Patrick Reed tees off during practice prior to the 2018 Ryder Cup on Sept. 27, 2018 in Paris.
It was 25 years ago that the United States last won a Ryder Cup on European soil.
If that number alone doesn’t make it seem like a long time ago, consider that four members of the 2018 U.S. team — Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, and Justin Thomas — weren’t even born yet.
American golf fans have been waiting quite literally a generation for the U.S. team to win the Cup across the pond and, consequently, just as long to see the U.S. defend its title. The Americans will look to end both streaks just outside Paris this weekend as they seek to defend the Cup won in October 2016 at Hazeltine in Chaska, Minnesota.
This year’s Ryder Cup takes place at Le Golf National, just the second Ryder Cup to be held on mainland Europe. Competition starts Friday with four foursome (alternate shot) matches and four fourball (best ball) matches. Saturday continues with the same schedule, then Sunday has 12 singles matches.
Each match is worth one point. Each team receives a half a point if a match is halved (tied). As champion the U.S. needs 14 points to retain the Cup while Europe would need 14.5 to win it back.
The U.S. has won the Cup the most, with a record of 26-13-2 all time. But since the U.S.’ opponent switched from Great Britain & Ireland to an all-European team in 1979, the tables have turned slightly. The U.S. is 8-10-1 since then.
The U.S. won the 2016 Ryder Cup in dominating fashion, 17-11, providing a boost of hope that this just might be the year it can get the job done in Europe. If they do, here are five of the possible reasons why.
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Tiger Is Back
First, a caveat. The presence of Tiger Woods has rarely been a guarantee of success for the Americans. In fact, it’s usually been the opposite. Woods has just one Ryder Cup title to his name, in 1999. Woods was hurt for the 2008 title won at Valhalla and did not qualify for the 2016 team, serving instead as vice-captain. He has a lifetime Ryder Cup record of 13-17-3.
But fresh off his first tour win since 2013, the 80th of his legendary career, there’s no question this is a stronger team with Woods on it. Woods, at age 42, is playing some great golf right now, and finished eighth in the 2018 PGA Tour money list.
Major American Champs
How golfers play as individuals is no predictor of how they’ll play in a team event like the Ryder Cup. But there’s no question that it’s been a great year for American golfers. Olympian Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka won three of the four majors this year, with Reed winning the Masters and Koepka winning both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship. Eight U.S. team members appear on the 2018 PGA Tour money list; only Justin Rose makes the list from Europe.
Every member of the U.S. team is ranked in the top 25 in the world, with No. 1 Dustin Johnson and five other Americans all in the top 10. Conversely, only seven of the members of Team Europe are ranked in the top 25, and two are outside the top 30. Not only is the U.S. strong on top-end talent, but it has a deep roster as well.
The Europe roster is headlined by Rose and 2018 British Open champ Francesco Molinari, ranked second and fifth in the world, respectively. Also in the top 10 are Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm. But the rankings on the European roster drop off after that. They also are relatively inexperienced at the Ryder Cup, with five players making their debuts in the competition.
The U.S. has three Ryder Cup rookies, but Thomas does have experience playing in the Presidents Cup, a similar biennial competition between the U.S. and an international team sans Europeans.
The U.S. will return six players from the team that won the 2016 Ryder Cup in Olympians Rickie Fowler and Reed, plus Johnson, Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth. Woods was also there as a vice-captain. Davis Love III will serve as vice-captain in Paris, the only person associated with the U.S. team who played at The Belfry in 1993 when the Americans last won in Europe.
U.S. playing roster: Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods
Captain: Jim Furyk
Vice captains: David Duval, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Davis Love III, Steve Stricker
Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.