The United States are looking strong heading into this year’s Ryder Cup showdown in Chicago.
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European golf has been on the up for a number of years thanks in no small part to the influence of the late, great Seve Ballesteros, who paved the way for the likes of Bernhard Langer, Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam to win majors in America.
Those players were also extremely influential in Europe’s Ryder Cup resurgence which has carried on from the glorious summer of 1985 at the Belfry right until the 2010 victory at Celtic Manor.
Europe’s dominance looks even greater over the last eight contests with six victories and two defeats, but it appears that the Americans are keen to do something about it, with Davis Love III already giving off signs of an air of mild confidence .
And he has every reason to feel that his charges will be able to atone for past failures as his team, as it stands now, looks ominously strong (USA & Europe Evens, tie 10/1 Ryder Cup Winner).
Love will have four captain’s picks this year and his eight automatic selections are, in current order of ranking, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Tiger Woods, Webb Simpson, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson.
All eight players have claimed at least one title stateside this term, with Watson and Simpson taking the two majors on offer (Woods 6/1 fav Open Championship Outright).
A glance at the players just outside the top eight suggests that Love will be spoilt for choice when it comes to revealing his picks, with Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Bo van Pelt and Dustin Johnson all challenging for automatic qualification places.
Other stars who have a realistic chance of gaining either automatic selection or a captain’s pick include Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Bill Haas, Brandt Snedeker, Kyle Stanley and Mark Wilson, with only Furyk of the players mentioned yet to claim a title in 2012.
The veteran does have four top 10 finishes however, with one second place and, with his experience, he would be a captain’s dream to have playing at the Medinah Country Club in late September.
It is true that the USA have gone into a number of recent Ryder Cups with an outstanding team on paper only to be found wanting during the contest but they came mighty close last time in Wales, losing out by the narrowest of margins.
Europe’s team will be dominated by players who play on both sides of the Atlantic, with the likes of Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell certainties to make Jose Maria Olazabal’s automatic 10.
But it is open to question just how strong the European Tour is at present when the big boys are plying their trade in the US.
While the top American stars are dominating the PGA Tour, a glance at winners in Europe this year reveals a paucity of those who might make the Spaniard’s final cut.
McIlroy and Westwood have taken titles in 2012 but there have been a number of first-time winners who are unlikely to make the Ryder Cup team.
Players such as Julien Quesne, Thorbjorn Olesen, Bernd Wiesberger, Ricardo Santos, Danny Willett and, on Sunday, Jamie Donaldson, have all won for the first time this year but are unlikely to make the trip to the states unless they can repeat the dose between now and the end of August.
McIlroy, Paul Lawrie, Justin Rose, McDowell and Martin Kaymer are currently in the top five automatic places in the European points list, which takes precedence over the world points list this time around.
Those qualifying from the world list would be Donald, Westwood, Peter Hanson, Sergio Garcia and compatriot Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
Players hovering just outside the automatic places include Ian Poulter, Nicolas Colsaerts, Robert Rock and Simon Dyson and, while the top end of the team looks strong, it could be argued that Europe’s lesser lights do not have the same aura as their counterparts from across the pond.
The market suggests that it will be a tight contest in Illinois, which could well go down to the final couple of singles matches on the Sunday.
And it might well be that Olazabal will enjoy his men heading to Chicago as underdogs, as it has served the team well in the past as their team spirit and will to win has got them over the line on more than one occasion.