The Europeans are looking promising this week, but the Americans have the added bonus of playing at home this time around.
For the US the obvious star of their team is none other than Tiger Woods. With three wins this season he has been slowly making his way back up the rankings and is now at No.2 in the world. And no one would be surprised if he regains the No.1 spot next season. However, his record at the Ryder Cup is poor for someone of such world beating ability, having gained only 14 points out of a possible 29. Forget how Woods will play individually though, there is an even bigger worry for US Captain Davis Love; that is finding a suitable playing partner for Woods. If he gets his pairings wrong it could result in embarrassing defeat for what should be one of his stronger partnerships, as happened in 2010. Woods will no doubt notch up a few points but don’t be too shocked if that’s all he gains.
For the US their next highest ranked players are Jason Dufner and Bubba Watson. Watson will be an undoubted boost to the US team. Not only has he proven he can handle pressure, as he did in The Masters playoff this year but he will work the crowd like no one else. His ability to shape the ball will produce some spectacular shots and, along with his popularity, will bring out the football atmosphere so often seen at Ryder Cups.
Dufner on the other hand is one of four rookies and while being second highest ranked in the team, could struggle in Chicago. Not only has his form dipped but he is also one of the shorter hitters, meaning Medinah could prove a tough test for the 35-year-old.
Webb Simpson is another who may have a difficult three days ahead. He is a former major champion but has a peculiar swing which could lead to problems under pressure and has been well off form recently, with last week’s top five finish being an exception.
The other rookies, however, could prove dangerous. Keegan Bradley, former PGA Champion, has proved he can step up to the mark and will be determined to impress at his Ryder Cup debut. Expect him to live up to his potential and possibly take a few European scalps.
And what about the final rookie Brandt Snedeker? A wildcard pick who was in contention at The Open but fell away, he answered his critics last week when he won the Tour Championship by three shots to take the Fed Ex Cup. He is definitely one to watch and if he keeps up last week’s form could inflict some damage on the Team Europe.
Two fantastic putters who could prove important are Steve Stricker and Matt Kuchar. While neither have fantastic records at the Ryder Cup the home advantage makes it likely that Stricker will build on his three and half points out of seven and Kuchar will do far better than the one out of three he gained at Celtic Manor.
And then we have the two Johnsons in the team. Despite sharing the same surname the players have completely different styles to one and other.
Dustin Johnson has returned from injury and not only is he consistent but his long hitting will give him a huge advantage on a course suited to those that hit it big.
In comparison, Zach Johnson is one of the shorter hitters in the team and this means Medinah could cause problems for the former Masters Champion. However he played well at an away Cup in 2010, when he scored two out of three points, so expect him to hang in there.
Although Phil Mickelson will be playing in his ninth Ryder Cup he has only been in the winning team twice before. Despite a poor record in the competition though, he is always a danger and with his form improving recently he could easily notch up more than a few points.
Despite boasting a wealth of experience in the tournament Jim Furyk’s record is less than impressive, having only won ten points out of 26. While his form has been improving and he might win a point or two, he is unlikely to be one of the top scorers.
The Verdict: With so many world class players in both teams it really is a tough one to predict. However a bit more experience and perhaps more ability will hopefully earn Europe a narrow victory in Chicago.