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Golf: Power Rankings: Ryder Cup Medinah 2012

By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist

RobBolton-Column.jpgTwo years ago, Europe formed arguably its deepest Ryder Cup squad. As an example, of the eight that won a PGA TOUR event in 2010, Justin Rose was the only two-time champ, yet he didn’t qualify automatically and he wasn’t selected as a Captain’s Pick for what was a juggernaut of a team.

That has a familiar ring to Hunter Mahan, who won twice this year, including the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, yet he is not among the 12 on the United States roster this week. Indeed, the tide has shifted as the Americans host the 39th edition of the biennial competition at Medinah Country Club‘s No. 3 Course west of Chicago.

Medinah has hosted a bevy of big-time events, including three U.S. Opens (1949, 1975, 1990). More recently, it was the site of the two of Tiger Woods‘ four PGA Championship titles (1999, 2006). Tom Bendelow crafted the original design in 1928, but Rees Jones renovated the property in advance of the 2006 PGA, in the process shaping what was then the longest host track in that major’s history at 7,561 yards.

This week, Medinah will extend 7,658 yards from the tips, and thus will go in the annals as the longest Ryder Cup venue. However, the 391-yard 15th hole will play as a drivable par 4 at least once if not throughout the event. It’s been overhauled with the addition of a pond bordering the latter half of the fairway and the entire green along the right side. A collection area collars the back of the green.

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More Ryder Cup

When Celtic Manor hosted the Ryder Cup in 2010, its drivable, par-4 15th hole served as a potential turning point when everyone blasted over the large, lush natural area, thus relegating the dogleg-right fairway to obsolescence. No one doesn’t love a reachable par 4 these days, so it’s likely that the 15th at Medinah will receive the lion’s share of attention this week.

Despite Europe’s depth on paper in Wales, it had to eke out a 14.5-13.5 victory, and that was a home game. It defends against a stacked American squad that includes 11 winners of 16 events this year alone, including two majors. As achieved in 2010, eight Euros again hoisted hardware on the PGA TOUR this season, but half of those titles were captured by Rory McIlroy. (Interestingly, and coincidentally, Sweden’s Carl Pettersson won in both years, but he’s been ineligible to compete since he doesn’t carry membership on the European Tour.)

As host captain, Davis Love III possesses control to set up Medinah any way he wants. Given the power of his charges off the tee, and with the first-hand experience of getting annihilated 18.5-9.5 at a tight Oakland Hills Country Club in 2004, DL3 has instructed the staff at Medinah to minimize the rough. And while seven Europeans maintain membership on the PGA TOUR, greens are customarily slow on their home circuit; therefore, putting surfaces at Medinah are expected to be slick to favor the home team.

Execution is all that matters, of course. Nevertheless, despite the absence of knowledge of pairings, matchups and the all-too-pivotal swings in momentum, the ranking below attempts to project how Love III will match wits with opposing captain, Jose Maria Olazabal, who is faced with piecing together constituents representing eight countries.

The weather is not expected to be a factor throughout the event. Temperatures will rise into the upper 60s, which is seasonable. Winds may climb into the moderate range, and could result in a one-club move on the trio of par 3s that cross Lake Kadijah. Golfers at No. 2 may be greeted with a crosswind over the lake from the left. Those teeing off at 13 might experience a hurting breeze. And for the matches that reach the downhill 17th, a crosswind from the right would influence ball flight.

Power Rankings: Ryder Cup
Rank Player   Comment
Luke
DONALD
For all intents and purposes, this is a home game given his residence in Evanston, Ill. about 45 minutes away. His 6-0-0 record in foursomes jumps off the page; it includes four wins with Sergio Garcia (two each in 2004 and 2006). Donald is 8-2-1 overall.

Jim
FURYK
Only non-winner this year of the Americans but is also arguably the most versatile. As the de facto go-to, he’d be a smart pairing with Matt Kuchar or Zach Johnson. Furyk was lethal with Phil Mickelson at last year’s Presidents Cup, however, going 3-0-0.

Bubba
WATSON
After a 1-3-0 slate at Celtic Manor, he went 3-1-0 with Webb Simpson at the 2011 Presidents Cup. Watson will furnish heavy lifting from tee to green, so if Simpson’s partnership isn’t rekindled, Brandt Snedeker’s pace of play and putting match up.

Sergio
GARCIA
Competed from 1999-2008; assistant captain in 2010. His career record of 14-6-4 includes an 8-0-1 slate in foursomes. In two starts at Medinah, he closed his eyes and scissor-kicked his way to a solo second at the 1999 PGA; placed T3 in 2006 PGA.

Justin
ROSE
Coming off a solo second at East Lake. On the outside looking in two years ago, he returns following a 3-1-0 record in 2008. That included two wins with pal and fellow Englishman, Ian Poulter. Rose brings ball-striking and touch around the greens.

