Picks for Sunday singles: Europe wins in a close battle

Picks for Sunday singles: Europe wins in a close battle

Lee Westwood, left, and Luke Donald have looked like the two best players in the world this week.
Robert Beck/SI

NEWPORT, Wales — There will be no dream matchup between Tiger Woods and young Rory McIlroy, who implied he’d like a shot at the world’s No. 1 player. But it’s a very interesting draw. The Europeans need just 5 points to take back the Cup. Here’s how the singles look:

Lee Westwood vs. Steve Stricker

Wow. It’s the best against the best. Obviously, both captains frontloaded their lineups, and Ryder Cup history says that’s the only way to go. There’s no point in saving your big guns for the end because the war might be over by then. This is a rematch of sorts because Westwood and Luke Donald destroyed Stricker and Tiger Woods in foursomes Sunday afternoon, 6 and 5. Westwood looks like he’s firing on all cylinders while Stricker appeared worn out from propping up Woods in their first two matches. If it’s going to be a putting contest, though, Stricker has the edge, and I can’t go against a fellow cheesehead. Besides, if the Americans lose the very first match, the final day is going to utterly bereft of drama, and nobody wants that.

The pick: Stricker badgers him for a 2-and-1 win.

Rory McIlroy vs. Stewart Cink

The Most Valuable Player in the American lineup has to be Cink, who hit more clutch shots than anyone else. McIlroy was hit-and-miss in his first Ryder Cup. He had some great moments but messed up on 17 and 18 Saturday. He’s got the shots, and he’s long, but McIlroy needs to improve his putting if he’s going to be a serious superstar. Cink is a savvy veteran who has taken down Sergio Garcia in singles. His putter is working, so the kid may see a clinic on the greens.

The pick: Cink, 4 and 3.

Luke Donald vs. Jim Furyk

If Westwood has looked like the No. 1 player in the world this week, Donald has looked like No. 2. He’s perfect for a course with deep rough — straight drives, great around the greens, one of the best iron players on Tour and one of the best bunker players. You might wonder why he doesn’t win more. Donald has looked totally on his game this week, and he loves to hear the crowds cheering for him, something he never gets the rest of the year. Furyk, however, is tough as yesterday’s bagel, especially in singles. He hasn’t been his best all week, no doubt a little hangover from the grueling FedEx Cup chase, but an upset here is just what this Ryder Cup needs.

The pick: Furyk finds 10 million ways to win, 1 up.

Martin Kaymer vs. Dustin Johnson

Is this some sort of weird poetic justice? The PGA champion taking on the guy that we all thought was going to be in the PGA Championship playoff until we found out he’d grounded his club in the bunker? Kaymer didn’t play so well Sunday, but he’s had his moments this week, and Johnson has been missing in action. He might even be the name in the envelope, the guy who has to sit out if a player on the other team is injured or too ill to play. Johnson says the PGA gaffe didn’t faze him. I believe him, but still.

The pick: Kaymer whistles it straight past Johnson, 3 and 2.

Ian Poulter vs. Matt Kuchar

Poulter plays better when everyone’s watching or listening to his self-important Tweets. Kuchar paired well with Cink and had four birdies Sunday. This should be a good match, but Poulter has spent his life waiting for this.

The pick: Poulter scooches past Kooch, 2 and 1.

Ross Fisher vs. Jeff Overton

No doubt Overton was the bright new star of the American team. Even though he won only one match, he holed putts and had the highlight of the week with his eagle from the fairway and hilarious celebration. His ballstriking wasn’t as good as Fisher’s, whose pairing with Padraig Harrington might have been just the prescription to turn Fisher into a major championship contender.

The pick: Fisher catches his rookie, 1 up.

Miguel Angel Jimenez vs. Bubba Watson

If this were a movie festival, it would be “Easy Rider” vs. “The Wild Ones.” Jimenez, known as The Mechanic, will plod around the course from Point A to Point B while Bubba will go on safari in the tall stuff. Nothing good can happen out of this thick, sloppy rough. Nothing.

The pick: The Mechanic beats his opponent, slow and steady, 3 and 2.

Francesco Molinari vs. Tiger Woods

The joke on Sunday was that this impressive young Italian reminds us all of Ben Hogan. He hits it like Hogan . . . and also putts like the 48-year-old Hogan. It’s a harsh joke, but the truth is, Francesco is one of the best ballstrikers on either tour. Tiger’s in-transition swing is forcing him to play Seve Ballesteros golf. There’s probably too much rough at this course to get away with that, but nobody plays for pride like Tiger. Even if his new swing instructor were Fred Flintstone, he’d find a way to win.

The pick: It’ll be ugly but it’ll be Tiger, 1 up.

Edoardo Molinari vs Rickie Fowler

Edoardo will have his brother running interference for him in the group ahead. He’ll be able to keep tabs on the Tiger show, but he’ll have his hands full. Fowler is a match-play assassin, and that’s the reason Pavin picked him for the team. He hasn’t hit his stride yet this week . . .until now. This could be the most entertaining match of the day, with lots of birdies and maybe some eagles.

The pick: Fowler, 2 and 1.

Peter Hanson vs. Phil Mickelson

This is a step up in class for Hanson, who is probably the most underrated golfer in the world. The man has game. Mickelson does, too, just not this week. Win No. 5 for Europe, this gets them to 14 1/2.

The pick: How Swede it is, 3 and 2.

Padraig Harrington vs. Zach Johnson

The lovable Padraig made up for a poor week of play with tremendous camaraderie and leadership. He inspired his teammates in the locker room and shepherded Fisher, helping him read putts and boosting his confidence. It was very Seve-like. Can’t wait for the day when Paddy is captain. That said, Johnson is a rock-solid player and competitor and, despite winning a Masters, also underrated.

The pick: It’s a Zach snack, 4 and 3.

Graeme McDowell vs. Hunter Mahan

The Ryder Cup is already over, but McDowell has his people here, Irish fans, and it’ll be tough for Mahan to concentrate with the Cup already lost. Mahan may now be one of America’s top three golfers, and we just haven’t realized it yet.

The pick:Go green, go Irish, go McDowell, 2 and 1.

Final score: Europe 15 ½, USA 12 ½.