Ryder Cup Preview: Young and stacked US team faces familiar battle

While the U.S. still holds a 26-14-2 advantage, Europe has won nine of the last 12 times in the Ryder Cup.

(Representative Image) While the veterans include Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, they also include Koepka and DeChambeau.   -  Getty Images

The Americans would seem to have a lot in their favour at the Ryder Cup. They are on home soil at Whistling Straits along the Wisconsin shores of Lake Michigan.

They have eight of the top 10 in the world ranking — Europe only has Jon Rahm at No. 1 — on a team that has won twice as many majors.

“I feel like on paper, from head to toe, the world ranking, I would say we're a stronger team,” U.S. captain Steve Stricker said.

“But I don't think our guys feel we're better. They know deep down how hard it is to beat them.”

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All that matters on paper are the results.

Europe has won nine of the last 12 times in the Ryder Cup.

And while the U.S. still holds a 26-14-2 advantage dating to the start in 1927, that's not the real measure.

Continental Europeans did not join the fray until 1979, and since then they are 11-8-1.

Europe, with Padraig Harrington now at the helm of the juggernaut, tries to extend its dominance at the 43rd Ryder Cup, which was postponed one year because of the pandemic.

Why do the Europeans keep winning the Ryder Cup?

They relish the role as underdogs. They seem to play with a chip on their shoulders, perhaps because the Americans don't — and probably should — have one on theirs.

“That's our advantage, I guess, in a way, right?” Ian Poulter said in a SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio interview.

"That we have delivered when perhaps we shouldn't have delivered. And this is the magical question that gets asked all the time.”

Lee Westwood ties a European record by playing in his 11th Ryder Cup at age 48.

He joins Sergio Garcia, already with the highest points total in history, on a short list of those who have played in Ryder Cups over parts of four decades.

Garcia has contributed 25 1/2 points, the same amount as this entire U.S. team combined.

Whatever experience the Americans bring are mostly bad memories.

Their lone victory in the last decade was at Hazeltine in 2016 against a European team that had six rookies. Only one of them, Matt Fitzpatrick, made it back on another team.

The six rookies are the most for the Americans since 2008 when they won at Valhalla.

Those include Collin Morikawa, who was an amateur when the last Ryder Cup was played and since then has won two majors, a World Golf Championship and led the U.S. standings in his first year of eligibility.

It includes FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay and Olympic gold medallist Xander Schauffele, who were a formidable team at the Presidents Cup in Australia two years ago.

“I think it’s a good time for a younger influx of players,” Schauffele said, “and really excited to run with these guys.”

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While the veterans include Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, the only Americans to have played at least three Ryder Cups, they also include Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, who have made their dislike for each other abundantly clear over the last few months.

That's never been a problem for Europe, which has not been immune to personality conflicts over the years. It just never shows inside the ropes, in uniform, with a 17-inch trophy at stake.

“I can't speak for the Americans — I don't know what happens there — but it feels like when we get in the team room, everyone takes their armour off and puts it aside,” Garcia said.

Maybe it's that European magic sauce. Whatever it is, it's been working.

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