Men of the Manor
Ewen Murray brings you his essential guide to the 24 men competing in this weekend's Ryder Cup.
Last Updated: 29/09/10 6:41am
Not long now folks. The teams are set, the captains will have been working overtime and all we require is the good Lord to give us some fine autumn weather in Wales.
Thanks for your time in replying to my column on the pairings for the fourballs and foursomes partnerships with the majority wanting to see the Molinari brothers from Italy and the Irish duo of Rory and G.Mac together in the opening session, it could well happen.
The Europeans have enjoyed a superb season with 10 of Monty's 12 tasting victory during the qualifying process with both McDowell and Kaymer winning major championships.
The American side has shown some excellent form during the past two months and many of them are at the top of their game.
The captains have been exceptional in the build up to Celtic Manor and I speak on behalf of all of you when I say the opening ceremony on Thursday will be a grand occasion as they try and trump one another.
Let's have a closer look at the class of 2010.
The news that Lee has overcome his calf injury is good news for Montgomerie. He has already stated that Lee, playing in his seventh Ryder Cup, needs to be more of a leader both on and off the course. This is something that Westwood will relish and our six rookies will look to Lee for guidance when necessary. Westwood is a born winner and having him 100% fit is a huge bonus for the European team. Down the years, he has played with Faldo, Sergio, Monty and of course formed a great partnership with his close friend, Darren Clarke. Nick Faldo looked after Lee in his first match at Valderrama so he will know what his role is in Wales. I don't think he will disappoint.
He may be a rookie but to the home fans he will not feel like one. This hugely likeable young man has progressed as we all thought he would and just out of his teens has the golfing world at his feet. A superb driver of the ball, foursomes and fourballs will come alike to him. He was born to play golf and will be a strong member of the European side.
Here is a man who had the courage to change where he lived, his manager, clubs, balls, coach, the whole shooting match. Graeme felt his career was standing still and believed it was time for radical changes. It's worked out beautifully for him and his reward for his tunnel vision was the US Open title at Pebble Beach. That week, he held off Mickelson, Woods and Els to win in great style. He won at Celtic Manor in June so the course fits his eyes perfectly. McDowell is very much his own man and no American will fancy him in the singles.
Coolness personified. The manner in which he won the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits was impressive to say the least. Martin only needed a handful of events on the Challenge Tour to win his playing privileges on the main Tour. His rise has been consistent and he has that air of calmness that is so evident in his fellow countryman, Bernhard Langer. Who will he partner? He is capable of playing with any one of his team mates, a big plus for his captain.
Two years ago, many, including myself, did not think he had done enough to earn one of Nick Faldo's wild cards. His reaction was fantastic. Two weeks of hard practice and total focus turned Poults into Valhalla's top points scorer. His form has dipped after his wonderful win in the Tucson desert last February, but expect Ian to relish once again the white hot atmosphere this event presents. He may be restricted to the fourballs and singles.
A fine season in 2009 was the foundation of Ross making the side with the highlight winning the World Match Play in Spain. New to fatherhood, it was understandable when his form slowed but a wonderful win at Killarney confirmed his rich talent. Along with Westwood, he's one of the best off the tee which will be a great advantage over such a long course.
Surely the ideal foursomes partner. Rarely off the fairway so plays many of his approaches from the perfect position. He makes the most of that setting up one birdie putt after another. He should have won more than his Italian Open of 2006 given the chances he's had and that is something he will have to address once this match is over. His consistent play should have him in the winners circle more frequently.
Francesco's older brother has been a revelation. Last year, he was plying his trade on the Challenge Tour when his manager secured an invite to the prestigious Dunlop Phoenix event in Japan. Having won that, Edoardo has never looked back and his win in the last counting event at Gleneagles was brilliant. It showed he can handle the pressure and as one of the games top putters, it could be a busy three days for him. Many see him as a partner for Francesco, I see him as one of our most important players.
Unlucky not to make the side two years ago, Peter is one of our underrated stars in Europe. Like Fisher, an excellent driver and a game that can wear down opponents. His win in the Czech Republic showed he can deliver when necessary and a player who will be comfortable both in foursomes and fourballs. Because of his consistent long game, any of Europe's side will be happy to be alongside him. It's so important that the captain has a member who can fit in as and when he needs to. Hanson is that player.
MIGUEL ANGEL JIMENEZ
It's amazing to think Miguel was Seve's vice captain 13 years ago at Valderrama. He has matured with age. He has gone from an average golfer early in his career to one that is respected by every player on every Tour. Miguel, although more than twice the age of Rory McIlroy, plays golf the same way as the youngster. He plays well because he enjoys playing. Golf is still a hobby to Miguel. He has twelve wins since turning 40 and his Ryder Cup experience is a welcome addition to a side with six first timers.
An unblemished foursomes record made Luke a must for one of Colin's wild cards. Third to McDowell at Celtic Manor in June, even after a 75 in round one, Donald is predictable in the best sense. He is similar to Francesco Molinari in many ways with his no-fuss approach and his neat and tidy game. If you asked the other 11 players in the European team who they would like to partner, Luke Donald would be mentioned more than any other.
