Sept. 23 (UPI) — No. 2 Dustin Johnson and the 12-man United States team are favored to snatch back the Ryder Cup from No. 1 Jon Rahm and the Europeans in the biennial tournament this weekend in Sheboygan, Wis.
The 43rd Ryder Cup, which was postponed by one year due to COVID-19, airs Friday through Sunday on Golf Channel and NBC. The 7,390-yard Whistling Straits Golf Course sits along two miles of rugged Lake Michigan Shoreline.
“It’s been a great week,” Johnson told reporters Wednesday. “I’m looking forward to it. I feel like we have a really strong team, but we are going to have to play well if we want to win.”
No golf carts are allowed on the links-style lawns, which are modeled after some of the best courses in the United Kingdom. Imported Scottish Blackface sheep also roam the property.
Twenty-four players will compete in four-ball, foursome and singles play at the par-71 tournament.
“There are a lot of players on our team who have a lot of experience and know how to get it done,” Rahm told reporters Thursday.
“I’m ready to add my name to that group.”
The American team features Johnson, No. 3 Collin Morikawa, No. 4 Patrick Cantlay, No. 5 Xander Schaufele, No. 6 Justin Thomas, No. 7 Bryson DeChambeau, No. 9 Tony Finau. No. 10 Brooks Koepka, No. 11 Harris English, No. 13 Jordan Spieth, No. 16 Daniel Berger and No. 21 Scottie Scheffler.
“We have 12 unbelievable players and they have 12 unbelievable players,” Thomas told reporters Tuesday. “It’s really just who is going to go out there and get it and execute the best.
“It’s about who makes the putts, who flips those matches, grinds out the halves and gets it done. I’ll go to war with these 11 other guys.”
Rahm, No. 14 Viktor Hovland of Finland, No. 15 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland lead Team Europe.
No. 19 Tyrrrell Hatton, No. 24 Paul Casey, No. 27 Matt Fitzpatrick, No. 35 Lee Westwood, No. 37 Tommy Fleetwood and No. 50 Ian Poulter are among the English players on the squad.
No. 42 Shane Lowry of Ireland, No. 43 Sergio Garcia of Spain and No. 63 Bernd Wiesberger of Austria also will compete against the Americans.
“There is a lot of continuity in our team and I think that has been part of the reason for our success,” McIlroy told reporters Tuesday.
“That’s something I hope never changes, because it has worked very well for us.”
Italian Francesco Molinari led the Europeans over the Americans in the 2018 Ryder Cup.
The Americans won in 2016, ending a streak of three-consecutive European victories. Team USA leads the all-time series 26-14 since 1927, but owns just two wins in the last two decades.
Westwood, 48, is the most-experienced player in the field. He’ll appear in his 11th Ryder Cup.
Garcia will make his 10th appearance. Poulter will make his seventh appearance. McIlroy appeared in five previous Ryder Cups.
Overall, European captain Padraig Harrington leads a more experienced team into Whistling Straits, with 37 combined previous appearances. The European team features just three first-time players.
U.S. captain Steve Stricker brings six first-time Ryder Cup competitors to Sheboygan. The American team totals 12 previous appearances at the tournament.
“It’s different with a lot of us being fairly young, but we still have a lot of experience,” Johnson said. “The dynamic has been great. We all get along for the most part.”
Ryder Cup Format
Friday and Saturday competition features four-ball and foursome play on the tough course, which features rolling dunes and many deep bunkers, and is open to the elements.
Four-ball pairs players in two-person teams. Each player plays his own ball and counts the better of their two scores on each hole.
The lowest score wins each hole and the score is halved if players tie. The team with the most holes won earns one point for their overall Ryder Cup score.
Foursome play also involved two-man teams, but players alternate shots with one ball per hole. The team with the low score on each hole wins the hole. Ties are halved. The team with the most holes won in foursome play adds a single point to their overall score.
The final day of the tournament is singles play, with one-on-one matchups on each hole. The player with the lowest score wins that hole. Player with the most holes won in singles win a point for their team.
The first team to 14.5 points wins the Ryder Cup. If the teams tie at 14 points apiece, the Ryder Cup remains with the reigning champion.
“The Ryder Cup epitomizes everything that’s great in the game of golf,” McIlroy said. “It’s competitive, but there is also a lot of sportsmanship shown.”
Tiger Woods, who appeared in eight previous Ryder Cup tournaments for Team USA, is not expected to attend this year, Striker told reporters Monday.
Woods is recovering from his February car accident. He hasn’t played since November’s 2020 Masters Tournament.
“He’s been, you know, obviously in my ear a lot and I call him pretty regularly,” Stricker said. “He’s part of our Ryder Cup team. He’s part of what we do.”
Some of the U.S. Ryder Cup team recently visited Woods at his Florida home. He is expected to stay in contact with the team through text messages and video calls with players.
“I think it’s just not a good time for him to be here physically because of where he’s at in his rehabilitation, and it’s a tough course to walk,” Stricker said.
“Everybody is going to see it, from tee-to-green, it’s difficult. So he probably won’t show up.”
Woods, a vice captain at the 2016 Ryder Cup, owns a 13-21-3 overall record in 37 matches. He is 4-2-2 in singles play, but owns losing records in foursomes and four-ball formats. He went 0-4 in 2018.
Ryder Cup schedule
Friday — Day 1 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. EDT on Golf Channel
Saturday — Day 2 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. EDT on NBC
Sunday — Day 3 from noon to 6 p.m. EDT on NBC