Davis Love, Jose Maria Olazabal Taking Star-Studded Teams to Medinah
Captain's Pick Brandt Snedeker
Davis Love III had to have a feeling of sweet vindication watching one of his captain's picks, Brandt Snedeker, walk off with the FedExCup after winning the Tour Championship. But a more important Cup is up for grabs this week, and Snedeker could provide the difference between a U.S. win and another year of heartbreak at the hands of a driven European squad.
This much is certain: A dazzling array of talent will be on display at Medinah Sept. 28-30.
Undoubtedly, Europe considers itself the favorite, but remember this: The U.S. team can claim 23 major championships among its team members (granted, 14 of them are from one man), while Europe claims only five. But as the Euros have made clear over the last three decades, this is their true major.
Plus, the Euro side holds the edge in experience — they're bringing only one Ryder Cup rookie with them (Nicolas Colsaerts), while the U.S. side will have four Ryder Cuppers making their maiden voyages in the most tense and rancorous environment in golf.
Here, then, then are the two teams, with previous Ryder Cup appearances and all-time Cup records:
European Ryder Cup Team Average World Ranking: 18.9
Total Majors Won: 5
Luke Donald ('04, '06, '10) 8-2-1 World Ranking: 3
The former World No. 1 has the Ryder Cup record to back up his lofty ranking. This is his major; he'll be ready to play.
Sergio Garcia ('99, '02, '04, '06, '08) 14-6-4 World Ranking: 19
Sergio's Ryder Cup record is above reproach. Will the golf gods smile on him this week?
Peter Hanson ('10) 1-2 World Ranking: 25
Hanson doesn't offer much in terms of Ryder Cup experience or reputation, but his game speaks for itself.
Martin Kaymer ('10) 2-1-1 World Ranking: 32
He hasn’t had a top-10 since April and is considered the “weak link’’ on this team. How will he be used and will he be effective?
Paul Lawrie ('99) 3-1-1 World Ranking: 28
The 1999 British Open champ has seen a career resurgence of late. He could be a surprising catalyst for the Euros.
Graeme McDowell ('08, '10) 4-2-2 World Ranking: 18
McDowell clinched the Cup for the Euros last time out with his singles win over Hunter Mahan. He'll be an anchor again.
Rory McIlroy ('10) 1-1-2 World Ranking: 1
He’s won two majors since his only Ryder Cup appearance, and now is expected to be a force on the European team.
Francesco Molinari ('10) 0-2-1 World Ranking: 31
Molinari won't have his brother as a partner this time around, but his streaky game could prove valuable in bursts this weekend.
Justin Rose ('08) 3-1 World Ranking: 5
Rose is playing well, finishing second at the Tour Championship. Surprisingly, this is only his second Ryder Cup experience.
Lee Westwood ('97, '99, '02, '04, '06, '08, '10) 16-11-6 World Ranking: 4
Westwood limps into Medinah after a somewhat disappointing season. But this is his stage. Expect solid play from the European stalwart.
Captain Picks Nicolas Colsaerts (Ryder Cup Rookie) World Ranking: 35
The only rookie on the European team, Colsaerts is an amazingly long hitter who can also putt. He won the Volvo Match Play and the only question about him is how he handles his first Ryder Cup.
Ian Poulter ('04, '08, '10) 9-2 World Ranking: 26
Poulter provides the cocky edge for the European side. He'll be the guy the American crowd will love to hate.
U.S. Ryder Cup Team Average World Ranking: 12.2
Total Majors Won: 23
Keegan Bradley (Ryder Cup Rookie) World Ranking: 14
Bradley's personal quirks and slow play could get in the heads of his opponents. That's a good thing.
Jason Dufner (Ryder Cup Rookie) World Ranking: 9
Many people probably aren't expecting much out of Dufner in his Ryder Cup debut. I'm not one of those people. The guy can roll with the punches.
Zach Johnson ('06, '10) 3-3-1 World Ranking: 17
His ability to roll the rock is key, as putting has typically been a sore spot on the U.S. side.
Matt Kuchar ('10) 1-1-2 World Ranking: 15
Kuchar has lurked under the radar at times, but he could prove to be a stalwart for Team Love.
Phil Mickelson ('95, '97, '99, '02, '04 '06, '08, '10) 11-17-6 World Ranking: 16
Like Woods, Mickelson is important because of his long history of playing on U.S. teams and will be looked on to serve as a mentor to young players such as Bradley and Simpson.
Webb Simpson (Ryder Cup Rookie) World Ranking: 8
How will Simpson hold up in the pressure cooker of the Ryder Cup? If his U.S. Open performance is any indication, he'll do just fine.
