Forecasting the 2016 Ryder Cup: February 9th
At the end of September, Davis Love III will lead twelve of the best American golfers in the world against Darren Clarke’s European side in the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. The biennial event has been incredibly one sided in recent years, with Europe winning the last three events and eight of the last ten. What happened in golf the last time the Americans won a Ryder Cup?
- Anthony Kim won two PGA Tour events, finished sixth on the money list and was a rookie on the Ryder Cup team.
- Kenny Perry, Camilo Villegas, Stewart Cink and Justin Leonard were also in the top ten on the money list.
- The major winners that year? Trevor Immelman, Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington twice.
So you know, it’s been a while. The good news for the United States is that they’re actually a slight betting favourite right now thanks to a crop of talented young players that should inject some life into the squad. The Europeans are looking wildly different right now too, with many of their established names having struggled over the seventeen months since their triumph at Gleneagles. When I appeared on the No Laying Up podcast last month, I mentioned that I couldn’t talk Chris Solomon out of the hype around the Americans, and while I still can’t really do that, I’m starting to come around on the Europeans.
So, just like I did in 2014, I’m going to give some thoughts on the current rosters, as well as the players who are sitting on the bubble and I’ll end off by giving my captain’s picks. I know it’s a little early to be doing this, but watching this progress over the year is going to be interesting and when major changes hit, I’ll be sure to publish new posts.
Before we get started, it’s worth noting that the criteria for captain’s picks has changed for 2016. Love will select four players to join his eight automatic entries, while Clarke will pick three to augment his nine qualifiers. Further information on the qualifying process can be found here for the United States, here for Europe and as always, you can click on the individual players to see expanded match play records.
|Team USA||Ryder Cup Singles Record||Ryder Cup Team Record||Current Points|
- Unlike previous years, you have to really be looking to nitpick to find something overly wrong with the group Davis Love has lined up. I’m not sure that there’s ever been a better mix of youth and experience, at least not in recent times, than the group you see above.
- You have a perfect mix of length and touch, especially with how far Fowler is hitting the ball these days, and having rejuvenated versions of Snedeker, Mickelson and Dufner is huge.
- When you look back at what went wrong for the Americans in 2014, a big part of why they failed was that Tom Watson wasn’t dealing with a full roster to begin with. Tiger, Stricker and Dufner were all out with injury, but the biggest loss of that whole group was probably Dustin Johnson, who was on his leave of absence/suspension/sabbatical/whatever and it killed them. Gleneagles set up perfectly for Johnson, and it’s really, really easy to picture him running right over the Europeans if he had the opportunity to go. This is a big addition.
- Kevin Kisner being the only rookie is in stark contrast to the Europeans below, and unlike some of the other rookies we’ve seen in the past, I don’t think Kisner is going to be bothered at all by the spotlight. He seems made for the event.
- It’s utterly laughable to see the gap in points between Spieth and DJ.
On The Bubble
- Guys on the immediate bubble: Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, J.B. Holmes, Bubba Watson, Kevin Na, Bill Haas and Kevin Streelman.
- Other big names and their current place: Matt Kuchar (18th), Jim Furyk (19th), Jimmy Walker (20th) Billy Horschel (21st), Webb Simpson (22nd), Hunter Mahan (26th), Tony Finau (27th), Keegan Bradley (37th), Justin Thomas (42nd), Tiger Woods (58th) and Steve Stricker (59th).
My Captain’s Picks
To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot of thinking to be done here with at least the first three names. Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka and Bubba Watson are no brainers and unless they’re hurt when the event starts, I’d be shocked if they didn’t make the team. The last selection is a little more complicated, but if I had to go with someone right now, I’d lean towards Kevin Na. He’s good at getting himself out of trouble, which is great considering how aggressive he usually is, and he’s a very reliable putter. Throw in the fact that he’s a little crazy, and that his slow play would probably frustrate the hell out of the Europeans, and you have someone who you would think is an ideal fit for the Ryder Cup.
|Team Europe||Ryder Cup Singles Record||Ryder Cup Team Record|
- As I mentioned at the top, there’s one thing that jumps out immediately about the Europeans and that’s the complete lack of experience on the roster right now. Players like Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell haven’t exactly been lighting it up since Gleneagles, so there’s bound to be some new faces at Hazeltine, but that’s not a bad thing at all.
- Danny Willett is a stud that just keeps getting better every week. He’s up to 11th in the OWGR and seems like the epitome of a guy who is just going to grind you down at an event like the Ryder Cup. The same goes for Andy Sullivan, who has a great short game and is by far the most intense player of the nine on the roster right now. If you’re looking at someone to be the “next Ian Poulter” for Europe, Sullivan is your guy.
- Matthew Fitzpatrick is the best young player in the world that no one is talking about, and should be a fixture on these teams for years to come. He’s the perfect person to match up with one of the more veteran players, like Justin Rose, to get him a feel for what to expect.
- Love seeing Thorbjorn Olesen get back into the mix after struggling a bit with the switch to Nike a few years ago. If he can stay on track, he adds a lot to the team. The same can be said for Pieters and Wood, two bombers at the end of the lineup who can overpower any course that gets put in front of them.
- Rory, Rose and Stenson are obviously the headliners and will be looked on to lead the team, regardless of who else ends up making it. I’d take my chances with those three guys against anyone that the Americans throw out.
On The Bubble
- Guys on the immediate bubble: Victor Dubuisson, Kristoffer Broberg, Lee Slattery, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Soren Kjeldsen and Lucas Bjerregaard.
- Other big names and their current place: Ross Fisher (14th Euro list, 19th World), Shane Lowry (16th Euro list, 20th world), Bernd Wiesberger (17th Euro list, 21st World), Martin Kaymer (20th Euro list, 22nd World), Ian Poulter (26th Euro list, 33rd World), Francesco Molinari (27th Euro list, 47th World), Joost Luiten (29th Euro list, 27th World), Jamie Donaldson (35th Euro list, 16th World), Luke Donald (36th Euro list, 46th World), Lee Westwood (38th Euro list, 28th World), Sergio Garcia (43rd Euro list, 18th World) and Graeme McDowell (64th Euro list, 17th World).
My Captain’s Picks
As tempting as it is to take a big hitter like Lucas Bjerregaard and as much as it pains me to leave off someone like Martin Kaymer, I think the European selections here are pretty simple. The only way that Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia are not at Hazeltine in September is if they’re hurt, or if they fall off the face of the earth Ty Tryon style. They’re going and they should. The last pick goes to Shane Lowry, who is an incredibly confident and intense player with some of the best hands you’ll see. Much like Kisner, he has that Ryder Cup feel to him and I think he’d be a great addition.
Ultimately, I still think the advantage lies with the Americans, but it’s not as one sided as I initially believed. Final look on February 9th:
|Team USA||Team Europe|
|Jordan Spieth||Rory McIlroy|
|Dustin Johnson||Andy Sullivan|
|Brandt Snedeker||Danny Willett|
|Zach Johnson||Matthew Fitzpatrick|
|Rickie Fowler||Henrik Stenson|
|Kevin Kisner||Justin Rose|
|Phil Mickelson||Thorbjorn Olesen|
|Jason Dufner||Thomas Pieters|
|Patrick Reed||Chris Wood|
|Brooks Koepka||Sergio Garcia|
|Bubba Watson||Ian Poulter|
|Kevin Na||Shane Lowry|