Ryder Cup 2014 Preview

The two year wait is nearly over and the eyes of the sporting world will turn to Scotland on Friday, where the 40th Ryder Cup will take place at Gleneagles. The qualification process finished at the beginning of the month and Captains Paul McGinley and Tom Watson have their squads of twelve players primed and ready.

The build-up has been something of a strange one, as the best player in world golf right now is American Billy Horschel, who will not actually be at Gleneagles. After finishing runner up in Boston, Horschel won both the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship to claim the prestigious Fedex Cup title. Unfortunately, Horschel hadn’t done enough to qualify for the team, and his two wins came after the wild card picks were announced by Tom Watson. I’m sure the US PGA will not want a repeat of this scenario, so we can expect to see a tweak in the rules for 2016.

This Ryder Cup is also unusual in the fact that for the first time the Europeans are actually strong favourites.  The bookmakers predict the Europeans have around a 60% chance of winning the event aga​in and a 67% chance of retaining the much fought after trophy.

European Captain Paul McGinley

Paul McGinley is probably best known for his appearances in the Ryder Cup itself. This popular Irishman appeared in 2002, 2004 and 2006 and was part of the winning side on each occasion, actually sinking the winning putt in 2002. McGinley has been a vice captain in both of the last two events under Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal. Although not enjoying a spectacular playing career, he has enjoyed nine victories as a professional and was in the top twenty of the World Rankings at the height of his powers. McGinley has had top twenty finishes in all of the Majors apart from the US Open.

US Captain Tom Watson

Tom Watson was a hugely popular choice as the US Captain this time around both by fans and players on either side of the Atlantic. Watson is an eight time Major Champion, five of those wins coming on British shores at the Open, the first four coming in Scotland itself.  Despite being 65 years of age, he still competes regularly on the tour, making the cut this year at the Open, and just five years ago missed an eight foot putt to win the Open.  Interestingly, this is not the first time he has captained the US Ryder Cup team, as he led the team to victory at the Belfry in 1993, the last time that the US won the Cup on European soil. Tom Watson also appeared on the US team four times, and was never on the losing side, although Europe retained the title with a 14-14 draw in his last appearance in 1989.

Team Europe (Average World Ranking Points per player: 5.44)

The talisman of the European team this year will surely be Irishman Rory McIlroy. The world number one won back to back Majors this year and will head to Gleneagles full of confidence. He will ably be backed up by Spaniard Sergio Garcia, a Ryder Cup veteran and one of the players who pushed him very close at the Open this year.  Martin Kaymer won the US Open and the Players Championship this year and joins other Major champions in Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell. World number four Henrik Stenson, popular Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, Thomas Bjorn and Jamie Donaldson were the other automatic qualifiers.  The wildcard picks were Stephen Gallacher who was one shot away from making the team, Lee Westwood appearing in his ninth Cup and Ian Poulter, who will surely light up the event again with his fist-pumping antics and his amazing ability to secure wins in the competition.

The Teams – USA (Average World Ranking Points per player: 5.22)

Much of the talk this time around has been about players missing from the US team, including Jason Dufner, Dustin Johnson and of course, Tiger Woods. Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson with their multiple Major wins will perhaps lead the team, although this time around the team looks a little more balanced. Jim Furyk is the top ranked US player right now, and Rickie Fowler has become the man for the big event, being in the mix in all four Majors this year. Jordan Speith, Patrick Reed  and Jimmy Walker bring new blood to the team, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar making up the automatic qualifiers.  Major winner Webb Simpson, recent winner of the Barclays Hunter Mahan and Keegan Bradley who will look to rekindle his Ryder Cup love affair with Phil Mickelson are the picks of Captain Tom Watson.

The Contest

Day One – Friday 26th September

4 Foursomes (alternate shot) and 4 four ball (better ball) matches

Day Two – Saturday 27th September

4 Foursomes (alternate shot) and 4 four ball (better ball) matches

Day Three – Sunday 28th September

12 singles matches

Europe need 14 points to retain the Ryder Cup, USA need 14.5 points to win the Ryder Cup