2018 Ryder Cup Preview:  Who Wins in France?

Golf isn’t typically played as a team sport.

And by typically, I mean, pretty much never.

It’s what makes the Ryder Cup so distinct. As golf fans, we get to see the modern greats of our game interact as teammates and share knowledge for the betterment of team. We get access to these stars where they all compete for the greater good of team. There’s more on the line than individual credentials.

Throw in a team rivalry with a history, some personal rivalries left to be decided, some patriotism, and a thrilling three-day format, and it’s no wonder why the Ryder Cup has developed into one of the premier events in the game.

There’s just something about the Ryder Cup. Golf as an entire sport is elevated over this pivotal bi-annual week.

Let’s dive in to the theatre ahead.

In this preview, I want to provide you a list of resources to prepare for the 2018 Ryder Cup. This will provide storylines, overviews, and expectations for the spectacle.

The storyline: Team USA has not won the Ryder Cup on foreign soil in 25 years.

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The TV Schedule

Remember, this year we’re in France. And we’re in France for the first time in the history. This means The Open Championship sleep schedules.

Broadcast schedule (all times Eastern)

Thursday, September 27

10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Opening Ceremony | Golf Channel

Friday, September 28

2 a.m. – 1 p.m. | Golf Channel

8 p.m. – 12 a.m. (re-air) | Golf Channel

Saturday, September 29

2 a.m. – 3 a.m. | Golf Channel

3 a.m. – 1 p.m. | NBC

1 p.m. – 6 p.m. (re-air) | NBC

8 p.m. – 12 a.m. (re-air) | Golf Channel

Sunday, September 30

6 a.m. – 1 p.m. | NBC

8 p.m. – 12 a.m. (re-air) | Golf Channel

If you’d like to watch the Ryder Cup Live, here’s your link.

No Frenchman

Despite the France playing host for its first Ryder Cup, they field no members on the 2018 European version.

There is one notable omission.

In 2014, Victor Dubuisson burst onto the international golf scene. His dazzling match play finale against Jason Day in the 2014 WGC-Match play built lore around this young, mysterious Frenchman. He was young. He was bold. And he was extremely talented.

In his amateur days, he ascended to world number one. Today, he is a 28-year old— injured and reeling— having plummeted in the official world ranking to 226.

Not much is said of his departure from the world stage. There are stories of a 2018 campaign cut short and a recovery from injury. But nonetheless, he is missing from his home nation’s greatest golf moment.     

READ ALSO: TOP 5 REASONS THE 2018 RYDER CUP WILL BE AWESOME

Dubuisson was a member of the 2014 Ryder Cup team. It was there, where he continued to make an indelible mark, helping Europe capture the cup with a 2-0-1 record in three sessions played as a 24-year old.

He was at one point the future of golf in France, and perhaps Europe. This week, he is a spectator like the rest of us.

I don’t know Mr. Dubuisson personally, but I imagine there’s no one feeling more regret about missing this week’s Ryder Cup, than he is. Four years ago, it seemed like a shoo-in he would join his mates in Paris. Disappointing.   

The Course

As I stated previously, France plays host to its first Ryder Cup. The host course is  Le Golf National in Guyancourt, a suburb just southwest of Paris.

All reports are that the course will provide a stern test. This will be different than Hazeltine.

The signature stretch on the property will be the finishing stretch. Holes 15 thru 18 promise to be electrifying, as the data assembled from the European Tour indicates that the stretch of holes will be difficult.

And difficult, in match play, means intrigue.

Golf at Le Golf National will be in stark contrast to golf at Hazeltine in 2016.

Hazeltine was a bombers paradise, designed to elicit birdies, roars, momentum, and coasting on a lead. The golf in France will be much different.

How Will the Course Play?

Le National is a golf course that challenges off the tee and will require accurate driving of the golf ball and precision into the greens.

Translation: big misses are punished, missed greens penal.  

