All it takes is one look at the United States' Ryder Cup roster to understand why Team USA is the favourite to retain the trophy this weekend at Le Golf National in France.
The stars and stripes have Ryder Cup rookies playing at the top of their game and veterans who have experienced victory and defeat against Team Europe. Before the sides tee it up on Friday, here are four reasons why the Ryder Cup will stay with Team USA.
STRONG CAPTAIN’S PICKS CARRYING MOMENTUM
Team USA captain Jim Furyk and Europe's Thomas Bjorn had tough calls to make when finalising their 2018 teams, but for very different reasons.
While Bjorn shuffled through slim pickings before naming struggling players like Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson to his team, Furyk had his choice of several Americans playing at a high level.
Bryson DeChambeau went from a fringe candidate to a must-add after winning The Northern Trust and Dell Technologies Championship back-to-back in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, jumping from number 21 to number 12 in the world rankings. He arrives in Paris ranked eighth. Though Tony Finau was 15th in Ryder Cup points, his play in major championships and recent tournaments impressed Furyk enough to take him over Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar and Kevin Kisner.
Then there is Tiger Woods, who forced his way onto the team by becoming a staple at the top of major leaderboards once again and validated that decision with his win at the Tour Championship.
Compare that to Garcia and Stenson, who despite their Ryder Cup experience, simply are not playing well. Garcia has fallen to number 28 in the world golf rankings since missing the cut at the Masters and seven of his last 12 events. As for Stenson, he has finished better than tied-29th just once in his last six tournaments.
NO SUCH THING AS HOME-COURSE ADVANTAGE
Members of the American team have scouted Le Golf National, including Justin Thomas, who finished tied-eighth at the Open De France at the course in July. But, by and large, the narrow fairways of the par-71 course will be new to the team.
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But, to be frank, who cares? Top young players on Team USA have proved that course familiarity has no bearing on their performance.
Brooks Koepka had never played a competitive run at either Shinnecock Hills or Bellerive Country Club before this season, but he won both the U.S. Open and the US PGA Championship. Finau, in his first Masters, finished tied-10th after badly dislocating his ankle in the par-three tournament.
No, Le Golf National has not been tamed by a golfer on this roster. And, yes, Team USA has not won a Ryder Cup on European soil since 1993, but this crop of American golfers has proven to be a different breed.
IT IS ABOUT CHEMISTRY, NOT EXPERIENCE
If Ryder Cup experience was the be-all and end-all, Phil Mickelson would not be considered Team USA's weakest link as he plays in his 12th edition of the tournament. What does matter, however, is how well the team plays together.
Seven of the 12 Team USA golfers played on the victorious 2016 team, and others do far more together than just golf. Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, some of the closest golfers on PGA Tour, vacation together every year and even share putters on occasion.
"You've seen the relationships between the young guys on the American team, [they are a] very tight-knit group of guys,” top European player Justin Rose said over the weekend. "They're obviously the new blood of the Ryder Cup, and I think that's definitely changed things.”
Even guys you would not expect to get along, Spieth and Patrick Reed, form one of the Team USA's most successful pairs in Ryder Cup history as they have won five out of a potential seven points together over the last two tournaments.
TEAM USA SIMPLY HAS A BETTER COLLECTION OF TALENT
This is not to slight Rose, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood or even Ryder Cup machine Ian Poulter, but Team Europe objectively has an inferior collection of golfers when compared to this version of Team USA.
This year’s U.S. team has 31 collective majors among it, including three of the last four and six of the last eight. It features three of the top four ranked players in the world, six of the top 10 and 11 of the top 20. And Mickelson is just outside in 25th. McIlroy has not won a major in four years and Rahm has regressed since he flirted with being ranked number one in the world early in 2018. Rose and Francesco Molinari are playing their best golf, but they cannot carry a team to victory.
Again, this European team is ripe with talent that will be a force in this event for the next decade, but it is facing a juggernaut this year in France.
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