All eyes on Hazeltine
This week, the golf world’s attention shifts to its biennial spectacle, The Ryder Cup, where America will square off against Europe for the 41st edition of the tournament. This year’s matches will be held on U.S. soil at Hazeltine Golf Club, located just outside of Minneapolis. The U.S. team will set out to change its losing ways with team Europe winning the past 3, and 6 of the last 7.
Take me back to 2014
2014 saw Europe triumph in dominant fashion, leaving the United States team in disarray. With the home course advantage at Gleneagles, Europe blew the United States out of the water winning the matches 16½ to 11½.
While the matches were bad, the U.S. team imploded during the post-event interviews. U.S. players pointed fingers at one man, captain Tom Watson, who made some questionable lineup and strategy decisions during the matches that lent a hand in Europe’s trouncing of the Red, White and Blue.
A few months following the massacre, the United States decided that the cause of their recent losses was a systemic one, so they did what corporate America does best, form a committee to change the tides. They dubbed their 11-man committee the “Ryder Cup Task Force,” which quickly became the punchline to every Ryder Cup joke. While the Task Force was eventually disbanded, one clear objective came to be: the 2016 Ryder Cup would be up to the players, not the captain.
How to tune in
The Ryder Cup will kick off bright and early Friday morning with 4 matches of a foursomes (alternate shot) format followed by the afternoon session of 4 matches of four-ball (best-ball). The same schedule will be repeated on Saturday before Sunday’s 12 singles matches.
Each of the 28 total matches is worth 1 point. If a team wins a match, they earn 1 point towards their total. If a match ends in a tie, each team will earn a half point.
The first team to 14 ½ points wins, and if a tie occurs at 14 points each, Europe gets to hold onto the Cup for two more years.
All of the action will be on TV and streaming on the Ryder Cup app. Check out this year’s T.V. schedule below:
Friday: 7:30 am - 6 pm CST, Golf Channel
Saturday: 8 am - 6 pm CST, NBC
Sunday: 11 am - 5 pm CST, NBC
The Stars and Stripes
This year’s squad is captained by Davis Love III, who will be out for redemption as the last time he served as captain in 2012, the Europeans staged an epic Sunday singles comeback to steal the Cup from the U.S. at Medinah. The United States team will be headlined by world number 2 Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and the ever-patriotic Patrick Reed. The U.S. will definitely hold the experience advantage at this year’s games as only Brooks Koepka and Ryan Moore are Ryder Cup rookies.
Captained by Irishman Darren Clarke, The European team is comfortably settling into their role as underdogs (despite their winning history). For Europe, this year’s matches usher in change to the long-standing guard with 6 rookies making up their 12-man team. Although there are many new faces, the Euros still tout Ryder Cup stalwarts Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer.
3 storylines to watch
The return of the Pod system
The U.S. is bringin’ back the Pod system used in the last U.S. Ryder Cup win (2008) by then captain Paul Azinger. The Zinger built his team and strategy around three 4-man pods that acted as independent mini-teams with decision-making abilities and full ownership of their own actions. Here are this year’s pods:
Pod 1: Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jimmy Walker
Pod 2: Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth
Pod 3: J.B. Holmes, Brooks Koepka, Ryan Moore and Brandt Snedeker
Expect players for the foursomes and four-ball teams to be combinations of players from each pod. I foresee pod 2 to be worn out during the matches with likely pairings of Spieth & Reed and DJ & Kuchar for both foursomes and four-ball sessions.
Patrick Reed burst onto the international scene and into Americans’ hearts in 2014 when he went undefeated in his inaugural Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Reed paired with Spieth during team play and dominated, finishing 2-0-1 in the four-ball and foursomes formats. However, his signature moment came during his singles match against Henrik Stenson. After Reed sunk a birdie putt to win the hole and pull even with Stenson, Reed shushed the rowdy European crowd.
Can Reed back his play up from 2014 and become the U.S. stalwart we’ve been looking for that can go toe-to-toe with the likes of Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia?
2016 symbolizes a changing of the guard for Team Europe, which will boast 6 rookies in its 12-man lineup. Outside of Masters champion and world number 10 Danny Willett, the European rookie group of Andy Sullivan, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Chris Wood, Thomas Pieters and Matt Fitzpatrick poses a big question mark for the European team.
the fried egg prediction?
While the Americans hold the home course advantage, have more experience and higher world rankings top to bottom, I’m giving the edge to the Europeans. When the U.S. formed a task force, they admitted there was a problem, and that burden and pressure will weigh on all 12 USA players. Couple the immense pressure on the US with the strong recent form shown by the European players, and it’s possible that the Cup could stay in Europe for a few more years. But let’s hope I’m wrong and we are hearing chants of USA instead of Ole late on Sunday.
Ryder Cup quick hooks
Tiger forgets he’s a captain, not a player, during the photo shoot.
Despite not being picked, Bubba Watson becomes the unprecedented 5th U.S. assistant captain.
Duval owns Chamblee on Live from the Ryder Cup.
For more Ryder Cup reading, check out SB Nation’s detailed Ryder Cup hub.
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A deep dive on Ryder Cup history
No Laying Up contributor Robbie Vogel rolled up his sleeves and dove into the deep history of the Ryder Cup, pulling the best moments from history. Relive the rich history, great players and unforgettable moments of golf’s best competition here.
Hot items in the pro shop
Whether you’re rooting for the stars and stripes or team Europe, support your side with the No Laying Up Ryder Cup t-shirt collection.