The Ryder Cup returns to US soil this week and even though the tournament is back in the States, the Cup itself hasn’t called America home in eight years. While Davis Love III has compiled an impressive roster of Yanks to challenge for the Ryder Cup, the European team is as dominant as ever and, if 2012 and 2014 hadn’t made it clear, will fearlessly compete no matter the leaderboard standings. So, can the Americans reclaim the title at Hazeltine?
That’s US Ryder Cup captain, Davis Love III, talking about the selection criteria for the 2016 team during a Town Hall at SiriusXM last month. Love III put a tremendous emphasis on empirical evidence with regards to putting, proximity to the cup and “clutchness” for this year’s squad. With those explicit specifications, Love III and the other captains went with a team that blends precision, power and finesse. Additionally, the selections are a very healthy blend of experienced veterans –notably, Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar– with Mickelson in particular covering all the touch points on an imaginary Venn diagram of “putting, proximity to the cup, clutchness and veteran leadership.” Mickelson is one of the very few Yankee duffers to have claimed a Ryder Cup title as he was on both the 1999 and 2008 title teams. Beyond Lefty and Kuchar, the roster is full of some of the best young stateside golfers in the PGA. Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and the surprising captain’s choice Ryan Moore lead one of the most promising US Ryder Cup teams since arguably the star-crossed 2012 squad that squandered a massive lead during the Meltdown at Medinah.
Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota presents the players with something a little strange and definitely a little challenging. It has the distance to approximate Medinah’s legendarily tough drives, a length that’s only compounded if a brutal wind comes in off the high prairies of the Dakotas and western Minnesota. Then there are the water hazards, Hazeltine lives up to Minnesota’s “10,000 Lakes” reputation with ample opportunities to sink a shot right into the drink on any number of holes. Still, it is as Love III told the New York Times recently, “a very fair course.” Challenging as it may be, the hazards, the distance and the cursed winds hit all the players and steely putting and focused iron play can afford anyone a decent shot at par (or better), particularly with the groundskeepers trimming the course’s thick rough down to a very playable three inches for the Ryder Cup.
Unfortunately, in spite of a rebuilt roster with plenty of talent on the US side, there’s just too much experience and more importantly talent on the European team to best against the Euros this year. Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson bring an incredible blend of talent, seasoned experience and many, many, many international victories. To say nothing of what the red-hot Danny Willet and Chris Wood can bring to the team. The US will have to wait until 2018 for another crack at claiming back the Ryder Cup.
Catch every round of the 2016 Ryder Cup on SiriusXM Ryder Cup Radio. Live coverage begins on Friday and continues through the weekend on Ch. 208 (Sirius) and XM 93.
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