A controversial wild card given the fact that Paul Casey, who has a genuine chance to win the Fed-Ex Cup this weekend, is omitted. Casey also won the world match play at Wentworth and got to the final of the Accenture match play twice in Arizona. Colin played alongside Padraig in some classic Ryder Cup matches and no one knows more than our Captain what the Irishman is capable of. He should have qualified by right but his schedule, which at last he has recognised was poor, left him in the position he is in. His last full point in the Ryder Cup came in 2004 and he has lost in the first round of the Accenture the last two years to Pat Perez and Jeev Milkha Singh. He is not there on merit, but Colin has an unswerving belief in Padraig and he will be under some considerable pressure to perform. Having won three majors, we know his quality. If he can deliver three points in Wales, I'm confident his team mates will find the other eleven-and-a-half to win back the Cup. As his captain says: "It's time for Harrington to step up to the plate". Padraig owes Monty's loyalty with a major performance.
A difficult year for "Lefty" both on and off the course, but his win at Augusta, for the third time, confirms that when he is good, he is irresistible. He may well partner young Rickie Fowler in the fourballs whilst being rested in one of the foursomes. Now a senior figure in the American side, their five rookies will look up to Phil as a leader and he has all of the qualities required to fill that role.
One of the world's most underrated players. Starred in the win at Valhalla and will do again in Wales. Remarkably consistent with an unswerving belief in his own ability. A superb driver and a streaky putter but when on song is as good as anyone as we saw at the Firestone Club in Akron, Ohio in August. He is versatile and an important member of Pavin's side.
A very emotional individual and in golfing terms, a loose canon. Long beyond long but not always under control. His first win has done wonders for his confidence and he came within a whisker of major success in Wisconsin. I doubt he will be seen in the foursomes but his power could be a factor in the fourballs.
Jim had the honour of holing the winning putt last time around, a veteran of Ryder Cups and a very reliable player to have in a team. Like Francesco and Luke, Jim will fit in wherever. He has no obvious partner and may have several over the first two days.
Comeback player of the year twice in his career. Stricker had a superb record in the Presidents Cup back in the mid nineties and throughout the last three years has been the game's most consistent player. One of the world's best exponents with the putter but lacks length off the tee. Brilliant foursomes partner and may well be alongside Tiger Woods in that format.
Amazing year of highs and lows and all credit to Dustin for riding the various storms throughout the season. Has undergone some swing changes under the watchful eye of Butch Harmon and has become a much more accomplished player. Like Bubba Watson, prodigious length off the tee and having won one of the Fed-Ex series will not be short of confidence.
Unknown quantity. Yet to win on the PGA Tour and when he lines up alongside his team mates it's how he handles that fact that will be crucial. Always ready to deflect the blame, he has come up short when the difficult questions are asked. I would be surprised if he plays more than twice.
One of the finds of the season. Brilliant college record but found it hard to live up to early expectation. Good attitude is one of his strengths, unlike Overton. He has a calmness under pressure that will serve him well over the three days.
Many would say he's too short off the tee for a course of this length, but they said that about him at Augusta and he went on to take the green jacket laying up at every par 5. Serial putter and rarely misses fairways. I would expect to see Zach in both of the foursomes.
A fine match play record was no doubt instrumental in Pavin selecting Stewart as one of his wild cards. Deceptively long and straight and since he changed to the regular-length putter has improved his performance on the greens. One of Corey's old heads with plenty of experience.
Another player yet to win on his home tour but one of golf's most exciting prospects. A swing that is very much his own, but possesses the confidence of youth. His young nerve enables him to be a bold putter and with Phil Mickelson alongside him in the fourballs, that combination will be one of the joys of this year's event.
Who would have thought that Tiger would have needed the nod from Corey Pavin? It's been a tough time for Woods albeit his own doing. There must have been times when he wondered how bad things could get, but by the looks of it he is well on the road to recovery. The signs have been good during the past month and his alliance with coach Sean Foley has seen a more consistent swing that is much more within himself. With all that Tiger has faced, I get the impression he is at his happiest on the course, it's where he is in control and I think we will once again see the best of Tiger next month. Many say his Ryder record is not that great. It only looks that way because his individual record is so astonishing. He has only lost once in the singles, to Costantino Rocca at Valderrama, and I think he will enjoy a fine three days at Celtic Manor.
So there we have it. You will agree with some of these comments whilst disagreeing with others. It's hard to pick the winning side as this year I think there is very little between them.
The captain's job now is to get their men on that first tee ready to go. I think this is a big week for Padraig Harrington and for Tiger Woods. They are the on-course leaders and they have to lead by example.
Both have the class and quality to do so and the difference at the end of the week may well be how they perform over the three days.
Whatever you are watching it in, standard or high definition or the truly remarkable 3D, enjoy it and I look forward to picking the bones with you in a fortnight's time.