Ryder Cup 2016: The Teams: USA have strength but Europe has the heart
Photo: Montana Pritchard / PGA of America

Ryder Cup 2016: The Teams: USA have strength but Europe has the heart

Ahead of the opening tee shot at Hazeltine on Friday for the 2016 Ryder Cup, the USA have the edge but the defending champions burn with the winning mentality.

Neil Leverett

Golf's most famous sporting competition commences once more on Friday, as the USA and Europe resume hostilities for the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club, Minnesota.

Whilst Davis Love III's US team boast perhaps their strongest team in recent memory, the visiting Europeans hold sway over their opponents.

Having held the trophy since 2010, Darren Clarke's side will leave it all on the course before they relinquish their grip on the Samuel Ryder trophy.  

Odds against Europe retaining

The odds are against them both doing so however. If Europe successfully retain their crown once more, they will become the first side on either side of the pond, to have won four times in a row. At least since the US's dominance of the mid '70's and early 80's.

Not only does history favour the Americans, the USA team is on paper at least, the stronger. 

Henrik Stenson is Europe's trump card this weekend (photo:getty)
Henrik Stenson is Europe's trump card this weekend (photo:getty)

Love III's team have seven players inside the world's top 20, with Europe just the five. Furthermore, almost half of the top 10 consist of the US team, with just Rory McIlroy, Open champion Henrik Stenson and Masters winner Danny Willett, breaking up the monopoly.

Going up against the quartet of US Open champion Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed as some of the most explosive players on the planet - on home soil no less - will be a daunting task for the Europeans.

Both teams mix of youth and experience

So how are both teams shaping up? For Europe, both Ian Poulter and Thomas Bjorn from the victorious team at Gleneagles in 2014, have now joined Clarke's technical team. Together with former winners Padraig Harrington, Sam Torrance and Paul Lawrie the sheer level of experience will be key to the Europe's fortunes.

Lee Westwood will play in his 10th Ryder Cup, almost 20 years after his first (photo:getty)
Lee Westwood will play in his 10th Ryder Cup, almost 20 years after his first (photo:getty)

As will the return of Lee Westwood as first Captain's Pick. In his 10th competition, the 43 year-old has won 23 points from all his nine matches since back in 1997 at Valhalla. Whilst still without a major win to his name, Westwood has something that cannot be measured; the will to win.

Darren Clarke's men have an wavering flavour of success in their midst but the debutants must pick up that knack in Minnesota. With no less than six men making their Ryder Cup bows for Europe, there is little room for manoeuvre.

Whilst Willett and Rafa Cabrera-Bello exude poise, the English trio of Chris Wood, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Andy Sullivan remain a gamble. Wood and Sullivan however both a matchplay experience, part of the winning EurAsia Cup side earlier this year. The former won the Silver Medal at Royal Troon this summer.

Pieters is set to be Europe's wildcard at Hazeltine (photo:getty)
Pieters is set to be Europe's wildcard at Hazeltine (photo:getty)

The biggest gamble is on Belgian Thomas Pieters, as Clarke's second Captain's pick. Pieters as one of the stars of the future has enjoyed a successive American collegiate career. As the man that beat Jordan Spieth to win the NCAA title at the University of Illinois, his experience on US soil could be vital for Sunday's singles.

Love III boasts hungry pack

In Love III's return to captaincy after defeat at Medinah Lake in 2012, the 52 year-old attempts to become the first man since Paul Azinger at Valhalla in 2008, to lead the USA to victory.  

Similarly to the Europeans, the US have a vast array of experience at the top. Jim Furyk, Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Bubba Watson and Tom Lehman return in a non-playing capacity.

'Lefty' plays his 11th Ryder Cup this weekend (photo:getty)
'Lefty' plays his 11th Ryder Cup this weekend (photo:getty)

Phil Mickelson competes in an extraordinary 11th Ryder Cup. At the other end, Brooks Koepka and Ryan Moore play their first. Moore carries the form for the USA with four top-ten finishes in the last six, as does Brandt Snedeker who makes a return the cross-atlantic duel, with two out three top five rankings events to end the season.

The blood and thunder of Dustin Johnson is unbeaten on the final day during his short competition history and has a 4-3 record over the past four years. Davis Love III will look to the South Carolinian to be the linchpin when the Americans need him.

Ryan Moore is the man in form for the USA (photo:getty)
Ryan Moore is the man in form for the USA (photo:getty)

Patrick Reed might just be the ace in the hole for the US. The Texan has had an impressive end to the year with showings at Troon and Baltusrol, before fading on the final rounds. The 26 year-old remains a difficult proposition. 

The stage is set for three day of fierce competition in Minnesota. The USA are bookies favourites, but nothing fairs better than to have the psychological edge.

Europe are looking to make history for their side and if the US are to prevent it, Davis Love III needs to rekindle the magic - and perhaps controversy - of Valhalla eight years ago.

Let battle commence.