Ian
POULTER
Backbone of the Europeans. Lives for the Ryder Cup. Phenomenal match-play record that includes wins at 2010 WGC-Accenture and 2011 Volvo World Match Play. He’s 8-3-0 at Ryder Cup, including pairings with four current teammates.

Tiger
WOODS
Just 13-14-2 in six appearances at the Ryder Cup. (He’s 20-14-1 at Presidents Cup.) Pairing with Steve Stricker isn’t foregone conclusion. Since the duo went 4-0-0 at 2009 Presidents Cup, it’s 1-2-1. Jim Furyk offers another proven complement to Woods.

Rory
McILROY
Second appearance. Paired with fellow Ulsterman, Graeme McDowell, in all three team matches in 2010, the duo went 1-1-1. Expect a reprisal of the partnership given it’s one of the most obvious on the board. Both tend to get streaky with their putters.

Graeme
McDOWELL
At this time in 2010, he couldn’t miss a putt. Times have changed. He’s 154th on the PGA TOUR in strokes gained – putting. However, he ranked inside the top six in putting average at each of the last three majors, so when the lights are on …

Jason
DUFNER
Ryder Cup rookie. The two-time 2012 winner is long enough off the tee, aggressive with his irons and underrated around greens. As an average putter, a matchup with Steve Stricker is ideal since they play a similar, pinpoint game on approach.

Brandt
SNEDEKER
Ryder Cup rookie. Can you imagine if Davis Love III had omitted the FedExCup champion? Instead, the two-time 2012 winner pads a souped-up squad. Leads TOUR in strokes gained – putting. Would make sense to pair with a similarly fast player.

Matt
KUCHAR
This is his second rodeo (2010), but his only former partner, Stewart Cink, didn’t return. Kuchar experienced an uncharacteristic tailspin before sharing 10th place at East Lake. A pairing with a guy currently striping his irons (e.g. Jim Furyk) is logical.

Webb
SIMPSON
Ryder Cup rookie. Second-youngest American at 27 years of age. Wasted no time in forging a successful partnership with Bubba Watson at the 2011 Presidents Cup, where they went 3-1-0. Simpson’s short putting has been a recurring weakness.

Phil
MICKELSON
Field-high ninth appearance. Only golfer in the event that competed in the U.S. Open at Medinah in 1990 (T29). Figures to draw Keegan Bradley and Dustin Johnson, but Mickelson went 3-0-0 with Jim Furyk at the 2011 Presidents Cup.

Lee
WESTWOOD
Making a team-high eighth appearance. He’s an aggregate 14-6-6 in foursomes and four-ball. The elite ball-striker preceded a last-place finish at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola with a pair of top fives in the FedExCup Playoffs.

Keegan
BRADLEY
Ryder Cup rookie. At 26 years of age, he’s the youngest member of the U.S. squad. As is often the case for 20something first-timers, he’ll need to harness his energy and enthusiasm. Likely to pair with mentor-at-large, Phil Mickelson.

Dustin
JOHNSON
Only golfer to post top 10s at all four stops in the FedExCup Playoffs. Can only improve on his Ryder Cup record; only victory in four matches occurred in singles in 2010. His recent ball-striking would complement Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

Zach
JOHNSON
After a four-event drought, he regained form late in the FedExCup Playoffs, closing with a pair of top 15s. Normally a beast with his irons, he’s had to lean more on his greenside game in 2012. Red-hot and unrelated Dustin Johnson matches up nicely.

Nicolas
COLSAERTS
Only Ryder Cup rookie for the Euros should love Medinah. While largely popular for his length off the tee, he can more than hold his own throughout the bag. Defeated Graeme McDowell for the title of the Volvo World Match Play Championship in May.

Peter
HANSON
Only win in three matches as a rookie at Celtic Manor occurred in four-ball with Miguel Angel Jimenez. Like most Swedes, Hanson is brilliant with his putter, which makes him a likely candidate to pair with ball-striker Francesco Molinari.

Francesco
MOLINARI
As a rookie at Celtic Manor, went 0-1-1 with his brother, Edoardo. Francesco remains one of the most consistent tee-to-green specialists in the world; he’s logged seven top 10s in his last 14 starts, including a win. Nice complement to Peter Hanson.

Steve
STRICKER
It’s surreal that he needed a Captain’s Pick, but it speaks to U.S. depth. His calling card was a 4-0-0 record with Tiger Woods at the 2009 Presidents Cup. Stricker’s only other relevant experience was a 1-1-0 with Matt Kuchar at the 2011 Presidents Cup.

Martin
KAYMER
Went 2-0-0 in four-ball at Celtic Manor, but he was in better form at the time. Recently picked off his five top five of the year at the BMW Italian Open (T5). Exhibiting an average game that improves nearer the hole.

Paul
LAWRIE
Ends five-edition hiatus since rookie effort in 1999 when he went 2-1-1 with fellow Scot (and former Ryder Cup captain) Colin Montgomerie. Only golfer in field who played the PGA in 1999 (T34) but not in 2006, Strengths are irons and putting.

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