I have to take it back. Two years ago, after the U.S. had lost the Ryder Cup competition for the fourth time in five tries, and the sixth in the last eight, I said the competition was no longer a fair fight because the combined strength of European players from various nations should exceed the capability of the U.S. team. However, that was before the amazing infusion of young talent that the U.S. has recently received.
The talent explosion is led by reigning U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson and 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley, both newcomers to the team. Also new to the team are putting ace Brandt Snedeker, who is a captain’s pick, and Jason Dufner, a rising star who almost won the 2011 PGA Championship. Bubba Watson returns to the team as a more seasoned player, having won this year’s Masters Tournament.
“I think we’re extremely deep this time, deeper than we’ve ever been,” said U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, as reported in USA Today.
Love announced his four captain’s picks Tuesday morning at the NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square. In addition to Snedeker, Love added veterans Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and long-driving Dustin Johnson. Other players not previously mentioned who automatically qualified for the team by way of a two-year points system are Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.
The prominent players who failed to make the squad are a clear indication of just how strong this 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup team is. Rickie Fowler, Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan, Bo Van Pelt and Nick Watney did not make the 12-man team. Mahan won two PGA Tour titles earlier this year, including dispatching world number one Rory McIlroy in the final round of the World Match Play Championship. However, Mahan has not played well recently and Love stressed going with the hotter hands of Snedeker and Dustin Johnson. Haas is the defending FedExCup champion, and Fowler is one of the best young talents in the game. Watney won a recent FedExCup playoff round at the Barclays, but it wasn’t enough to gain him a spot.
This new generation of players (Watson, Bradley, Dufner, Simpson) has to remind you of when Jim Courier, Pete Sampras, Michael Chang and Andre Agassi all came along at the same time to give U.S. tennis a big boost just as Jimmy Conners and John McEnroe were fading. If nothing else, they will help restore the competitive balance at the biennial Ryder Cup, which has been tipped toward the Europeans for almost a generation now.
The European team will still provide a major test for the U.S. when the Ryder Cup takes place Sept. 28-30 at Medinah Country Club near Chicago. The 10 automatic qualifiers for the European squad are Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer, Paul Lawrie, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood. They are joined by European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal’s selections of Ian Poulter and Nicolas Colsaerts. On this formidable team are four players (McIlroy, Donald, Kaymer, and Westwood) who are or have been ranked number one in the world.
The battle is joined. The U.S. has a team that is once again at least at the level of the Europeans.