After spending the last two years talking about Ryder Cup standings, captain's picks and pairings, we're now just days away from kicking off the biennial matches at famed Medinah Country Club. Finally. With that in mind, there's only one thing left to do, and that's break down both teams. Today, we take a look at the U-S-A! U-S-A!
Tiger Woods (Ryder Cup record: 13 win-14 loss-2 halves)
Woods has played in every single Ryder Cup session since his debut in 1997. He currently holds a 4-1-1 singles record but has never fared well in the team format going 9-13-1. The good news is he's 6-3-0 in the last two Ryder Cups and will once again be called on to anchor the U.S. squad. Woods has three wins this season but struggled to stay in contention on the weekend at a number of events.
Phil Mickelson (Ryder Cup record: 11-17-6)
The 2012 Ryder Cup will be Mickelson's ninth appearance. Ninth! Like Woods, his success during the regular season has never translated to the team format where he's 7-13-6 since 1995. Usually a lock to play all three days, it'll be interesting to see how Davis Love III uses Mickelson this week. He struggled for much of the summer and complained numerous times about being fatigued. Will he be able to play morning and afternoon matches, plus singles on Sunday? That remains to be seen.
Steve Stricker (Ryder Cup record: 3-3-1)
Stricker makes his third Ryder Cup appearance and owns a 3-3-1 record. While most of Davis Love's pairings remain a mystery, there's a good chance Stricker will be paired with Tiger Woods on Thursday and, if all goes well, for the entire competition. The pair went 2-1-0 at Celtic Manor. While he's not long off the tee, his accuracy and solid putting make him a perfect partner. You could literally put Stricker with anyone and they'd have a good chance of winning.
[Related: Can Rory keep up with Tiger's career arc?]
Brandt Snedeker (Ryder Cup rookie)
Tiger Woods is always the most talked-about player on the U.S. side, but if you're looking for a 1A, it has to be Snedeker, who's coming off the biggest win of his career at the Tour Championship and is putting lights-out at the moment. If his nerves hold up under pressure, he stands a good chance to play all three days. Rookies are usually eased into the competition, however, benching the hottest putter in golf even for one session seems crazy at this point. Aside from the win at the Tour Championship, Snedeker also won earlier in the year at Torrey Pines.
Bubba Watson (Ryder Cup record: 1-3-0)
With rough resembling a second cut of fairway, Medinah's 7,500-plus-yard layout should be a bomb and gouge paradise for a number of players in the field -- especially Bubba Watson, who should be able to attack a number of the par 4s off the tee. The 2012 Masters champion finished second in points to make the squad.
Zach Johnson (Ryder Cup record: 3-3-1)
One of only two players on the U.S. squad with a .500 record in the Ryder Cup, Johnson will be a short-game specialist this week. With a number of bombers on the U.S. squad, Davis Love III needs guys who can make birdies in bunches from 125 yards and in. Johnson certainly fits the mold with a salty short game and a solid putting stroke. Pair him with someone like a Bubba Watson or Dustin Johnson and see if they can ham and egg it around Medinah.
Dustin Johnson (Ryder Cup record: 1-3-1)
Johnson, who led the PGA Tour in par-5 birdie percentage this season, should thrive on Medinah's lengthy layout. After missing the Masters with a back injury, he returned later in the year and won the FedEx St. Jude Classic in his second start. He also posted four straight top-10 finishes during the FedExCup, including a T-3 at the Barclays. His strong form of late should make him candidate to play every session.
Jim Furyk (Ryder Cup record: 8-15-4)
It's rare that the most controversial pick on the squad is a grizzled Ryder Cup veteran, but after the way Jim Furyk played in 2012, it's easy to see why people questioned Davis Love's decision to add him to the team. Furyk blew Sunday leads at the U.S. Open and Bridgestone Invitational and is the only member of the team without a win this season. He's also 1-8-1 in the four-ball format over his career. If anyone needs a big week, it's Furyk. The question is, will Love put him in play before Sunday singles?
Jason Dufner (Ryder Cup rookie)
One of four rookies on the U.S. squad, Dufner possess a calmness and swagger about him that could come in handy in the cauldron better known as the Ryder Cup. He came close to winning three times in a four-week span during the middle of the season and amassed nearly $5 million this year. Dufner's struggled with the putter of late, but if he can get it going and have a strong ball-striking week ... well, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if he's the name everyone's talking about on the final day.
Webb Simpson (Ryder Cup rookie)
The U.S. Open champion is another solid ball striker who could partner with anyone on the squad and have success. Simpson posted a T-5 at the Tour Championship, so it would appear as if his game is rounding into form. However, if you look at how he's played in the weeks leading up to the final event of the FedExCup -- he posted only one top-10 in seven starts -- it paints the picture of a guy who's been struggling with his game. Hopefully the strong week at East Lake is an indication that he's ready to roll.
Matt Kuchar (Ryder Cup record: 1-1-2)
Mr. Consistent had, what else, another solid season with a win at the Players Championship and nine top-10 finishes. No need to worry, right? But here's the thing: Consistency won't get it done at Medinah. The U.S. need a birdie barrage if it expects to win, and Kuchar hasn't been on his game over his last five starts. He's posted one top-10, missed the cut at the PGA and was never in contention during the FedExCup.
Keegan Bradley (Ryder Cup rookie)
Bradley's fiery personality and steely demeanor are perfect for the Ryder Cup. Seriously, this kid was made for this event. It also doesn't hurt that he's gone toe-to-toe with the best players in the world over the last two years won a major and a WGC event. Expecting big things from a rookie in this format is difficult because everyone is under immense pressure to succeed. Don't expect that to be a problem for Bradley. He's thrived in pressure-packed situation by making big putt after big putt.
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