Martin: Daniel Berger. I don’t think he’s gotten enough credit for his play since golf returned from its COVID-19 hiatus last year. He’s won twice in that span and been quite consistent. He also has the moxie necessary for this event, which Stricker cited as another reason he was selected for the team. “We know what we’re getting: A great competitor, no weaknesses,” Stricker said. Berger has finished in the top 10 in the past two majors and is a quietly a top-20 player in the world. He could give Florida State fans something to cheer about after a difficult start to football season. And Berger secured the winning point the last time Stricker was the U.S. captain, at the 2017 Presidents Cup. I could see him playing a pivotal role again this week.
Everill: Viktor Hovland. Despite being a rookie for the European team I’m expecting Hovland to play in all, if not nearly all, matches. The young Norwegian will be a breakout star for his team and bring some serious energy and enthusiasm to the table. The key for Hovland will be his putter. He strikes the ball better than most, but he will need to convert his opportunities and roll with that confidence.
Who is the favorite?
Martin: I still think it’s the United States. It has outscored the Europeans, 47-37, in the past three Ryder Cups on home soil and is one historic European comeback in 2012 from sweeping the last three Cups in the United States. Being able to set up the course to suit their distance advantage definitely helps. And Ben is astute to point out that there will be a limited European presence in the galleries because of travel restrictions.
Everill: Europe. The U.S. Team usually always gets this slot pre-tournament thanks to a dominance on paper. For instance, the average world ranking for the Euros when both teams were finalized was 30 while the U.S. boasted an average ranking of 9! (They have players 2-7 and 9-11). The U.S. team has four FedExCup champions (including the current one) and The Open champion. Its 12-man roster has 13 major wins combined. The Europeans have two FedExCups (both McIlroy) and seven major wins in comparison.
BUT – all that means nothing at the Ryder Cup. Here’s the stats that matter. Europe have collected the Cup in 12 of the last 17 Ryder Cups; seven of the last nine and four of the last five. The European Team has a combined 38 Cups experience, winning 28 times. The U.S. has just 12 Cups of experience for 3 wins. Just three U.S. players have experienced winning the Ryder Cup and if things get close that could be the difference maker.
Who will be the man of the match?
Martin: Patrick Cantlay. The FedExCup champion and PGA TOUR Player of the Year will continue to assert himself on the big stages and see his star continue to rise. He arrives in good form, including a week spent holding off Europe’s top player, Jon Rahm, at East Lake. I think he and Xander Schauffele will form a formidable duo in the team formats and I trust him to succeed in singles. We’re seeing the Patrick Cantlay that we thought we would after his incredible summer a decade ago.
Everill: As mentioned above, I’m expecting a huge week from Viktor Hovland. He will be the catalyst of Europe’s victory. Now if… IF… the U.S. team finds their groove like they did under captain Stricker at the 2017 Presidents Cup… well I can see Justin Thomas being the man to lead his troops on the course.