The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

October 4, 2012

Get ready for Ryder Cup in 2016

If you’re a golf fan, you were glued to the TV Sunday, watching the final day of the Ryder Cup. You witnessed the agony of blown leads or the thrill of an amazing comeback, depending on your perspective.

In less than four years, you can get even closer to that raw emotion when the event comes to Hazeltine National Golf Club at Chaska.

But what will that event look like in 2016?

Will the Europeans extend their winning streak to three by then, or will the Americans break that run in two years at Scotland?

More interesting, what will the teams look like?

Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker both looked old and played that way, so to think they’ll still be on the team in 2016, or 2014, isn’t realistic. Zach Johnson? He’s the kind of competitor this team needs, but he’s 36, and because he doesn’t hit it long, he’ll have to stay sharp with the irons to be a factor in four years.

Phil Mickelson? He’ll certainly be a part of this team in two years, but at Hazeltine? He’ll be 46, and who knows how his arthritic condition will be affecting his game.

Tiger Woods, barring other off-course incidents, might have his next swing change perfected and should be a member of the 2016 team.

Young guns Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedecker, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson, despite playing poorly in singles matches, will be major factors, while Dustin Johnson, Jason Dufner and Matt Kuchar provide the future of the American squad.

It will be interesting to see who the new guys will be. Hunter Mahan and Ricky Fowler nearly were named to this Ryder Cup team, and had they replaced Furyk and Stricker as captain’s picks, it probably would have made the difference in the outcome.

Ryan Moore elevated his status with a strong season and could be considered in two years, and Bo Van Pelt and Robert Garrigus will be in the mix. Bill Haas was on the team in 2010.

Who might be the youngsters that we haven’t yet heard about? Gary Woodland, Ted Potter Jr., Bud Cauley, Harris English, John Peterson and Patrick Cantlay are some of the good young players already on tour. Jordan Speith and Beau Hossler are a couple of amateurs that could make things interesting in the next couple of years.

For the Europeans, Ian Poulter will still be the passionate leader of the team in four years, but Rory McIlroy will be the stud for many more Cups.

Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell are world-class players who will still be near the top of their games in four years, and Lee Westwood will probably be the “veteran” presence in four years..

Who knows the future of Peter Hanson or Francesco Molinari? Paul Lawrie is probably about done.

Watch out for Nicolas Colsaerts, the long hitter who performed very well as a Cup rookie.

The problem that Europe might have is will the next wave of young talent be good enough to replace any of these players, should their games suffer over the next four years?

The Ryder Cup is one of the great sporting events, and local fans will get an opportunity to attend in 2016, even if it’s tough to see how 40,000 patrons per day can follow just four matches per session on Friday and Saturday. Regardless, it seems like an event that rabid golf fans need to attend if given the chance.

Which you’ll have in September 2016.

Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com, check out his local sports blog at www.mankatofreepress.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.

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