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Your! Call: Who is the favourite to hoist the Ryder Cup?

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TSN.ca Staff
9/27/2012 6:19:37 PM
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With 24 of the world's top 35 golfers ready to tee it up just outside of Chicago at Medinah Country Club, the 39th version of the Ryder Cup is shaping up to be one of the most evenly matched events in history.

The Americans are the slight favourites according to the odds makers, despite having lost in six of the past eight events dating back to 1999. Still, they have won two of the last three times the competition has taken place on their home soil and feature a deep squad this time around, in which all but one of their players are among the top-20 in the World Golf rankings.

Despite being a small underdog, the Europeans have the confidence of a heavy favourite, thanks to their most recent Cup history. Coming off a 14 1/2 -13 1/2 victory in Wales in 2010, this year's European squad is one of the most talented team's ever assembled. For the first time in two decades they feature the world's no. 1 player, Rory McIlroy, and have a roster littered with Ryder Cup veterans who have enjoyed enormous success at past events.

Looking at the rosters for the two teams, TSN golf analyst Bob Weeks said this could be one of the most hotly contested Ryder Cups in history.

"I've covered this event a lot of years and I don't recall two more evenly matched teams," Weeks said while on the Mike Richards show on TSN Radio 1050 on Thursday. "The two teams are coming in here with almost every player playing hot. You can't really look at either side and say, 'this guy's a weak link'. I think we're in store for a real shootout. It could come down to the last few singles matches on Sunday."

Beginning Friday, the Ryder Cup features eight foursome, eight four-ball and 12 singles matches. Here's a breakdown of how the two teams measure up in each of the formats and also who Medinah will favour.

Foursome Matches:

The opening foursome matches have served as a kick-start for the Europeans in many of the last eight Ryder Cups. Their tried and tested pairings - which include a combined 21-2-5 record from Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood in Friday matches - are something the US cannot duplicate.

Besides the "big three," European captain Jose Maria Olazabal will rely heavily on McIlroy, Englishman Justin Rose, who is coming off a solid performance at the Tour Championship, and Graeme McDowell, the man who delivered the winning putt in Wales and has finished no lower than 12th at every major this year.

Getting off to slow starts in the foursome aspect of the competition has been one of the downfalls for the American team in the past. Despite individual success, they have not been able to translate that over in the team events of the competition.

Unlike his counterpart, Olazabal, US captain Davis Love III cannot lean on positive past results to build his pairings. Instead, he will have to team up players who complement each other in both personality and style of play. Veterans Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson and Jim Furyk will be counted on to set the tone for an otherwise youthful squad that includes four Ryder Cup rookies.

Advantage: Europe

Four-Ball Matches:

The Europeans have dominated four-ball recently and have typically used it to extend their first-day lead or seize the momentum back from the Americans leading into the crucial single matches on Sunday.

Although Olazabal's squad has an individual match record that is not as impressive as their foursome mark, they still have a significant edge including a 16-5-1 combined record for Westwood and Poulter. If Olazabal can get contributions from the likes of Francesco Molinari, Paul Lawrie, Peter Hansen and Martin Kaymer- some of his lesser-known players – the Europeans will be tough to beat.

When they have been successful, the Americans have used the four-ball competition to get them in position to let their play in singles matches become the determining factor.

Love will be counting on his four Cup rookies, Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley and Brandt Snedeker to bring some energy and enthusiasm to the squad should they fall behind early, much in the way Anthony Kim took a leading role at the Americans 2008 win at Valhalla.

Advantage: Europe

Singles:

The one area of the competition where the Americans seem to have the advantage year after year – on paper, at least – are at the Sunday singles matches.

Both teams are stacked when it comes to players in the top-ten, with the Europeans having four, including three in the top five and the US featuring five men, two of whom are major winners not named Tiger Woods.

Where the Americans may have the advantage is in overall team depth. The bottom of their roster is filled out with the likes of FedEx Cup champion Snedeker, tested veteran Furyk and reliable performers Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson.

Based on past performances and recent results, those players should compare favourably with the bottom end of the European roster which includes one rookie, Nicolas Colsaerts, and streaky performers Kaymer and Paul Lawrie.

If the Americans are able to keep things close going into Sunday, their overall talent might just shine through.

Advantage: US

Course:

Completed in 1928, the No. 3 course at Medinah Country Club will play as the longest in Ryder Cup history at 7,658 yards. Love is counting on that length, combined with fast greens and minimal rough to play into the hands of his American team.

Long hitters like Woods, Watson, Bradley, and Dustin Johnson should be in prime positions to go pin hunting if they keep their balls in the fairway. Woods, in particular, is primed to play well, having won the PGA Championship the last two times it was hosted at Medinah.

At the same time, the Europeans feature their share of big hitters, including the likes of McIlroy, Hansen and Kaymer, who should be perfect complements for proven clutch putters, Donald, McDowell and Poulter.

If the course doesn't provide an obvious advantage for the US, the boisterous, in-your-face home crowd should. If the Americans are able to seize the momentum early, their fans might be able to carry them to the finish.

Advantage: US

So, what is your take on the 39th Ryder Cup?

Will the US be able to recapture the magic they displayed at Valhalla in 2008 or will the Europeans ride the momentum they gained at Celtic Manor in 2010 to win the Cup for the seventh time in their last nine tries?

As always, It's Your! Call.

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