September 22, 2023

Ryder Cup Preview 2023

Few sporting events can guarantee that the best players will be competing for a coveted prize, like what happens in the Ryder Cup. The rosters have been picked and all are anxious to win for their country and teammates. Most of the players, on opposing squads, know each other very well, but the Ryder Cup is personal and friendships are put aside. This year, we don't have a villainous competitor like Ian Poulter, Collin Montgomery, or the late Seve Ballesteros to arouse and heighten the tension, but the intensity will still be there and warped up to the maximum. This next week the matches start at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, in Rome, Italy. Hostile territory for the Americans and they can expect a raucous crowd that greatly favors the Europeans. The Ryder Cup is golf on steroids set in an intimate MMA closed ring.

The European's have the three of the four best players in the world to anchor their team; Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, and Viktor Hovland. Their fourth best, Matthew Fitzpatrick, is just a small step behind. It would be hard to bet against any of these players in any match. For the USA, Scottie Scheffler sits as number one in the world and is joined by the 5th, 6th, and 7th best players in Patrick Cantley, Xander Schauffele, and Max Homa. I figure the top players will cancel each other out, which makes who wins the Ryder Cup up to the next eight players on each team.

The next four players on each team are quality players with Tommy Fleetwood, Tryell Hatton, Justin Rose and Shane Lowry having Ryder Cup experience with gritty personalities and competitiveness. The US matches these with Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth, and Justin Thomas. I give the Europeans a slight edge in these match ups.

The final four for Europe are all rookies and untested on a grand stage. Each have earned their right to be selected, but how they preform is a question mark. Ludvig Aberg only four months ago was playing for Texas Tech and competing for a NCAA championship and now is thrust into his biggest challenge. Scottie Scheffler had question marks two years ago and he excelled in the pressure. Ludvig appears to have a similar makeup. Sepp Straka, Nicolai Hojgaard, and Robert McInyre are all being introduced to the circus and burden of Ryder Cup scrutiny. Time will tell if they are up to it. On the American side the rookies include the reining US Open champion and the current British Open champion in Wyndham Clark and Brian Harman. They have seen intense pressure and won. Sam Burns is as steady a competitor as you would want and is the apparent partner for Scottie Scheffler. They have good chemistry which is important in team events. Lastly the Americans have Rickie Fowler, who has two Ryder Cup experiences and has a resurging golf game. The advantage should be greatly in the US favor for the last four players.

The competition the first two day is two against two in Four-Ball and Foursome matches with the last day being 12 individual matches. Each match is a test of personalities and will-power. Breakdowns and collapses happen in this type of intense environment. The US team wilted mentally and physically in Rome in 2018, but on our home turf in 2021 the US had it's sweetest and best victory in many years. So, confidence should be high, but their enthusiasm should be tempered by the fact that the US hasn't won on foreign soil in thirty years. Still, I think it will come down to the final individual matches on the last day.

The Ryder Cup is very important to all the competitors and that brings an added level of adrenaline and urgency. The golfing world is watching and over analyzing each Captain's pairing and every player's miscues. This makes for great theater and drama. I can only hope the three days of action match the hype and that all play great and no one sticks out as "the one that lost the Ryder Cup".


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