Ryder Cup 2014: Picks and predictions ahead of Europe v America clash

Rory McIlroy, if stories are to be believed, ran out of room last year when practising on Royal Wimbledon’s driving range.

Members claim that the Northern Ireland star, currently world number one, was smashing his drives so far over the 300-yard limit he ended up peppering unwitting golfers on the adjoining 15th fairway!

It may be quite some time before McIlroy returns to South-West London (or at least the All England Club), but that will not stop Wimbledon golfers joining the rest of the sporting world in fixing their gaze, and remotes, on the Centenary Course at Gleneagles this weekend for the 40th Ryder Cup.

Europe will be looking to McIlroy to help them make it a hat-trick of wins in the biennial event and, with four of the world’s top six, they certainly start as favourites.

However, if Medinah in 2012 showed us anything it is that, in this event in particular, anything is possible – especially when Ian Poulter is around.

Here is SW Londoner’s quick guide to who, and what, could be crucial to this weekend’s outcome.

Europe Key Player – Sergio Garcia

McIlroy may attract the most media focus, and Poulter will make headlines with his passion, but it is Garcia who will provide the European heartbeat this week.

The latest in an illustrious line of Spaniards to have thrived in the Ryder Cup, Sergio is enjoying his most consistent season ever, and his enthusiasm and all-round game make him a perfect partner for anyone in the side.

At 34, and now in his seventh Ryder Cup, the world number three will take a leadership role at Gleneagles, possibly pairing with Henrik Stenson for a formidable-looking fire-and-ice combination.

USA Key Player – Jordan Spieth So close to winning this year’s Masters and just 21 years old, Spieth could be the surprise package of the tournament.

With a maturity that belies both his youth and his Ryder Cup rookie status, the Texan’s cool temperament will be vital as the weekend’s inevitable emotions start to boil.

The world number 13 has few weaknesses in his game and could partner anyone, though a four-ball pairing with Bubba Watson would look particularly strong, with Spieth’s consistency allowing his flamboyant partner licence to attack.

Three Key Holes

The 1st

It’s not how you start it’s how you finish, but the opening hole sets the tone for the whole match and this 426-yard par 4 will test the nerves early on Friday morning.

It is a classic risk-reward hole, with a bunker in play on the right-hand side for anyone bold enough to take driver – though the longer hitters will then only need a sandwedge into the elevated green.

Birdies are possible for those brave, or foolish, enough to start aggressively but pressure can do strange things to even the most seasoned pros, so expect drama from the very first hole.

“Birdies are possible for those brave, or foolish, enough to start aggressively.”

The 16th

By now the pressure will be unbearable, and the closing stretch on the Centenary Course will be crucial, starting with this 543-yard par 5.

This hole screams danger from the start, with a bunker right in the middle of the fairway in prime driving range, and then a nerve-shredding second into the green over a loch.

Tight matches could well be decided here, with eagles looking as possible as some very big scores – expect that water hazard to have a few lost balls in it before the weekend is over.

The 18th

Another par 5, this one relatively short at 513 yards, but a drive that requires precision as the dog-leg right has little run-off.

If your match heads down the 18th you know the match is still alive and that every shot counts, and the approach shot looks devilish with bunkers all around the two-tiered green.

Under normal circumstances for these pros this should be a birdie hole, but playing the last in a crucial Ryder Cup match anything is possible and this hole looks perfectly set up for inevitable drama.

“Anything is possible and this hole looks perfectly set up for inevitable drama.”

The Format

Friday and Saturday each see four morning four-ball matches followed by four foursome matches in the afternoon.

On Sunday every player in both sides will be involved as 12 singles matches will decide the fate of the cup – 14½ points wins outright, a 14-14 tie will see Europe retain the trophy.


The eternal dilemma: head or heart? All Ryder Cups, even those that seem like foregone conclusions, will come down to the Sunday afternoon singles and who can hold their nerve.

Not that Paul McGinley has put a foot wrong, the Tom Watson factor looks crucial for the US, and without Tiger Woods to disrupt team harmony expect a far stronger unit than two years ago.

So strong that they may well prevail: USA to win 15-13

Image courtesy of Ryder Cup via YouTube, with thanks

Related Articles