Many of the holes at Le National feature water hazards, many times around the greens, so being the the fairway is critical. So missed fairways will lead to chip outs and layups.

The U.S. set up the golf course to benefit them at Hazeltine, and their team of bombers benefitted from it. The play in France will be much different.

The Players

Team USA

  • Jordan Spieth
  • Bubba Watson
  • Patrick Reed
  • Brooks Koepka
  • Dustin Johnson
  • Rickie Fowler
  • Justin Thomas
  • Tiger Woods
  • Phil Mickelson
  • Bryson DeChambeau
  • Webb Simpson

Team EUROPE

  • Rory McIlroy
  • Jon Rahm
  • Justin Rose
  • Alex Noren
  • Tyrrell Hatton
  • Tommy Fleetwood
  • Francesco Molinari
  • Paul Casey (captain pick)
  • Sergio Garcia (captain pick)
  • Thorbjorn Olesen
  • Henrik Stenson (captain pick)
  • Ian Poulter (captain pick)

Predictions

Team USA Star:

Justin Thomas

He has never played in a Ryder Cup, and considering his resume, that may come as a surprise to the casual golf fan.

But I don’t think many of the players on the team will come in more eager to play great golf than Justin Thomas.

The reason I think JT will emerge as the star of this week’s team is because of form and a desire to prove himself on this international stage. He’ll play in a minimum of 4 sessions and I think he’ll come out with three points for the Americans.

Team Europe Star:

Tommy Fleetwood

He has burst onto the scene as one of the best players in the world in 2018. As well, Fleetwood had a few chances to win majors.

He’s played Le National many times on the European Tour circuit.  Because of this, I think his impeccable ball striking, course familiarity, trend in play, and his motivation to represent Europe for the first team leads to a great week of play for Tommy.

Hopefully Team USA can neutralize his impact on the leaderboard with a few strong pairings.

Team USA Surprise Star:

Bryson DeChambeau

He’s already been seen wearing his #BeatEurope t-shirt. And he’s the type of guy to get obsessed with things.

What are the odds that he comes to Europe with a chart that shows how decibel levels affect ball flight in foreign time zones?

I could see Bryson getting fired up for this event the way Keegan Bradley did back in 2012 at Medinah and giving the US side a strong effort.

Team Europe Surprise Star:

Tyrrell Hatton

Dude is gutty. Dude can play. And among American golf fans, he’s relatively anonymous.

But I think Hatton has the chance to make a serious impact on this week’s event.

Hatton’s play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs was inspiring.  And he’s a passionate triggerman for team Europe. If he gets it rolling the right way, he could surprise some people (and disappoint some Americans.)

BOLD Prediction for the Week:

Patrick Reed does not win more than a single point in this week’s Ryder Cup.

I am fully prepared for this not to be a very popular take.

Captain America’s form isn’t incredible. His play in East Lake was the equivalent to a “lookahead week” in college football, sniffing dead last in the event. Also, he hasn’t had a top-10 since June and will come in as one of the heir apparent “leaders” of the team.

He rode momentum in 2016. I have a feeling he’ll try to force the matter too much in 2018. As a result, it will provide a subtle disappointing effort.

Final Prediction:

Team USA is so(ooo) deep. And with that, I think they’ll manage to get it done, despite this coming across that I’m a complete homer.

Early in the season, the world rankings indicate that the Ryder Cup would be a blowout. But when you consider the USA hasn’t won since 1993 overseas and that the golf course doesn’t fit the strengths of this team (driving the golf ball), I think it will be a slower

I think Thomas Bjorn made a few mistakes leaving Thomas Pieters and Rafa Cabrera Bello off this team. Especially as they were strong in 2016 and had great form late in the year. However, he’s banking on Sergio and Stenson to find old form. And I’m not sure it will pan out.

They’re still favorites (at -160) and I think they’ll eek out one of the closest wire-to-wire Ryder Cup’s we’ve seen in years.

Team USA 15-13. And the cup comes home.