As the busiest and most anticipated season of professional golf begins to heat up, Rory Murphy takes a look at the biennial event which rounds off the year in a series of articles analysing different aspects of the competition.
The home team, bar a couple of variations depending on form, more or less picks itself and lines up as an impressive combination of youth and experience.
Barring a huge breakout season for the likes of Tony Finau or an uncharacteristically bad showing for the oldies, it will line up as follows:
The less said about Tiger’s struggles the better but it’s fairly reasonable to assume that the world number 444 won’t be teeing it up at Hazeltine.
Fairly or not, I can’t see Furyk maintaining his strong ranking and will only be at the Cup in a vice-captain’s capacity.
One of the star men for Davis Love III in 2012, he’ll have to adapt to the anchor ban very quickly to have any chance of a captain’s pick.
The most impressive part of Love’s first attempt at the captaincy was his pairings. He started the ultra successful Phil-Keegan partnership and had it not been for a rather eccentric Englishman, it would have been between them for the Player of the Tournament. So with a new set of players to pick from, it’ll be interesting to see what the American picks.
Spieth/Reed – Very impressive at Gleneagles and the most obvious pairing this year.
Phil/Rickie – Without Bradley, Phil needs a new partner and Rickie’s youth will work well with Lefty’s experience. Good friends off the course also. Not a lot of pragmatic golf in that pairing, though.
DJ/Kuch – A ying and yang pairing which could really work. Steady Eddy Kuchar would allow Johnson to attack Hazeltine in fourballs.
Kisner/Zach Johnson – This pair’s accuracy from the tee will be difficult to beat around the narrow fairways and small greens of Hazeltine. Good for both formats.
What They Need To Do To Win
Do whatever they did for the first two days in Medinah and avoid another Sunday meltdown.
The pressure will be on them as the home team without a win since 2008 and building an early lead will help. The pressure won’t abate if they do but it will settle the nerves in the dressing room. They’ll face an inexperienced European team away from home but they’ll have nothing to prove.
A changing of the guard is taking place this side of the Atlantic and this might be the American’s best chance to win since Kentucky eight years ago. It will be Phil Mickelson’s last appearance and he could spearhead their chances in Minnesota.
Next week, Rory will look at the European team.
Rory Murphy, Pundit Arena