Ryder Cup 2014: how the teams line up, player by player
Team Europe are the favourites at Gleneagles – but under Tom Watson, the USA cannot be discounted
Well, Team Europe are the red hot favourites and it would be a surprise if they don’t retain the trophy they held on to in such dramatic style at Medinah two years ago. European golf is on a roll - with the last three Majors having been won by Europeans -and four Europeans are currently in the world’s top six.
But it would be folly to write off the United States’ chances. The very fact that they are the underdogs will reduce the pressure on the American players.
And while the US team is without two stars - Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson, the latter undefeated at Medinah – it does include players who have been performing very well in Majors this year, such as Rickie Fowler, who finished in the top five in all four Majors in 2014, and Bubba Watson, the US Masters winner.
Then there’s the experience of their captain Tom Watson, who was in charge the last time the US won the Ryder Cup on European soil in 1983.
Weather conditions could be decisive. If wet and windy weather does arrive, it should assist the Europeans.
And while some think Europe will win comfortably, it’s worth bearing in mind that Ryder Cups tend to go down to the wire. In the last 12 tournaments, just one point or less has separated the teams on seven occasions.
Let’s look at the teams, close-up and in alphabetical order:
Thomas Bjorn:The Dane is playing in his third Ryder Cup, but his first since 2002. He has enjoyed a renaissance over the last year or so and, if it is still close on Sunday, Bjorn should be one to rely on for at least half a point - he’s undefeated in his two previous RC singles matches.
Jamie Donaldson: The 38-year-old Welshman makes his Ryder Cup debut having sealed his automatic selection with victory in the Czech Masters. His Ryder Cup chance has come late in his career, but he’s in top form and his experience means he shouldn’t be overawed.
Victor Dubuisson: Another Ryder Cup debutant, the 24-year-old Frenchman has enjoyed a great 2014 and has posted top ten finishes in the last two Majors. He has a good temperament and should perform well.
Stephen Gallacher: The third debutant in Team Europe, and one of captain Paul McGinley’s three wild card picks (the others are Poulter and Westwood), the 29-year-old has been in good recent form. He’s the only Scot playing in this year’s tournament and while you could argue that will only add to the pressure on him, he does have an impressive record playing at Gleneagles, having posted seven top ten finishes here.
Sergio Garcia: The Spaniard still hasn’t won a Major but he’s been in terrific form in 2014, pushing Rory McIlroy close when he tied for second in the British Open in the summer. His Ryder Cup form (he’s played in six of them and won 16 of 28 matches) is a major positive for Europe.
Martin Kaymer: The cool-as-a-cucumber German holed the 6ft putt which sealed Europe’s dramatic comeback victory at Medinah two years ago and he’s a key player for the home team. He’s had a great first half of 2014, winning the Players Championship in May and then destroying the field in the US Open.
Graeme McDowell: The Ulsterman is playing in his fourth successive Ryder Cup and he’s proved a solid performer for Team Europe, having won five and halved two of his twelve matches. He says he doesn’t want to play four-balls with fellow Northern Ireland star Rory McIlroy, but as The Guardian reports, they are likely to retain their foursomes partnership.
Paul McGinley (non-playing captain): The Irishman played for Europe three times in the Ryder Cup, and three times Europe won – and, what’s more, in 2002 he was the man who holed the winning putt. To his credit, he has said that the US should not be underestimated: with McGinley at the helm, there should be no danger of over-confidence in the European camp.
Rory McIlroy: He comes here in superb form having won the last two Majors and four tournaments in the last five months. But can the world number one continue to work the magic at Gleneagles in match-play? There’s no reason why he shouldn’t and he’s shown in the last few months that he’s great at handling the pressure.
Ian Poulter: His game simply reaches a higher level when he takes part in the Ryder Cup. He has won 12 of his total 15 matches in the tournament - and his record in singles is an impeccable played four, won four. The man no American will want to be up against on Sunday.
