The Centenary Course at Gleneagles, recently re-designed by Jack Nicklaus in preparation for the Ryder Cup, will undoubtedly provide a fair and equal, if slightly chilly, test for the two teams teeing it up. This will be the second time a Nicklaus designed course has been played in these matches, the first time being the maiden victory for a European team on American soil at Muirfield Village in 1987.
Granted, it’s still early days in the 2014 season, and a lot will happen in the next nine months, but we think a blend of youth and experience for Tom Watson will be the key to overturning recent European domination. Here are 9 picks we’d like to see make the trip to Scotland this Autumn:
If there is to be one talisman for an American team then it would have to be Jordan Spieth, who epitomises the new breed of Web.com players. Spieth has breezed on to the PGA Tour like a breath of fresh air, shaking up the established players and confirming that young guys are ready to win. He has already played in a winning Presidents Cup team and the experience will have done wonders for his confidence.
If any player is due a big performance in a Ryder Cup, it is Tiger Woods. A record of 13-17-3 does little to underline the fact that Woods has dominated his European counterparts (who bettered him in his six losing Ryder Cup matches) on Tour for a decade and more. If Woods can win his 15th major before the matches commence in September, then it will be difficult to see him not having his best showing yet.
Jason Dufner shows so little emotion that he was engineered for ‘on the road’ Ryder Cups. The manner of his PGA Championship last year demonstrates his talents on the big stage. He is a calming presence in a team environment.
Phil Mickelson won back-to-back tournaments in Scotland last year, so he must be looking forward to a return visit in September. A reduced schedule, geared around the majors, might help to keep his ageing shoulders fresh. Lefty is a player who’ll enjoy almost as much support as his opposition in Scotland, not least due to the manner of his Open win last Summer.
Harris English looks to be playing himself into contention. He’s one of just three players on Tour to have multiple wins under the age of 25 (the others being Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed). English is a steady golfer that can build on great foundations.
Zach Johnson looks to be more comfortable than ever. Already a winner on Tour this year and a proven major winner that is building up a bigger head of steam than anyone else. Johnson has started to become a feature in almost every event he plays and has found the key to unlocking the winners circle. His talents are best illustrated when he stared down Tiger Woods in his own tournament last month.
Dustin Johnson will one day prove what an enormous talent he is by winning majors. He won at the WGC-HSBC Champions early this season, making it wins in each of the seven seasons since joining the Tour in 2007. If he transfers his form through the majors this year he’ll be a popular member of Watson’s team.
Matt Kuchar has been one of the most consistent players for the last three years now, without winning much. In Scotland if there’s one American nicer than Captain Tom, it’ll be Matt Kuchar. Likeable players often make difficult opponents.
Billy Horschel is a player we would love to see at a Ryder Cup, but its difficult to predict how he’ll perform, react, how the Europeans will view him and how Tom Watson manages his emotions. A Horschel vs Poulter matchup would certainly be fun to watch.
This is our blueprint for winning back the Ryder Cup, players missing in our team are; Steve Stricker (not playing enough); Rickie Fowler (maturing too slowly); Keegan Bradley (a player European galleries could galvanise against); and then there is Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker too.
Between now and then there is a lot of golf to be played and it will be interesting to see how our picks match up to those actually teeing it up on a fresh Scottish morning in September.