The 2015-16 PGA season officially draws to a close next weekend when the best golfers from USA and Europe clash in the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota (Sep. 30-Oct. 2).
What started as a friendly tournament between equal rivals has since turned into a biennial butt-kicking at the hands of Europe’s finest. Winners of eight of the last ten matches, Team Europe has all the confidence in the world heading into this year’s clash. Yet the red, white, and blue are the odds-on favorites.
Perhaps it’s because this is one of the strongest U.S. squads in a while, boasting (potentially) five of the world’s top-ten golfers. Perhaps it’s because the United States has “home course advantage.” Perhaps it’s because Tiger Woods and his 13-17-3 all-time record will be watching from the sidelines. Or maybe, it’s just good old fashioned American ignorance? Whatever it is, this year’s Ryder Cup is shaping up to be another classic.
But as we celebrate the end of another great season of PGA golf, it’s never too early to start eyeing up the next year as well. When will Tiger make his triumphant return to the links? And how will it go? Here’s a collection of odds to help you answer all those questions.
Just by Ryder Cup points, it would seem Watson is a lock to grab the final spot after finishing ninth. But there’s a reason the no. 7-ranked golfer in the world was already passed over for three players lower than him on the list: Love has stressed team chemistry as a factor when putting the US squad together. The disliked Watson may be passed over for youth like Thomas or Berger, or experience like Furyk.
Tiger’s circled three events on the upcoming calendar that he’d like to play: the October Safeway Open in October, November’s Turkish Air Open, and the Hero World Challenge in December. Woods overestimated how quickly he’d be able to return from his surgery last year, but after taking all season off, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be able to make at least one of these events.
It’s been over three years since his last tour win, and things won’t get any easier for the 40-year-old, as the field seems to get stronger every year. Still, I remember some old advice about Woods and discounting him; I believe it was: “don’t!”
Old dogs like Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk usually seem to latch onto the team for some veteran leadership, but Woods will need to at least gain a respectable form back by then.
Already a vice-captain for the upcoming tournament, it’s hard to believe the greatest golfer of this generation won’t one day add that honor to his resume.
The biggest change in the golf world since Tiger left is that Nike no longer makes golf clubs, leaving him up the proverbial creek with outdated paddles. What brand might he side with next?
Photo credit: Omar Rawlings (Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/].
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