What a time to be a sports fan in Wisconsin.
The Milwaukee Bucks captured their second NBA title in July, the Milwaukee Brewers clinched a postseason berth over the weekend and perhaps never have been better equipped to win the World Series for the first time, and now Whistling Straits is ready to host the Ryder Cup.
In a sense, the familiar sports-centric refrain, “wait ‘til next year” arrived in the Badger State, and it was exactly the messaging at this time last year. Because of the pandemic, the normally biennial Ryder Cup was delayed until now. Scroll past the full-field ranking for details on the makeup of the teams, what the course along the western coast of Lake Michigan demands, and more.
NOTE: In a match-play team competition consisting of five sessions over three days, only one of which is Singles on Sunday, and with matchups and momentum determined in real time, the ranking of the players below reflects projected impact on the event.
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 24 Bernd Wiesberger 23 Brooks Koepka 22 Tyrrell Hatton 21 Collin Morikawa 20 Tommy Fleetwood 19 Bryson DeChambeau 18 Harris English 17 Scottie Scheffler 16 Matt Fitzpatrick 15 Dustin Johnson 14 Lee Westwood 13 Tony Finau 12 Shane Lowry 11 Paul Casey 10 Daniel Berger 9 Sergio Garcia 8 Xander Schauffele 7 Viktor Hovland 6 Justin Thomas 5 Rory McIlroy 4 Ian Poulter 3 Patrick Cantlay 2 Jon Rahm 1 Jordan Spieth
The Ryder Cup is layers upon layers of dynamics, relationships and varied directions of individual careers, but it starts with the captains, and this edition delivers in the construct of the compelling.
Wisconsin’s own Steve Stricker leads the U.S., because of course he does. He was predestined for this moment. No one doesn’t like Steve, but adoration alone doesn’t win competitions.
In the other corner is Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, he of a trio of victories in the majors and among of the best thinkers/quotes in the sport. Like all European captains who have preceded, he won’t turn away any notion that the visitors are the underdogs, this despite the fact that they are the targets as the defending champion, not to mention winners of nine of the last 12 meetings. Go all the way back to 1985 and Europe is 11-5-1 in the Ryder Cup. Yeah, some underdog.
The tidal shift of the 2021 edition is that half of the Americans are debutants in the event, while only three of the Europeans are participating for the first time. That can be overanalyzed but there’s no understating Europe’s chemistry, which doesn’t age. It’s as much the byproduct of positive group reaction to unfavorable results as it is team success in stressful conditions. With the road game in rural Wisconsin this week, the focus is as sharp as it’s simplified by the minimization of distractions.
Of course, the only measurement that matters is the scoreboard on which 28 points will be distributed. Per its tradition, the U.S. has elected to open Friday and Saturday with Foursomes. The afternoon sessions on both days will be Four-ball. After four matches in each of those four sessions, all 12 on each team will compete in Singles on Sunday. If the Ryder Cup is tied, 14-14, then Europe will retain the title.
The Straits Course at Whistling Straits is one of Pete Dye’s masterpieces, and it’s one of the most instantly recognizable tracks as the host of the PGA Championship in 2004, 2010 and 2015. Not surprisingly, Europe also has had more experience on the course where only Matt Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland and Jon Rahm haven’t competed. Five of the Americans are pegging it here for the first time.
The Straits played as a stock par 72 for the 2015 PGA and at 7,501 yards. This week, it’s a par 71 with three par 5s, and tips at 7,390 yards. In addition to the conversion of the 11th hole to a par 4 – which reflects a reduction of 44 yards and its test as a par 5 six years ago – the other primary changes include a shortening of the par-4 first hole (also by 44 yards) to 364 yards, and a drop of 17 yards at the 552-yard, par-5 16th.
No matter the format, but especially in Foursomes and Singles, keeping the ball visible/reachable/findable is the premium across the property. Hazards abound, and every area with sand – inside and outside the ropes – is treated as such. Ball-striking will prevail and set the stage for unpredictable, red-hot putting. Bentgrass greens are tricky in spots, but at 7,000 square feet, there’s plenty of room on which to land on approach.
After wind and dicey weather exits, Mother Nature is expected to cooperate over the three-day weekend of competition. There’s no hiding from the breezes but they will be, ahem, whistling in at a steady clip north of 10 mph but from the prevailing westerly direction, so the course will test as created. Rain can’t be ruled out on Friday, but it shouldn’t halt play. Sunshine and seasonal highs in the 60s are forecast for Saturday and Sunday.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
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