Beginning early today, the 37th Annual Ryder Cup is coming back to the U.S. at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. With the European team winning the past three, the U.S. squad has not held the cup since 1999. (The bi-annual event was cancelled in 2001 due to the Sept. 11 attacks.) This year, the U.S. team, led by captain Paul Azinger, is young – making many nervous that it may not have a chance in standing up to the dominant European team that’s led by captain Nick Faldo.
Along with Azinger, the U.S. team consists of Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Kenny Perry, Jim Furyk, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard, Ben Curtis, Boo Weekley, Chad Campbell, J.B. Holmes, Hunter Mahan, and Steve Stricker.
This is the first Ryder Cup for six of the team members, with three of them only in their 20s. But that’s not a concern for Azinger.
“These guys all know that they’re equally as good as the guys who have played Ryder Cup before,” he told The New York Times.
These guys may be as good as past players, but are they good enough to beat the Europeans? Led by captain Faldo, the European team still looks dominating, with Padriag Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell, and Martin Kaymer. There are four Ryder Cup rookies playing for the Europeans.
The question absorbing the media lately is whether or not this young American team has a chance without the man named Tiger Woods, who is recovering after knee surgery. Even though Tiger’s career has progressed into legendary status, he has been a part of four losing U.S. Ryder teams and only one winning team. If he makes such a great impact, don’t you think they would have won more, even swept the Europeans the past five years? Tiger is not needed this year in my eyes.
The team is young, and putting the world’s greatest golfer on the team (if he were healthy) only serves to make the other players nervous or jittery. Why? Because they are playing with Tiger Woods and they had better play damn well.
This year the team needs to find some camaraderie. They are on their own turf, and they are the underdogs. They need to have fun and work for their leader Azinger.
Obviously, or maybe not, Mickelson will also be expected to play a leadership role. He is the best-ranked player on their ticket, but says he is just a part of the team.
“I’m a player,” he told PGA.com. “That’s my role. I’m not a captain, I’m not assistant captain. This is going to be a fun team, and we’ve got great leadership. Azinger is a great leader… So we’ve got great leadership to help out with a lot of the young players that are going to be on the team. So my role is to play some good golf.”
Mickelson certainly has the right idea going into this tournament that so many will be watching. Honestly, what the U.S. needs to do is relax and have fun. Like the Euros do when they play.
I also believe that without Woods the team will have to play up to their own abilities, which are exceptional. Going in as an underdog could really be an advantage to help the U.S. team play loosely. They have nothing to lose.
I hope the U.S. can take home the Ryder cup this year and prove that individual prowess doesn’t always factor into team greatness.