Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
As usual with the Ryder Cup, there are so many intriguing plots developing long before anyone hits a shot in competition: the Brooks-Bryson feud, Brooks Koepka and Paul Azinger having words about commitment to the US team, nine rookies in play, Patrick Reed being left off the US team, the US favoured on paper, can veterans Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter deliver one more time for Europe, and more. Which storyline are you most interested to see play out this week at Whistling Straits?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Of the ones you mention, I’ll be very interested to see how Westwood, Poulter and Garcia do… hopefully they’ll show what age and experience can mean. But I’ll also be watching how Steve Stricker fares as Captain of the US team… he’s such a nice and popular guy, I wonder whether he can tame the egos of his squad, especially Brooks and Bryson. Butch Harmon’s suggestion of pairing Brooks and Bryson together was an interesting one… it won’t happen, but it might’ve had a dampening effect on that sideshow.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): Anyone know how they are playing the bunkers at Whistling Straits? Hope Team USA ensures DJ gets the memo. Honestly the story here this week is Team USA’s lack of “team” comradery. It’s so glaringly apparent, that and the apathy from Koepka, this can’t be good for Team USA already. How far back do we have to go to see those same kind of issues for Team Europe? We don’t even hear whispers of it, so it’s a nonissue, and clearly their advantage.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA f Canada: This is probably the most unpredictable Ryder Cup in a while. Europe is stocked with vets and the USA with rookies. The big question is, can the vets dig deep enough one more time? The rookies just might lack enough experience to be unaware of their situation. I’m glad Tiger, Phil and Reed aren’t on the team. They have all worn out their welcome. I like the six USA rookies in a kind of re-building while contending concept and don’t forget Europe has 3 too. Given the USA average world standing is 9 to Europe’s 30 it should be a trouncing by the USA. The big equalizer is Whistling Straits, which is basically a links-style course. Both teams will hit great shots, but the Euros have the advantage in putting. Remember the immortal words of Brer Rabbit. “Please don’t fling me into that brier patch”.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I’m interested to see the camaraderie of the European team and seeing them smiling as they play through the week, as they always seem to do. I love their attitude when it comes to the Ryder Cup and a lot of that is driven by the veterans you mentioned. Each of them may well be competing in their last Ryder Cup so they’ll be enjoying it. I have a bit of an interest in the Brooks-Bryson fiasco to see how that plays out too!
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): This is the most exciting event on the golf calendar for the whole year and every story gets magnified by the added attention and scrutiny. I’m most intrigued by Koepka and DeChambeau. Captain Stricker is unlikely to pair them together but will still have to figure out how to get them to overcome their innate arrogance and selfishness to become fully invested team players. Neither of them is a leader and that’s OK. Others will lead both on and off the course, but the US can’t win if Koepka and DeChambeau fizzle.
Every Ryder Cup, an individual player or pairing is instrumental to his team’s success. Pick one player or pairing from each squad as the ones you think will be most impactful for their team.
Deeks: Harris English for the US, Sergio for the Euros. No reason, just instinct.
Loughry: I just have a feeling Spieth will have something to do with a US rally that will fall short. He has a habit of rising to the occasion and making putts especially from long distances. Does anyone else think Westwood qualifying for the team is an accomplishment? I think he’ll make some noise, he’s a steady player with lots of experience. But Rahm will be the emotional pick me up Team Europe will energize from. It’s going to be a fun week watching!
Schurman: The most impactful players are Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka. Their idiotic bickering can’t help but damage the USA team. In most sports player personality clashes occur out of the physical contact nature of the sport. These two clowns are tearing down all that is good and wholesome about what has always been a gentleman’s game. Over the years there have always been players who didn’t like each other but rarely did they go public. I say let them ‘have at it’ for charity. Even Justin Trudeau, who strikes me as physically tough as porridge stood toe-to-toe with Patrick Brazeau.
Rule: I think DJ may have a good week, particularly as he’s had success at Whistling Straits and length is going to matter this week. For the Euros, look no further than Sergio, who has been trending in the right direction and is still one of the best ball strikers in the world.
Mumford: For the Americans, I think Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth will lead the way, maybe playing all four pairs matches together. The Ryder Cup seems to bring out something special in them. For the Europeans, I expect they’ll ride Jon Rahm as hard as they can but as World #1, that’s to be expected. Overall though, look for Victor Hovland to make a splash, even though he’s a rookie.
Who do you think will win the Ryder Cup and why?
Deeks: I always root for the Euros, but this time around, I think the US will win. They appear to have their strongest lineup in years, and they’re due for a solid victory.
Loughry: Team Europe will win the Ruder Cup, they get it. Team USA is dysfunctional, and I just don’t see them coming around together as a team needs to for this event. I don’t see this unfolding any other way, but I’ll be watching.
Schurman: Europe because they will win the most points. Actually, the difference is in Captaincy. Padraig is more in tune with his vets who he has spent the past 20 years travelling with and sharing their lives together. Stricker has never played with most of his players let alone travel together. The USA team likes and respects Stricker. The Euros love Harrington. He is one of them. Stricker is not.
Rule: As much as I want to take the Euros and say they are going to win because of the team chemistry and Ryder Cup experience, I think maybe this is the year the Americans live up to their favourite tag. Stricker just may be the perfect captain for this mess of a team. I think it will be close, but they will win the singles on Sunday to take the Cup back.
Mumford: The stats all seem to favour the US; the intangibles break mostly in Europe’s favour. Maybe closer than many people are predicting. I’d love to see the deciding match on Sunday between Ian Poulter and Patrick Cantlay. What a putting display that would be! I’ll be rooting for the Euros!