’Tis the season for partisanship, provincialism, and contentiousness. I’m talking of course about the Ryder Cup, those biennial matches that bring an us-vs.-them jingoism to the normally genteel and gentlemanly game of golf. This morning, U.S. captain Davis Love III finalized the American side with his four at-large picks, choosing Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, and Brandt Snedeker to complete a deep and talented squad that will face a top-heavy European squad under captain Jose Maria Olazabal.
On paper, the Americans would seem to have a slight advantage. Of the top 22 players in the current Official World Golf Ranking, eleven will be competing for the Stars and Stripes, only six for the Euros (although Europe can claim three of the current top four — Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, and Lee Westwood). The American players collectively hold 23 career major championships; the Euros claim only five.
But once again, the U.S. faces a serious obstacle in this year’s matches, set for Sept. 28–30 at Medinah Country Club in suburban Chicago. Historically, the European side has simply wanted it more. The Ryder Cup is the Euros’ Holy Grail, their Super Bowl, their Olympics. While the Americans typically send a group of strong individuals, the Euros counter with a truly unified, single-minded team.
Love’s challenge is to prod his team to match the Euros’ intensity. Europe’s limitless passion for this event always seems to erase any talent gap — a gap that has shrunk to virtual nonexistence anyway.
Here is a full rundown of the respective teams.