By JIM O'SHEA
College Contributor Network
For the first time since the "Miracle at Medinah," the U.S. and Europe will square off in one of golf's greatest traditions, the Ryder Cup. This time around, it may be the "Stunner at Gleneagles" or the "Blowout in Gleneagles." I am leaning more towards the latter and here is why.
The U.S. and Tom Watson shot themselves in the foot by making the captain's picks so early. Watson went with an experienced bunch of Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley, and Webb Simpson. But Bradley did not even qualify for the TOUR Championship, and Mahan and Simpson finished outside of the top-20 in a 30-man field.
The smart picks would have been Billy Horschel and Chris Kirk, who are not only the hottest Americans right now, but the hottest players on tour. Horschel had three straight top-two finishes and won the last tournaments of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Kirk won the only tournament Horschel did not in that span and finished tied for fourth at the playoff finale.
The players that made the U.S. team are good, but none had a particularly spectacular season. Rickie Fowler finished in the top-five in every major, but did not win a tournament on tour in 2014. Jordan Spieth went on a hot streak between early May and the U.S. Open where he was in every tournament but also did not come out on top at a single one. Jimmy Walker was the closest any came to a great year, but his three wins all came before Feb. 9.
Phil Mickelson, who is the best-known player on the team, did not win at all this year and the last time he was out on a course he withdrew in the BMW Championship. Another veteran, Jim Furyk, did have a successful TOUR Championship, finishing second. But, as usual, he faded towards the end. And then there's Bubba Watson. Bubba won the Masters, but that was all and he finished right in the middle of the pack at the TOUR Championship.
With Europe's squad it is the complete opposite. It has the No. 1 player in the world and who most pick to be the Player of the Year – Rory McIlroy. McIlroy had his breakthrough season, winning three straight tournaments in a stretch that included two majors. Sergio Garcia also almost had a breakthrough, but came up just short again at a major in The Open Championship.
Last year's FedEx Cup champion, Henrik Stenson, put pressure on McIlroy on Sunday at the PGA. He finished in third and had another top-five at the U.S. Open. Martin Kaymer won two of the hardest tournaments, the Players Championship and the U.S. Open. When his putting gets going, watch out and he got the clinching point for Europe at the 2012 Ryder Cup, so he knows what the pressure feels like.
Europe has three of the top five players in the world and, quite frankly, at this event it's just plain better. In this century, Europe has won five of six Ryder Cups and the only one the team lost came on American soil. The last time the U.S. won across the pond was in 1993 -- Jordan Spieth was just two months old.
The Europeans are by far the favorites in 2014. But if the Americans want to pull off the upset, they better have a good lead going into Sunday (they entered the day with a four-point lead in 2012) or else the "Miracle at Medinah" may be the "Blowout at Gleneagles" this time around.
Jim O'Shea is a junior at Syracuse University studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism. Born and raised in Houston, TX. He's an avid Texans and Texas Rangers fan. Also golf is his favorite sport. Follow him on Twitter: @JimOShea4
By JIM O'SHEA