By Jack Hayward
Europe may be the holders going into golf’s bi-annual fun-fair but home advantage tends to prove a huge factor amidst the most dramatic atmosphere that the sport is capable of serving up.
So then, who will prove triumphant at the Medinah Country Club this week?
The US are looking as strong as they have done in years with the likes of Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler and Nick Watney having not even made the cut and Europe too can boast about their chances with three of the world’s top fou ranked players hailing from the continent.
It seems then that things will be very tight in Chicago so in order to try and assess the two sides’ respective chances I have produced a guide to the teams and a run down of their world rankings, form and Ryder Cup records.
Europe’s top dog is Northern Ireland’s super-talent who has bagged his second major title this year at the PGA as well as a second placed finish in the FedEx Cup series.
World Ranking: 1
Record: 1 appearance; 4 matches, 2 points.
‘Luuuuuuuuuuuukkkkkkeeeeee’ as he is affectionately known has had a fantastic couple of years but the past few months haven’t quite hit the heights of the 18 months preceding them. However, a third placed finish at the Tour Championships at the weekend will have provided a timely boost to his confidence.
World Ranking: 3
Record: 3 appearances; 11 matches, 8 1/2 points.
Westwood has been one of Europe’s most consitent performers over the past decade and he has tremendous Ryder Cup experience, however, he has really struggled for form in recent months in spite of his world ranking.
World Ranking: 4
Record: 7 appearances; 33 matches, 19 points.
He is in the form of his life and he is as ready as anybody in Team Europe to face-off against the formidable looking Team USA.
World Ranking: 5
Record: 1 appearance; 4 matches, 3 points.
He has struggled over the past couple of years since having reached the top of the world rankings but he just about achieved automatic selection to the team and will be hoping to find his best form once again.
World Ranking: 32
Record: 1 appearance; 4 matches, 2 1/2 points
He was the hero for Team Europe at Celtic Manor in 2010 and he will be chomping at the bit to return to golf’s premiere team event. He is a man built for matchplay in terms of his attitude and demeanour and he will undoubtedly play a huge part in proceedings.
World Ranking: 18
Record: 2 appearances; 8 matches, 5 points.
Having returned to the top table of European golf Sergio Garcia is set to thrill in Ryder Cup golf once again and he has as much to prove as anybody at Medinah.
World Ranking: 19
Record: 5 appearances; 24 matches, 16 points
Molinari lined up alongside his brother Edoardo in Team Europe for the 2010 Ryder Cup but this time he is going it alone and is hoping to end on the winning side once again.
World Ranking: 31
Record: 1 appearance; 3 matches, 1/2 a point.
He is one of the European Tour’s most consistent forces and he also shot into the consciousness of global golf fans with a valiant shot at winning the Masters earlier this season having led going into the final round.
World Ranking: 25
Record: 1 appearance; 3 matches, 1 point.
Lawrie’s return to the forefront of the global game has been as stunning as it has been unlikely but the ultimate reward for his efforts is his place in Team Europe in a competition he loves playing in.
World Ranking: 28
Record: 1 appearce; 5 matches, 3 1/2 points.
Poulter might not have been at his best this year and may not be the best player in Team Europe on paper but he remains one of the most confident and flamboyant characters in the game and he has a fantastic Ryder Cup record and will expect to be as involved and as successful as anybody in the team.
World Ranking: 26
Record: 3 appearances; 11 matches, 8 points.
Colsaerts has had a really good couple of years off the back of several disappointing campaigns and his rise in fortunes has resulted in a wildcard pick for Team Europe, which will surely rank as his proudest achievement to date.
World Ranking: 35
He’s back. He might not have won a major since his fall from grace but he has come very close on a couple of occasions this year and his PGA Tour form has been stunning throughout 2012. The Ryder Cup hasn’t been his happiest hunting ground in the past but I wouldn’t be surprised if he bags a few crucial points for his team this time around.
World Ranking: 2
Record: 6 appearances; 29 matches, 14 points.
‘Lefty’ has been painfully inconsistent over the past couple of seasons but he is still capable of the sublime and he performed strongly throughout the FedEx cup series.
World Ranking: 16
Record: 8 appearances; 34 macthes, 14 points.
Having landed his first major title at Augusta people have started to take Bubba a little more seriously and as unconventional as he is he deserves no less than to be regarded as one of world golf’s finest players.
World Ranking: 7
Record: 1 appearance; 4 matches, 1 point.
Having landed his maiden major title many would have expected Simpson to have cemented his place amongst the world’s best players but the past few months since this success have been tough for Simpson as he has struggled to produce his best on a regular basis.
World Ranking: 8
Jason Dufner has proven over the past two seasons that he can be a regular challenger in major events and now he will be hoping to prove his match-playing talents also.
World Ranking: 9
Kuchar is one of world golf’s most solid competitors and possesses very few weaknesses. He could play a huge part if chosen to play alongside one of Team USA’s more flamboyant players.
World Ranking: 15
Bradley’s stunning victory in the PGA Championship last year, his maiden major tournament appearance, was one of the more extraordinary moments in golf’s rich history and he has proven himself not to be a one hit wonder with a year of consistently competing well on the PGA Tour and by establishing himself in the world’s top 20.
World Ranking: 14
Johnson has enjoyed a bit of a renaissance over the past couple of years and he has re-established himself as a regular contender in the majors and will be hoping to take this form into the USA’s fight to steal the Ryder Cup from Europe’s grasp.
World Ranking: 17
Record: 2 appearances; 7 matches, 2 1/2 points.
Has there been anyone who has enjoyed as good a year as Snedeker in 2012? Well, if there is they are few and far between as Snedeker has won the Farmer’s Insurance Open, tied for third at the Open and then won the FedEx Cup in style after triumphing in the Tour Championships as the weekend and bagging himself a double jackpot of over $11 million.
Just to top it off he has been selected as a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup and there will be no player higher on confidence than him going into his rookie appearance in the famous competition.
World Ranking: 10
It is great testament to Stricker that he has managed to maintain such a high world ranking in what has seemed like a fairly quiet year for the veteran. Even when his long game is letting him down his putting remains immaculate and that could again prove to be a huge asset to Team USA.
World Ranking: 12
The Medinah Club is theoretically a big-hitter’s paradise and Johnson certainly fits the bill. He may not have achieved automatic qualification but his length of the tee made him impossible to ignore in terms of Davis Love III’s captain’s picks.
World Ranking: 13
Record: 1 appearance; 4 matches, 1 point.
Furyk hasn’t played anywhere near as consistently well in recent times as he has become renowned for throughout a great career but he has enormous experience both as a PGA Tour player and as a Ryder Cup competitor and that is exactly why he was chosen in spite of failing to make the team by way of automatic selection.
World Ranking: 23
Record: 7 appearances; 27 matches, 10 points.