The short answer is yes.
The U.S. side is stacked with bombers, and conditions at the lakeside Pete Dye course have been tailored to their styles. While to the eye it may appear like something found in Europe, it is far from it.
“It looks like a links course but it’s not playing that way. The greens are soft, decently soft. You can’t really run stuff around the green,” rookie Harris English said.
The rough has been hacked down to very manageable lengths – giving the United States’ long hitters a little more leeway off the tee — and while Dye installed more than 1,000 bunkers, soft fairways and greens give a distinct advantage to those who carry the ball a long way in the air. It’s a setup that plays to the Americans’ advantage.
“The golf course, it won’t be as firm or as fast as maybe it would be in a major championship because you’re not trying to test the golfers as much and as thoroughly as they can. The Ryder Cup is match play. It’s a different animal,” former Cup hero Justin Leonard said. Leonard, who was not a long hitter, lost the 2004 PGA Championship in a playoff to Vijay Singh at Whistling Straits, but the course was playing much firmer that week.
“A lot of that does come down to Steve Stricker, and if he feels like his team has an advantage in length, maybe it’s better to have the golf course playing a little bit slower so that his players will be coming into the green with a little less club… a softer golf course I feel like length is a bigger advantage.”
The other obvious factor is the crowd. With travel restrictions coming from Europe in place and the pandemic still affecting the appetite for travel in general the home crowd advantage is magnified even more.
Europe tried Wednesday to garner favor amongst the locals by wearing Cheese Heads and the green and gold of Wisconsin’s beloved Green Bay Packers. It was a clever move from Captain Padraig Harrington but it won’t be enough when the matches get underway. The distinctive European fans aren’t around to help lift his troops.
3. What – at a higher level – is at stake here?
There is more than just the Ryder Cup at stake
This U.S. side represents a changing of the guard. It’s the first time since 1993 that neither Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson is on the team. This roster, which includes six rookies, is the youngest in U.S. history with an average age under 30. Dustin Johnson is the elder statesman at 37, and the majority of the team has yet to reach its 30th birthday.
The side is ridiculously stacked on paper. It has eight of the top 10 players in the world. Ten of the U.S. players are ranked ahead of Europe’s second-highest-ranked player (No. 14 Viktor Hovland).
So, if ever the U.S. is to arrest a slide that has seen Europe win four of the last five, seven of the last nine and 12 of the last 17 Cups, it must begin now. This team has a nucleus that could turn the tables with a decade or more of dominance. But can they actually make it happen? And what happens if they don’t? Another Task Force?
“It’s a big one for our team,” said Tony Finau, who was a member of the U.S. Team that lost in Paris three years ago. “We have a chance to do something really special for our team, our country and especially for Stricks. … Our goal is not only to change the mold this year, but the history of the Ryder Cup for us. It means a lot to us young guys, and hopefully we change the mold not just this Ryder Cup but many Ryder Cups to come.”
For Europe, this could possibly be the last stand for a veteran core that includes Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia. This may be the last Cup for multiple members of this great triumvirate of European Ryder Cup stars and they’d surely like to go out on a winning note.