It doesn’t always help them (see Medinah 2012 and Oakland Hills 2004) but there’s no doubt the Americans perform better in warmer climes, surrounded by their own boisterous and emotional galleries. The fact the last success came on home soil too will be a big aid as well and the inexperience of some of the Europeans on US courses outside of the Majors may well give the home side somewhat of an edge over the weekend. A repeat of Brookline would be disastrous, but there would be some party on Sunday night if Davis Love III’s men lifted the trophy.
While Europe arrive in Minnesota with six Ryder Cup rookies, America will have just two, as well as an abundance of experience. Very few men in history have represented their country or continent as much as Phil Mickelson, while the wise heads of Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson will provide the knowledge for those requiring some pointers.
Even Rickie Fowler is already gearing up for a third Ryder Cup, and Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed learned so much from their successful ventures together at Gleneagles. Still a relatively young team, but one with a deceptively large amount of familiarity to the situation.
Spieth and Reed? Jimmy Walker and Fowler? Zach Johnson and Dustin Johnson perhaps? The choices should be endless for captain Love, and there will be no talk of rifts that have plagued previous teams. Likeable characters such as J.B Holmes and Dustin Johnson will team up with anyone and for the first time in what must seem like forever the team bonding in the US locker room is set to be tight as a nut.
Meticulous planning has gone into getting everyone on board for 2016 and they might for once be able to match the Europeans for team spirit.
4) They want it badly
From the standpoint of interest, this is a Ryder Cup the hosts can ill-afford to lose. One win in eight attempts by Sunday night would leave the biennial competition in tatters as a contest. Never before have those from across the pond put so much preparation and planning into every fine detail. The Task Force committee designed to pick the right personnel has done all it can, and the decision to wait until the end of the season to choose the final wildcard selection may prove inspired should Ryan Moore continue his good form from last week. Mickelson even conceded he used last week’s TOUR Championship to prepare for Hazeltine. The question now remains, are they truly good enough to get out what they have put in?
An area where both sides have perhaps never been stronger to help aid their men on the course in the locker room.
Former captain and US team stalwart Tom Lehman brings his experience as a leader while the other four of Love’s backroom staff could arguably all have lined up at Hazeltine in their own right. Steve Stricker could be the difference on the greens, while in Jim Furyk they have a major winner and Fedex Cup champion – who also shot the first ever 58 on Tour just a couple of months ago.
Bubba Watson, the highest ranked American in the world to not make the team, asked personally to be part of the team. While the left-hander may not be able to make a difference on the course, the man from Florida will bring an unrivalled level of patriotism and passion to the week.
America’s final vice-captain is a story in his own right, as Tiger Woods returns to a golfing environment for the first time in over a year. Twice a runner-up in majors at Hazeltine and nobody in history has known how to get the job done on a Sunday afternoon better than the 14-time major winner.
The Ryder Cup tees off on Friday 30 September at 7:35am (1:35pm BST).
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