoffs because of his poor play and a nagging back injury. He says he will sideline himself from all competition until December when he will host the Hero World Challenge. Tiger’s experience will surely be missed, as he has participated in six Ryder Cups throughout his illustrious career.

The resounding favorite, Team Europe, is led by captain Paul McGinley, who hopes to help his squad defend home soil to win their third cup in a row. The team features the world’s number one ranked player and 2014 PGA Player of the Year, Rory McIlroy, who is coming off two major championships this season and will be able to

provide young leadership to the talented lineup.

Team Europe’s core includes Sergio Garcia of Spain, Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Justin Rose of England, all of whom are ranked in the top six of the world golf rankings. Jamie Donaldson and Victor Dubuisson, although lacking experience in Ryder Cup competition, add some exciting talent for the Europeans. Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell, the 2014 and 2010 US Open champions respectively, and Thomas Bjorn are the other three who automatically qualified.

McGinley’s three wildcard picks are Englishmen Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, who will be major components of the Europeans’ bid to win their 13th Ryder Cup, and Stephen Gallacher, who grew up just an hour South of Gleneagles in the the Scottish village

of Dechmont.

My prediction is that the U.S. will fair much better than the experts think they will. In 2012, the United States held a commanding lead going into Sunday singles and were defeated 14.5-13.5 late in the day as they watched the Europeans pop champagne on their home soil. Though seeing the Americans get their revenge in Scotland would be excellent, the firepower that the Europeans boast is too deadly for me to pick against them. With Rory McIlroy firing on all cylinders and the U.S. lacking significant experience, look for the Europeans to retain the cup by a comfortable margin on Sunday.