Ryder Cup 2018 Preview: Will Tiger lead Team USA to glory on European soil?
The 2018 Ryder Cup starts this Friday at the Le Golf National club in Paris, the 42nd edition of one of the mostly hotly-anticipated sporting events of the year.
United States, fielding one of the strongest Ryder Cup fields in recent history, start out as narrow favourites against a European team full of experience but with question marks over recent form. Two years ago in Minnesota, it finished 17-11 in favour of the Americans, who finally ended a streak of three consecutive losses.
Jim Furyk will be fighting against history if his team is going to walk away with one of the biggest prizes in golf: Team USA has not won away from home for 25 years, when Tom Watson’s side snatched a 15-13 win at The Belfry.
The format remains unchanged: eight fourball matches, eight foursomes and 12 individual matches will decide which team is crowned champions in Paris.
Results between USA and Europe have been nip and tuck since 1979 (when the European team was introduced), with the balance of power currently standing at 10 to 8 in favour of this year’s hosts.
Europe: Bjørn opts for experience over form
Team Europe captain Thomas Bjørn faces the daunting task of maintaining an unbeaten home record that dates to 1993.
Current World Number Two Justin Rose, three-time Major champion Rory Mcllroy and this year’s British Open winner Francesco Molinari will lead the charge for the Europeans.
Two of the game’s most promising young talents, Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood, will make their debuts in the competition – with Bjørn hoping the pair can play with the freedom that can come with being a Ryder Cup novice.
In terms of his wildcard picks, Bjørn has erred on the side of caution. Sergio García makes the cut after a very indifferent year, but his 19-11 tournament record suggests he has the ability to raise his game when the pressure cranks up on Ryder Cup weekend.
Englishman Ian Poulter, Europe’s lucky charm in this competition, will play his sixth Ryder Cup tournament and has yet to be defeated in singles (12-4-2), while Paul Casey and Henrik Stenson round off a safety-first strategy from Bjørn.
United States: Tiger and Mickelson lead a team of Major champions
Six of the last eight Major winners, six Top 10 players, and the World Number 1 Dustin Johnson – Thomas Bjørn will have a major task on his hands in pushing back Jim Furyk’s US invasion across Ryder Cup weekend.
That’s without even mentioning two of the best players of recent history: Phil Mickelson, who will play his 12th Ryder Cup at 48 (18-20-7) and the return of an in-form Tiger Woods. The 14-time Major winner returns to the Ryder Cup after an absence of six years. Woods (13-17-3) arrives in Paris on the back of an outstanding win at East Lake, his first for five years after many fans and pundits alike had written off any chance of a comeback.
Koepka, Woods, Johnson, Thomas, Spieth … Furyk might just have the best US team in history, but will Thomas Bjørn’s experienced line-up, spurred on by a partisan home crowd, help ensure the trophy returns to European hands?
Who will win the 2018 Ryder Cup?
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