U.S. has 'slight edge' at Ryder Cup

Phil Mickelson (above) has an intimidating presence on the golf course, says analyst Curtis...

Phil Mickelson (above) has an intimidating presence on the golf course, says analyst Curtis Strange. (Reuters)

TIM MCKAY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:35 PM ET

ESPN analyst and former Ryder Cup captain Curtis Strange says it’s almost too close to call.

Almost, because his loyalties lie with his country.

“I think it’ll be a pick ’em,” he says. “I don’t think there’s any real favourite. We have a really slight edge. We have seen historically in the Ryder Cup there’s no such thing as a favourite.

“I like our team. I like their team. If you had to pick, I think there’s two things that could possibly lean toward the Americans and that’s, first of all, playing in Chicago. Nobody’s familiar with the golf course to make any difference because we don’t play on Medinah that much. But playing in front of your fans, comfortable in your own country, that type of thing helps.”

Strange can see the virtues of each side.

“We have bombers, we have really good long players who are solid big hitters. Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson is an intimidating figure playing him on the first tee. (Phil) Mickelson’s always got some intimidation factor, you never know who’s going to show up. Bubba Watson and Tiger Woods. When you look at it like that, when you stand on the first tee, intimidation does have a place in the game, which I think it does in match play, we have five pretty intimidating players.

“Now, on the flip side, they have Rory McIlroy. They do have Lee Westwood, who really is going to be the leader of the team. McIlroy is so young, he won’t take that mantle. Westwood is the leader of the team. Geez, you’ve got Luke Donald who is 3 in the world now. So it’s going to be fun to watch.”

But Strange admits predictions don’t hold much water.

“It’s why we play the game. (The Americans) have been clear favourites in the past and lost. So much of this Ryder Cup is on emotion for the week, momentum for the week.”

IS IT REALLY A RIVALRY?

It has been called golf’s new rivalry — and fans and writers alike are pulling for it as the game’s new storyline.

After a few years of parity in the game, almost everyone is looking for a good, old-fashion struggle between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy: Young versus old, American versus European, etc.

But ESPN analyst and World Golf Hall of Fame member Curtis Strange has a different take on it, taking the apparent mutual appreciation between the two men at face value. “I think you have to temper it a bit from the standpoint that the age difference is so great,” Strange says. “Certainly, it would be more apples to apples if it was the same age coming up against each other. Rory’s gonna get his shots because Tiger — what’s he, (almost) 37 now?”

Strange says that age difference is what may keep them from becoming heated rivals. “It’s fun for me as a fan to watch them get along, they seem to get along well, which is a good thing. But you wonder how well they would get along if they were the same age and really, really going head-to-head every week.”

 

FUNKY OLD MEDINAH

Can American Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III really manipulate Medinah to give his team a distinct advantage? Probably not, Curtis Strange says.

“I don’t think it has much to do with it. Davis will set it up how he thinks (it) can get to possibly give us an advantage,” he says.

“But I don’t see that happening because first of all, Medinah, nobody’s real familiar with it. Second of all, these players play nine events against each other every year now — the four majors, the Players and the World Golf Championships — so everybody basically plays the same tour now.

“(Only a few) don’t play the U.S. tour on a regular basis for Europe, (such as) (Nicolas) Colsaerts. (Peter) Hanson plays a lot, (Martin) Kaymer plays a lot. (Paul) Lawrie doesn’t play over here a great deal. (Francesco) Molinari.

“Three players play the majority in Europe, so 21 of the 24 players are basically playing the same tour, so they know the setups of golf courses. They’ve played all different types of setups.”

Captain Love reportedly has made the first cut of rough much wider in an attempt to favour his long-hitters, such as Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson.

“Davis thinks because we have such long hitters, and yes, less rough will hopefully take advantage of their drivers, but you know, I don’t see much difference.”

FAMILIARITY DOESN’T BREED CONTEMPT

When it comes to the U.S. versus Them mentality, it’s not what it used to be.

And we have globalization to thank.

“The fans do know more of the European players,” Curtis Strange says. “As far as dissension between the two teams, it’s not like what it used to be because they all know each other so well now. Everybody gets along.”

It may surprise some casual viewers to learn this week that no, Rory McIlroy isn’t on their side. And while fans know all the European players now and the players themselves get along, it won’t ruin the fun.

“The only guys that I see that could stage something that could get under the skin of the U.S. players are Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter,” Strange says. “And they probably will, and that’s part of the fun of the Ryder Cup and that gets the attention of the fans. Back in the day when I was playing, it was Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros and Colin Montgomerie who would ... there was always a little animosity back and forth, especially in the Ryder Cup, but it was all in good fun as well.

“It’s a little bit different attitude toward each other than it used to be. But it doesn’t take away from it.


Videos

Photos