There’s no denying that people across the world love the team aspect of sports. Even in a sport such as professional golf, which is predominantly individually based, once every two years the Ryder Cup matches captivate the golf world.

The matches which started in 1927 were dominated by the United States, which held an 18-3-1 advantage over the first 50 years of  the event. However, Europe has turned the tide since then, going 10-8-1 and winning or retaining the Cup 8 times over the last 11.

Winning the last Ryder Cup on USA solid, the USA behind captain Jim Furyk looks to repeat for the first time since winning in 1991 and 1993.  Thomas Bjorn heads a strong team for Europe looking to regain the Cup. So what can be expected at Le Golf National, Albatros Course in France from September 28 – 30? Let’s take a closer look at the teams.

Team Europe

Justin Rose

Rose comes in ranked fourth in the world. The 38 year old coming off an Olympic golf in Rio has nine top 10 finishes this season in 16 events with one win. No stranger to the Ryder Cup, Rose has an 11-6-2 record in four appearances. He’s as solid and as steady as they come and a great number one man for Team Europe.

Jon Rahm

A native of Spain, the 24 year-old is making his first Ryder Cup appearance. While only having turned pro two seasons ago, Rahm reached as high as number two in the World Golf Rankings. He’s won twice this season and have five top 10’s in 18 events. However, at times he shows inconsistency, as his four missed cuts indicates.

Rory McIlroy

It’s a bit hard to believe that McIlroy is in the doorstep of 30 years old. Now a wily veteran, McIlroy has now embraced this event that he once called an “exhibition”.   When dialed in, McIlroy is nearly impossible to beat, however he’s had several off weeks, showing by his four missed cuts in 16 events. However, the four time Major winner found the winners circle this season and has a solid 9-6-4 record in four Ryder Cup appearances.

Paul Casey

Ranked 16th in the world, Casey has regained form to become one of the top players in the world.  He’s had a solid season, posting a win and five top 10 finishes in 18 events. The 41-year old veteran has played in three Ryder Cups, posting a record of 3-2-4.

Francesco Molinari

Molinari rose to the top of the standings after winning the Open Championship.  The 35 year old from Italy has had an excellent overall season, winning three times.  Always an excellent ball striker, his putting will determine his success or failure from week to week.  He looks to turn around an 0-3-2 Ryder Cup record.

Tommy Fleetwood

Playing on a very comfortable venue, Fleetwood won last year and Le Golf National.  The Englishman is making his first Ryder Cup appearance after winning the European Tour’s order of merit a season ago. He’s topped it off with a win and five top ten finishes this season.

Ian Poulter

Although Poulter failed to appear in the last Ryder cup, he’s been a powerhouse for team Europe. The 42 year old veteran has a stellar 12-4-2 record in five appearances and 4-0-1 in singles play. Although he’s posted a victory this season, he’s also missed four cuts in 19 events. If Poulter gets hot, he can carry the team on his back.

Sergio Garcia

It seems that no matter how Garcia is playing during the season, the Ryder Cup brings out the best in the 38 year old Spaniard.  Without a doubt having a poor season, having missed eight cuts in 15 events. However, Garcia has been outstanding in eight Ryder Cups, going 19-11-7, making him difficult to keep of the team.

Tyrrell Hatton

Ranked 25th in the world, Hatton has missed three cuts this season in 15 events. However, he has performed well on the big stage, finishing in the top 10 in both the PGA Championship and US Open. Being that the Ryder Cup is the biggest team event in golf, the venue appears perfect for the 26 year old making his first appearance.

Alex Noren

Ranked 15th in the world, Noren has never won a major, nor appeared in a Ryder Cup.  However, Noren won the France Open in June on the same venue, so one would assume he’d perform admirably for Team Europe.  The victory in June was Noren’s only win in 17 events.  Not flashy, and perhaps underestimated, Noren could sneak up on Team USA.

Henrek Stenson

Hampered with an elbow injury of late, Stenson in a solid veteran that is tough to beat when he is on. Europe will hope he returns to form that won the 2016 Open Championship. He hasn’t won this season, but the 42 year old veteran from Sweden is a great player to have on the team.  He’s been mediocre in Ryder Cup competition with a record of 6-7-2.

Thorbjorn Olesen

Ranked 40th in the world, the Norwegian has one win and three top 10 finishes this season. Bjorn has thought highly of Olesen and believes he’s finally tapping in to his vast potential. Making his first Ryder Cup team, it will be interesting to see how often Bjorn puts him out to play.

Team USA

Brooks Koepka

Arguably the player of the year on the PGA Tour with two Major wins this season, Koepka also has six top ten finishes in 15 events.  The 28 year old could enter as the top ranked player in the world.  He’s made one Ryder Cup appearance in 2016 and went 3-1 in his four matches.

Dustin Johnson

Currently ranked first in the world, Johnson has appeared in three Ryder Cups, posting a 6-5-0 record.  The long ball hitter will likely team with his best friend Koepka to form a formidable tandem.  Johnson has three wins and 11 top 10 finishes in 18 events this season.