Justin Rose: Another European with a great Ryder Cup record - he’s won six of the nine matches he’s played and is two out of two in the singles. This year’s Scottish Open winner – and the current world number six - is another ace in the European pack.
Henrik Stenson: The Swede is playing in his third Ryder Cup, but his first since 2008. Although he sank the winning putt in 2006, his overall record in the competition isn’t great, with just two wins from seven matches. But with four top-four finishes in the last six Majors he should fare better this time.
Lee Westwood: Playing in his ninth Ryder Cup, and with his experience and solid record in the event (he has won 18 and halved six of his 37 matches), it was no surprise that ‘Westy’ was one of captain McGinley’s three wild-card picks.
Keegan Bradley: The 28-year-old did really well in 2012 - his only previous Ryder Cup - winning three of his four matches and only losing to Rory McIlroy in the singles. Not hard to see why he’s one of captain Tom Watson’s three wild card picks.
Rickie Fowler: He’s been in great form in the Majors this year –though he didn’t win a match in his only previous Ryder Cup in 2010. However, he did though finish third in the WGC-Accenture Match Play earlier this year and the Americans will be banking on him picking up points.
Jim Furyk: The veteran has been in tremendous from in Majors this year, posting top-five finishes in both the British Open and the USPGA - a run which has seen him rise to number four in the world rankings. This will be his ninth successive Ryder Cup appearance but his record of 37 per cent total points won is disappointing given his talent and he did lose to Sergio Garcia in the final singles at Medinah in 2012, missing a 6ft par putt.
Zach Johnson: The 38-year-old is playing in his fourth Ryder Cup. He’s got quite a good record in the event, having won six of his 11 previous matches, and he held his nerve well to beat Graeme McDowell in the singles in Medinah. Likely to prove a tough opponent again.
Matt Kuchar: ‘Kuch’ has played in the last two Ryder Cups, collecting four points from seven matches. He might not be the man to rely on though in the final day singles - he lost to Ian Poulter five and four in 2010 and to Lee Westwood three and two in Medinah two years ago.
Hunter Mahan: He’s played in two previous Ryder Cups, but done better in the four-balls and foursomes than in singles, where he lost and halved his two matches. A wild-card pick by captain Tom Watson.
Phil Mickelson: ‘Leftie’ is playing in his record tenth consecutive Ryder Cup, but his stats in the event really aren’t anything to write home about: in singles, foursomes and four-balls he has lost more matches than he has won. Worryingly for the US, he’s also lost five of his last six final-day singles matches.
Patrick Reed: The 24-year-old Texan is making his Ryder Cup debut. He’s won two PGA tournaments this year - which helped him to qualify automatically for this - but only finished tied for 17thin his previous match play tournament and his lack of experience could count against him.
Webb Simpson: The 29-year-old, a wild-card pick by Tom Watson, won two and lost two in his only previous Ryder Cup at Medinah in 2012. Those two wins were in four-balls with Bubba Watson, and no doubt captain Tom Watson will try to put the pair together again at Gleneagles.
Jordan Spieth: The 21-year-old is another Ryder Cup rookie. He finished tied for second in the US Masters this year, but he’s another whose relative lack of match play experience could count against him.
Jimmy Walker: The 35-year-old has had a fine year on the PGA tour, winning three tournaments, but he’s on new ground here - it’s his first Ryder Cup.
Bubba Watson: He’s playing in his third Ryder Cup after his second US Masters win in three years helped propel him to the top of the points standings. He’s got a 50 per cent points-won record in the RC, but he did lose in the singles in both 2010 and 2012.
Tom Watson (non-playing captain): A golfing legend who has a great Ryder Cup record both as a player and a captain. He also likes it in Scotland: four of his five British Open wins came here and in 2009 he got agonisingly close to winning a sixth Open at Turnberry at the age of 59. Now 65 he’s the oldest Ryder Cup captain of all time, but his great experience can only be a plus.