Ryder Cup 2016: Who Has the Edge? To Answer, We Invoke a Legend

September 28, 2016

It’s been two years since Phil Mickelson and Tom Watson crossed swords in the most awkward press conference in Ryder Cup history. Every aspect of the U.S. team-building has been overanalyzed. Bad outfits have been chosen. Captain’s picks have been made, and overanalyzed. Now, blessedly, the Ryder Cup is upon us. For all the boardroom politicking and press-conference posturing, the issue will still be decided on the golf course. Here is our scouting report on all 24 players (listed alphabetically), with a highly subjective rating from one Seve (a total liability) to five Seves (a Ballesteros-like baller).


Rickie Fowler. Lotsa pressure on this captain’s pick, who has good strokes-gained stats but has largely been a non-factor all year. Fowler has an 0-3-5 record in two previous Cups, so no one will be hungrier to win a match. 3 Seves

J.B. Holmes. Considering their respective skill sets, it seems pretty clear that captain Davis Love III’s choice came down to Holmes or Bubba Watson. The long-hitting Holmes was a rock in his only previous Cup—the last U.S. win, in 2008—but his putting has been suspect all year. Can he find his touch at Hazeltine? Love’s legacy may depend on it. 2 Seves

Dustin Johnson. This summer DJ has become the most dominant force in the game, and he has enough mojo to carry the U.S. to victory. Having gone 4-3 in two previous Cups, he’s one of the few Americans with a winning Ryder record. 4.5 Seves

Zach Johnson. This gritty, gutty competitor is a match-play matchup nightmare, as he fights so hard for every stroke. Expect a strong showing. 4 Seves

Brooks Koepka. Gotta love this birdie machine’s swagger, but as good as his stats are, he had a winless season. As one of only two U.S. rookies he may not get many at-bats. 2.5 Seves

Matt Kuchar. In three previous Cups this steady veteran has proven to be an asset in fourballs, going 2-1-2.  He has a losing record in both foursomes and singles. But when it comes to Ping-Pong in the team room, he’s the undisputed king.That has to count for something. 3 Seves

Phil Mickelson. Hard to believe this swashbuckling shotmaker has been so mediocre in so many Cups, going 16-19-7 across 11 appearances. Mickelson is the U.S.’s undisputed team leader, and with a rejuvenated game he’s positioned to do more than just lead the cheerleading. Anyone care for a rematch with Henrik Stenson in singles? 3.5 Seves

Ryan Moore. It’s a big ask for him to lose the Tour Championship in a playoff, find out he’s the final captain’s pick and then rush to Hazeltine. Will this Ryder rookie have anything left to give? 2 Seves

Patrick Reed. No one will be more amped for this than the American Poulter, and his win at the Barclays was the confidence boost he needed after a long victory drought. Here’s to more shushing. 4 Seves

Brandt Snedeker. Hard to believe that a player exalted for his flatstick is only 36th in strokes gained putting. If Snedeker finds his touch on the greens he can be a game-changer, but that’s a big if. 2.5 Seves

Jordan Spieth. It’s been a bummer year for the one-time wunderkind but a big showing at the Ryder Cup could take some of the sting away. As a rookie in 2014 he was sent out first in singles but lost a pivotal match. No doubt Spieth will be highly motivated this time around. 4 Seves

Jimmy Walker. The PGA Championship winner was a stud as a Ryder rookie in 2014, and he possess a well-rounded game that pairs well with any player’s in any format. 4 Seves


Rafa Cabrero Bello. The long-hitting Spaniard finished third at the Match Play Championship. The most seasoned of the six European rookies. 3 Seves

Matthew Fitzpatrick. He looks like he’s 15 but this young Englishman has shown a flinty side in closing out a couple of Euro tour wins. He fits the profile of the classic American foil. 3.5 Seves

Sergio Garcia. His 18-9-5 record across eight Cups pretty much says it all. And Garcia, 36, has been playing well all season. Ruh-roh. 4.5 Seves

Martin Kaymer. After being lost in the wilderness for a long while he has been rounding into form this summer. Which Kaymer shows up may determine who wins this Ryder Cup, making him maybe the biggest x-factor. 3 Seves

Rory McIlroy. Europe’s would-be team leader roars into Hazeltine having won two of his last three starts. In four previous Cups he has been surprisingly quiet, though a 2-0-1 singles record is nothing to sneeze at. This may be the year he imposes his will on the event. 4.5 Seves

Thomas Pieters. The Belgian bomber can overwhelm any golf course. Still, his short game has shown some cracks under pressure. Will be fun to see how this rookie responds. 3 Seves

Justin Rose. His 9-3-2 record across four Cups is no accident—Rose has no weaknesses in his game and his easygoing temperament makes him a dream pairing. Expect more big things this time around. 4.5 Seves

Henrik Stenson. His Sunday 63 at Troon is the round of the year but the Stense looked shaky in crunch time in Rio and at Baltusrol. He could carry the Euros or deflate them. 3.5 Seves

Andy Sullivan. Another classic Europe lurker. Most Yanks have never heard of him but he 29 year-old Englishman has no apparent weaknesses in his game. 3 Seves

Lee Westwood. The 43 year-old warrior has been a stalwart for so many victorious European teams but it’s been two years since his last win and his yippy chipping could be crippling. He is like a sixth vice-captain for his buddy Darren Clarke. 2 Seves

Danny Willett. After a very long Masters hangover Willett has found his form again. This Yorkshire terrier is a very dangerous Ryder rookie. 3.5 Seves

Chris Wood. Yet another first-timer, Wood won the Euro tour’s flagship BMW PGA Championship. The 6’6” Englishman bombs it off the tee but also possesses soft hands around the greens. 3 Seves