Punch Shot: Biggest concern for each Ryder Cup team

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The U.S. and European Ryder Cup teams are taking shape, and both squads will have several question marks heading into the matches in late September at Hazeltine. What's the biggest concern for each team? Our writers weigh in.

By REX HOGGARD

U.S. team: For Davis Love III and company, which has lost six of the last seven matches, the looming danger may turn out to be America’s future in the event. Last week, Love made it clear he will have no problem using his four captain’s picks on first-timers – specifically mentioning Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka as potential selections. “Our rookies have played well in the past. We picked Rickie Fowler in 2010, he played great,” Love said. “I'm not opposed to picking a rookie especially if he's a good match for one of the veterans.” Love’s vision for this year’s matches is on building a winning tradition, but a host of new players may not be the best recipe for victory.

European team: As for the Europeans, after having dominated the event for the better part of the last two decades the biggest concern will likely be complacency. With the recent form of many of Europe’s best players, including Danny Willett’s victory at the Masters and Henrik Stenson’s fast start to the season (he has four top-10s in 2016), it would be too easy to arrive at Hazeltine National having felt like they’ve already won.


By RYAN LAVNER

U.S. team: There’s no sense breaking down the team as of April 19, since there are three majors and a bevy of other big events yet to play. But what continues to hover over this team, like it does in every even-numbered year, is the pressure. The more they lose, the more they meet; the more they talk about the Ryder Cup, it only heightens the anticipation and stress level for a three-day event that usually boils down to which team putts the best. If the Americans go through all of this trouble with the task force … and STILL lose … then what?

European team: Let’s get this out of the way now: The winners of eight of the past 10 Ryder Cups don’t have any serious concerns. With five months to go, however, it’ll be interesting to see how many newcomers make the team, either on points or picks. Right now, at least five Europeans (Masters champion Danny Willett, Matt Fitzpatrick, Andy Sullivan, Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Soren Kjeldsen) are slated to make their first appearance in the biennial matches. Is that the case come late September? Is there too much unfamiliarity? How will they fit in with a team of proven winners? That will all get sorted out soon enough. If history is any indication, they’ll be just fine.   


By RANDALL MELL

U.S. team: For the United States, it’s the culture of losing. It’s why the PGA of America went to such dramatic lengths creating a task force to examine the entire American Ryder Cup dynamic. In losing six of the last seven Ryder Cups, the Americans have lost in almost every way imaginable, in historic routs and on the wrong end of historic comebacks. They’ve lost with captains they’ve absolutely loved and captains they haven’t. They’ve lost with Tiger Woods and they’ve lost without him. What’s the saying? First we make our habits and then our habits make us? For the Americans, this is about breaking bad habits, whatever the task force determined those may actually be.

European team: For the Europeans, it’s inevitability. It’s knowing the Americans are bound to take some hot putters to this biennial competition one of these years.