Justin Thomas

Having played the course in June, the 25 year-old will make his first Ryder Cup appearance on a familiar venue. Overall, Thomas has three wins and nine top 10 finishes this season.  He’s spent some time at number one and shows poise beyond his years. Thomas should be a strong factor for Team USA.

Patrick Reed

The ultra-competitive Reed will be making his third Ryder Cup appearance. Successful in his previous two, posting a 6-1-2 record, Reed is capable of firing up his team at any given moment. A major winner this season at The Masters, he will likely team up again with Jordan Spieth as he did two years ago.

Bubba Watson

Watson hasn’t had much success at the Ryder Cup, going 3-8-0 over three appearances. This could be the year his foturnes change, having played well at Le Golf National in the past. This season Watson has three victories and six top 10 finishes in 22 events.

Jordan Spieth

Spieth appears to have the poise well beyond his 25 years. Currently ranked 10th in the world, Spieth have struggled this year by his standards. He hasn’t won and has only five top 10 finishes in 22 events.  The three-time Major winner is 4-3-2 in Ryder Cup play.

Rickie Fowler

Much like MicIlory for Europe, it’s hard to imagine that Fowler is nearing 30 years of age. The ninth ranked player in the world has dealing with injuries, but insists he is healthy. Although without a win in 18 events and a substandard 2-4-5 record in Ryder Cup play, Fowler is capable of beating anyone when he’s on his game.

Webb Simpson

Simpson has a Major victory and has appeared in two Ryder Cups, but struggled a bit to a 2-3-1 record in that two appearances.  The 33 year old has a victory and seven top ten appearances in 24 events.  It will be interesting to see how Furyk uses Simpson. considering his past struggles.

Phil Mickelson

Mickelson has appeared on more Ryder Cup teams than anyone on both teams. Having appeared 11 times, Mickelson has an 18-20-7 record.  Making a record 12th appearance, Mickelson is looking for his first team win on European soil. Ranked 24th in the world, Mickelson has one win and six top 10 finishes this season.

Tiger Woods

Originally a vice captain under Furyk, Woods has made a remarkable comeback from back surgery. Although without a win this season, Woods has been in contention several times and has five top 10 finishes in 16 events.  Making his eighth Ryder Cup appearance, the 14 time Major champion looks to improve upon his 13-17-3 Ryder Cup record.

Bryson DeChambeau

DeChambeau has come out of nowhere as has a strong chance to win the FedEx Cup. Ranked seventh in the world, the 24 year old has three wins and nine top 10 finishes in 24 events this season. Making his first Ryder Cup team, DeChambeau could be the  x factor for Team USA.

The final pick has yet to be made, but it appears Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele are on the short list.

Who will win?

Team USA will likely have a huge boost with Woods on the team. The man who could barely walk a year ago appears to be nearly back to form that made him the most dominant player in the game. There’s no doubt both he and Mickelson know this could be their final Ryder Cup appearance (Woods will be 45 and Mickelson nearly 51 in 2020).  Mickelson has never one on foreign soil, making this even more important.  The combination of Koepka and Johnson could cause major problems for Europe. If Jordan Spieth can get going, teaming up with the fiery Patrick Reed is also a potential match up problem for Europe.  Another key will be the play of Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, who have underperformed. They need to kick their play up a notch.  Team USA Has been very good until singles matches.  The formula for success has to be for a solid lead heading into Sunday and perform well enough in the singles matches to hold off Europe. The task wont be easy on European soil, but entirely possible.

For Team Europe, they need to do well enough prior to singles matches to keep the crowd alive. The crowd, just like in any team sport, can help the home team significantly. This means the more fiery leaders such of Poulter, McIlroy and Garica need to be on their game. Look for veterans Stenson, Rose and Casey to have a big say in whether or not Team Europe comes on top.  The contributions of the quiet Swede, Noren and Norway’s Olesen, as well as Hatton can’t be understated. Fleetwood and Molinari can be very difficult to beat when their putting is on.  How much and how well will they play prior to singles? With every point likely to be important on Sunday, it will be paramount for Bjorn to set the best possible match ups for those.  If these matches go as usual, Europe will have to get off to a fast start on Sunday and hope to pull out the Ryder Cup in the later matches.

So as far as who will win, this should be a very close match.  On paper, the USA could have a small advantage, however that can be nullified playing on European soil.  To say this is a coin toss is not far fetched.   Let’s just say that it will be a very exciting match that is likely to be decided in one of the final couple of singles matches.

Enjoy what could be the best Ryder Cup in years.

Are you thinking about visiting the UK/USA and attending a golf tournament? United Europe uses only the most established and reliable sports handlers to manage their annual spectator trips to The Masters, The US Open, The Open and the US PGA.

Please do not hesitate to contact us and we can assist you with options and travel itineraries to help you plan for the occasion!

September 2018

Mark Buck is the Managing Director of United Europe Travel Services (Pty) Ltd, an online and offline travel services company based in South Africa

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