Bubba Watson ('10) 1-3 World Ranking: 7
Bubba will provide the emotion that the U.S. team has sometimes lacked.
Tiger Woods ('97, '99, '02, '04, '06, '10) 13-14-2 World Ranking: 2
More than ever, Woods needs to be a force on a U.S. team that is lacking experience.
Captain's Picks Dustin Johnson ('10) 1-3 World Ranking: 13
DJ's a bit of a wild card. He's probably the most talented guy on either team, capable of stunning brilliance but also subject to the occasional loose swing.
Jim Furyk ('97, '99, '02, '04, '06, '08, '10) 8-15-4 World Ranking: 23
Furyk has struggled at times this season — losing a lead at the U.S. Open in surprising fashion — and will feel pressure to justify DL3's faith in him.
Steve Stricker ('08, '10) 3-3-1 World Ranking: 12
Stricker provides a steady hand, a mature presence and a capable flatstick for the U.S. side.
Brandt Snedeker (Ryder Cup Rookie) World Ranking: 10
The newly minted FedExCup champion is the world's best putter at the moment, a skill that always comes in handy in the heated match play environment of the Ryder Cup.
Webb Simpson is our national champion, and contrary to the naysayers who'll claim he backed into it, a 68-68 weekend on one of the toughest golf courses in U.S. Open history is the definition of earning it.
Simpson, who was six shots off the lead when Saturday dawned, was the only player to break par in both of the final two rounds on his way to posting a 1-over 281, although he had to sweat out a birdie putt on 18 by Graeme McDowell before claiming his third career PGA Tour win and first major championship. The 26-year-old Simpson was playing in only his second U.S. Open, and at a tournament where par is gold, it took a delicate par save on 18 to seal the win. Simpson chipped to four feet from a gnarly greenside lie, then coaxed in a ticklish slider to close his 68.
McDowell and playing partner Jim Furyk both had plenty of golf left to play when Simpson posted his number, and while McDowell was able to get close with a birdie at 17 and a makeable birdie look at 18, Furyk squandered what might prove to be his last best chance to win a second major, failing to make a birdie during his final-round 74 and bogeying three of his final six holes.
And thus ends Northern Ireland's two-year stranglehold on America's championship; McDowell won at Pebble Beach two years ago, and Rory McIlroy dominated at Congressional in 2011.
Some proclaimed that the tournament was over after Tiger Woods' 69-70 start gave him a share of the 36-hole lead. Thankfully, I wasn't one of them — but I thought it. Unfortunately, Tiger's comeback remains a work in progress. His 75-73 weekend is one of the bitterest disappointments of his career, but Olympic Club's fearsome sextet of opening holes deserve much of the credit. Tiger bogeyed three of the first six on Saturday on his way to a crushing 75, and he played the opening six holes at 6-over on Sunday. For the tournament, the field was more than 1,000 strokes over par on holes 1-6. Brutal.
Jim Furyk is in position to win his second U.S. Open crown.
He may be boring, but never, ever go to sleep on Jim Furyk. Especially at a U.S. Open.
Furyk put himself in great position to win his second U.S. Open championship with another steady, occasionally spectacular round at the Olympic Club. After offsetting two bogeys with two birdies during an even-par opening-round 70, Furyk did himself one better, knocking home three birdies with only two bogeys for a second-round 69 while the rest of the field was leaking oil like the Deepwater Horizon. If slow and steady win the race, consider Furyk a contender; they don't come much steadier.
Shockingly, the 2010 FedExCup champion is looking for his first top-10 finish in a major since the 2009 Masters, a string of 12 majors. Contending when the lights are brightest has historically been the norm for Furyk, who has 17 other top 10s in majors in addition to his U.S. Open win. A second Open would give him 17 career wins on the PGA Tour and likely punch his ticket for the Hall of Fame. Not bad for a guy whose swing defies convention — description, even.
Furyk won the 2003 Open at Olympia Fields by three shots, dominating the weekend in posting 8-under. No one will approach those numbers this year at a daunting Olympic track that is chewing up the world's best players and spitting them out like sunflower shells. Among the casualties was defending champion Rory McIlroy, who looked as if his mind was somewhere else (perhaps on girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki) as he limped around Olympic with rounds of 77 and 73.
Also missing the cut: World No. 1 Luke Donald, who continues to shrink from the big moments in majors and posted a disappointing 79-72.
Here's a factoid for you: Sectional qualifier Casey Martin, he of the congenital illness, high-profile court case and cart usage, beat both the World No. 1 (Donald) and World No. 2 (McIlroy). Martin finished Friday's round at 9-over. Funny game, golf.