Ryder Cup matchplay - Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of Europe's team

Rory Mcilroy

Can Europe retain the Ryder Cup? Here is an assessment of their chances in the matchplay which could ultimately decide the contest...

Nick Stuart, editor of www.mrsportsbook.com takes a look at who could be the hero and who the villain? Who will sink the winning putt and who will watch on as a team celebrates in his face? Ryder Cup singles is what it all comes down to, 12 men versus 12 no holes barred – 12 points that will decide the destination of the Ryder Cup.

Matchplay golf is extremely thin on the ground these days as the format just doesn’t make sense to TV companies and sponsors. There is way too much of a gamble that the big names won’t reach the final and then nobody is interested. This unfortunately means we have very little data to use in order to judge the Ryder Cup singles players’ abilities when it is man against man hole by hole. We can look back at Ryder Cup records and also at the WGC Matchplay and the Volvo World Matchplay although the latter features very few Americans (1 in 2012 and 1 in 2011)

EUROPE

Rory McIlroy - The World No.1’s matchplay record had been pretty patchy up until he reached the final of the WGC Matchplay event this year beating Westwood and Jimenez amongst others on the way. He would eventually lose to Hunter Mahan in the final. McIlroy is a different player to the one we saw in 2010 at the last Ryder Cup and despite his lack of experience Olazabal will be hoping he is a banker point for Europe. Ryder Cup Singles Record: Played 1 Halved 1.

Luke Donald: Donald’s matchplay pedigree can never be in doubt. His consistency punishes opponents who make mistakes whilst his short game will ensure he is always in with a chance of making birdies. His game can grind others down and with a WGC Matchplay title to his name he has shown he can do it against the best. He also came 2nd in the Volvo World Matchplay to Ian Poulter in 2011 and will be another of Olazabal’s trump cards. Ryder Cup Singles Record: Played 3 Won 2 Lost 1.

Justin Rose: Runner up in the World Cup in 2011 when partnering Ian Poulter losing out to Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland, Rose also came second in this event in 2003 when playing with Paul Casey. The Englishman lost in the first round of the WGC Matchplay this year and the in the second round the year before having defeated Zach Johnson in the first. Rose’s previous Ryder Cup experience bodes well though having defeated Phil Mickelson in the singles in 2008 back when the American was the undisputed World No.2. Ryder Cup Singles Record: Played 1 Won 1

Lee Westwood: This year Westwood defeated Nick Watney and Nicolas Colsaerts at the WGC Matchplay before losing in the semi-finals to McIlroy to mark a return to form in this discipline of the game. Westwood’s previous Ryder Cup singles record is incredibly poor for such an important player for Europe. In the past he has often been fatigued by the time Sunday comes around and with a greater strength in depth in 2012 that shouldn’t be a problem. Ryder Cup Singles Record: Played 7 Won 2 Lost 5

Graeme McDowell: McDowell reached the final of the Volvo World Matchplay having defeated Garcia and Lawrie on the way. GMac may not be back to his best but he is playing well enough to be a real challenge for any US opponent. A real fighter he will be an important player for Olazabal in the singles as was evidenced by his play under pressure two years ago. Ryder Cup Singles Record: Played 2 Won 2.

Paul Lawrie: Lawrie reached the semi-finals of the Volvo World Matchplay this season and his previous experience in 1999 was very positive for the veteran Scotsman. Lawrie’s consistency and wonderful short game will make his scalp a very prized one. Ryder Cup Singles Record: Played 1 Won 1.

Sergio Garcia: Garcia like Westwood has found playing in singles a real struggle winning only one of his five singles matches. This will be a real concern for Olazabal who no doubt will want to get the most out of him in the foursomes and fourballs. Given past experience it is hard to find many positives for Sergio heading into 2012 at Medinah. Ryder Cup Singles Record: Played 5 Won 1 Lost 4

Francesco Molinari: Molinari lost in the second round to Dustin Johnson 7&5 on what was a fairly long course that played into the hands of the big hitting American. In 2010 the Italian ran into a Tiger Woods possessed and could do nothing to stem the flow as Tiger shot 9 under par for 15 holes. Molinari will need to find a way of competing at Medinah and will be hoping that Davis Love III is true to his word and sets the course up for birdies. A potential weakness for Europe. Ryder Cup Singles Record: Played 1 Lost 1

Peter Hanson: Hanson lost emphatically to Mickelson in 2010 but beat Jason Dufner 2&1 and then Brandt Snedeker 3&2 in the WGC Matchplay this year to show the potential he has in this form of the game. A more mature player with a very consistent game he will not throw his match away and whoever he plays against will need to win it. Ryder Cup Singles Record: Played 1 Lost 1

Martin Kaymer: It is tough to know what to say about Martin Kaymer who was thumped 6&4 by an inspired Dustin Johnson in 2010 and has struggled for form in 2012 with only one top 10 since April. He was runner-up in the WGC Matchplay Championship in 2011 so clearly has some form in matchplay. He picked up two and a half points from his other two matches in 2010 so perhaps the occasion will inspire him. Another potential concern for Olazabal. Ryder Cup Singles Record: Played 1 Lost 1

Ian Poulter: Three from three, Poulter has a 100% record to defend and will no doubt be a real target for the US players. Every member of the US team would absolutely love to knock Poulter down a peg or two but they’ve been gunning for him for three Ryder Cups now. Ryder Cup Singles Record: Played 3 Won 3

Nicolas Colsaerts: If Dustin Johnson is the power player for the Americans Colsaerts is the big man for Europe. Quite possibly the biggest driver in the world Colsaerts has added some subtlety to his short game that had held him back before. His win at the Volvo World Matchplay will have played some part in his selection as a wild card. Not many would want to take on this ball striking Belgian. No Ryder Cup Record

image: © edbaluan