It seems like just yesterday that the Miracle at Medinah was unfolding, leaving European golf fans giddy with excitement and those from the USA…well…the less said about that the better!
Somehow two years have passed since then and the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles is just a matter of weeks away. The next few weeks then can rightly be viewed as crunch time for the players hoping to make their respective teams and with the 12 man teams from both sides of the pond starting to take some sort of shape, we thought now would be a good time to let you know who’s going to win…and just like the way it’s hard to look past Rory McIlroy for this week’s PGA Championship, developments in the American camp make it equally difficult to see anything other than a Team Europe win at Gleneagles!
1 – Tiger Woods
God only knows what’s going with Tiger’s body and his swing at the moment. One minute he’s barely able to walk after withdrawing from the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, the next he’s teeing it up at the PGA Championships at Valhalla.
And with regards his swing, maybe even God doesn’t know what’s going on there…Tiger certainly doesn’t. In fairness Woods is only a few weeks back playing after back surugery so perhaps it’s a little harsh to judge him so soon, but with barely a flash of the guy who won five tournaments last season, and with fat irons shots and a two-way miss going strong off the tee, it’s hard not to think “the Foley swing” is starting to hamper his game.
The general consensus is that if he’s fit, Tiger will get a wildcard pick from Tom Watson. Tiger doesn’t exactly have a stellar record at the Ryder Cup and last time Team USA won, Tiger was absent through injury.
Common sense would suggest Watson should leave Tiger out but therein lies another dilemma for the American Captain…who the hell else is there to turn to?
2 – Phil Mickelson
Phil the Thrill looks increasingly like he’ll need a wildcard pick from the skipper but, like Tiger, does he really deserve one?
Phil hasn’t even registered a top 10 finish on the PGA Tour this season so; despite his Hall of Fame status in the game, most of the Europeans will probably relish the sight of him standing across from them on the 1st tee at Gleneagles.
3 – Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson was one of the few Americans to emerge from the Miracle at Medinah – or the Catastrophe in Chicago depending on your point of view – with some credit to his name. The big hitting American won every one of his matches at Medinah and is certainly one of the most talented players the Americans have in their midst.
His long hitting power game would have suited the PGA Centenary course at Gleneagles as well, making his absence following his self-imposed break from the game, all the more damaging for the USA.
Surely he will be missed.
4 – World Rankings
As I write this, there’s not a single American in the Top 5 of the world rankings. There are four Europeans in there.
5 – Ian Poulter
Rory McIlroy might be world number one on paper, but when Gleneagles rolls around, Ian Poulter will no doubt go into Ryder Cup mode and assume his place as the game’s best player for that particular week.
Another four points please Poults…
6 – Home Advantage
While plenty of the Europeans now ply their trade on the PGA Tour, they still have far more experience of playing in questionable conditions than the Americans do. Scotland in September? We might be seeing a repeat of Celtic Manor 2010 when the Americans reportedly had to borrow waterproofs from Team Europe….seriously!
8 – More Injuries
Tiger isn’t the only American to be suffering with injuries as the Ryder Cup looms large.
Matt Kuchar and Jason Dufner both pulled out of the PGA Championship without even hitting a shot, citing back and neck pain as their respective ailments.
With Tiger and Phil not firing on all cylinders and Dustin Johnson not even playing, this pair would have been seen as valuable team members at Gleneagles.
Will they even be there at all is the more pertinent question following their withdrawal from the final major of the season.
9 – Experience
Jimmy Walker and Jordan Speith might have shown form throughout this season but neither have ever played in the Ryder Cup before. How will they cope with the pressure that comes with playing for their country? Who knows…what we do know is that the Europeans seem to relish it…
The only thing Team USA seem to have going for them at the moment is the form of Rickie Fowler – top five finishes at every major championship in 2014 is encouraging indeed for Tom Watson – and Jim Furyk.
Fowler should be worth a few points at Gleneagles but despite Furyk having played his way onto the team at the age of 44, he hasn’t posted a win on the PGA Tour since September 2010 and has been relatively ineffective at the past couple of Ryder Cups.
Other players such as Zach Johnson and Keegan Bradley aren’t exactly setting the world on fire but are seemingly better placed to perform at Gleneagles than many of their counterparts.