Analyzing all 12 singles matches

October, 3, 2010

NEWPORT, Wales -- United States captain Corey Pavin was sitting at the dais in the Celtic Manor interview room when pairings were released for Monday's dozen singles matches.

Having just endured the most lopsided single-session defeat in team history, losing the combined four-balls/foursomes matches 5½-½, Pavin stoically examined the result of his order against that of the European side.

What he found was a lineup frontloaded by counterpart Colin Montgomerie. With a 9½-6½ lead, Europe's captain is apparently going for the early kill, placing many of his hotter players at the beginning of the draw. Pavin, meanwhile, has staggered the order, sprinkling those who have found success so far -- though there aren't many -- throughout the morning.

Which team holds the advantage? Let's break down all 12 singles matches, which will decide the fate of the Ryder Cup.

Match 1
Steve Stricker (USA) vs. Lee Westwood (EUR)
Records: Stricker 2-1-0; Westwood 2-0-1.
Analysis: Perhaps the two best players on both teams throughout the first three days, but Westwood -- who will move to No. 2 on the Official World Golf Ranking on Monday morning -- has been the Man of the Match so far.
Advantage: EUR. Despite coming into the Ryder Cup with a leg injury, Westwood looks like a man on a mission. Expect him to set the tone for the home crowd.

Match 2
Stewart Cink (USA) vs. Rory McIlroy (USA)
Records: Cink: 1-0-2; McIlroy 1-1-1.
Analysis: The week commenced with plenty of bluster about the potential of McIlroy facing Tiger Woods, but instead he gets the 2009 British Open champion, a captain's pick who has played sublime golf so far.
Advantage: USA. Hey, even Woods lost a singles match at age 21. McIlroy has all the talent, but the wily veteran will figure out a way to win this one.

Match 3
Jim Furyk (USA) vs. Luke Donald (EUR)
Records: Furyk 0-1-1; Donald 2-1-0.
Analysis: Other than the first match, this is the only one featuring two top-10 players. They own very likeminded styles, as well, each being a strong fairways-and-greens type of player who doesn't get into much trouble.
Advantage: EUR. Chosen for the team over the likes of Paul Casey and Justin Rose, Donald is playing as if he has something to prove this week.

Match 4
Dustin Johnson (USA) vs. Martin Kaymer (EUR)
Records: Johnson 0-3-0; Kaymer 2-0-1.
Analysis: Had Johnson not been assessed a 2-stroke penalty for grounding his club in a bunker on the 72nd hole at the PGA Championship, he would have been part of a playoff that also included Kaymer, who went on to win his first major championship title.
Advantage: EUR. Kaymer has appeared shaky on midrange putts -- usually his bread-and-butter -- but DJ has appeared shaky everywhere, among the most disappointing U.S. players so far.

Match 5
Matt Kuchar (USA) vs. Ian Poulter (EUR)
Records: Kuchar 1-0-2; Poulter 2-1-0.
Analysis: Interesting dichotomy in personalities here, with the calm Kuchar squaring off against the fiery Poulter. Good matchup for the U.S. side, as the Brit's energetic gestures won't rattle the confident rookie.
Advantage: NONE. This one has all the makings of an 18-holer. Expect it to go the distance and don't be surprised if each man walks off the final green with a half point to his name.

Match 6
Jeff Overton (USA) vs Ross Fisher (EUR)
Records: Overton 1-2-0; Fisher 2-1-0.
Analysis: No U.S. player has been more boisterous on the course than Overton, who has punctuated a few great shots with "Boom, baby!" -- an ode to his home state Indiana Pacers. Perhaps it's telling, though, that the team's most demonstrative player still owns a losing record so far.
Advantage: EUR. Not sure anyone played better than Fisher on Sunday, as he figuratively strapped Padraig Harrington to his back and carried him to victory.

Match 7
Bubba Watson (USA) vs. Miguel Angel Jimenez (EUR)
Records: Watson 1-0-2; Jimenez 1-1-0.
Analysis: Two very contrasting styles here, as Bubba chooses to bash the ball around the ballpark, while the Mechanic methodically plods his way through a round. Expect the Spaniard to hit his second shot first on nearly every hole.
Advantage: EUR. When in doubt, take age and experience over youth and enthusiasm. Jimenez will be lighting up a victory cigar when this one is over.

Match 8
Tiger Woods (USA) vs. Francesco Molinari (EUR)
Records: Woods 2-1-0; Molinari 0-1-1.
Analysis: Only once in his Ryder Cup career has Woods lost a singles match. That came in 1997, when he fell to Costantino Rocca -- who just happens to hail from Italy, just like Molinari.
Advantage: USA. Monty praised the yeoman's work of Molinari, who birdied the final hole of his match for a halve on Sunday, but Tiger showed signs he is ready to play well once again and always seems more in his element without a partner.

Match 9
Rickie Fowler (USA) vs. Edoardo Molinari (EUR)
Records: Fowler 0-1-1; Molinari 0-1-1.
Analysis: The only match between two players who have competed in only two matches previously, we've seen less of these rookies than anyone else in the field. Each has shown signs of brilliance, but has made some mistakes, as well.
Advantage: USA. Call it a hunch, but Fowler appears ready to do something good, while Molinari seems too focused on simply pumping up the galleries instead.

Match 10
Phil Mickelson (USA) vs. Peter Hanson (EUR)
Records: Mickelson 0-3-0; Hanson 1-1-0.
Analysis: Congratulations to Lefty, who set a U.S. team record on Sunday -- but not one that he wanted. Mickelson has now lost 17 career matches, which sets an all-time record for futility by an American in this event.
Advantage: USA. Yes, I know. Mickelson has looked awful so far. And Hanson, the biggest unknown coming in, has been solid. But Phil has never been a player who needs to feed off the momentum of a previous round. At some point, those short putts will start falling.

Match 11
Zach Johnson (USA) vs. Padraig Harrington (EUR)
Records: Johnson 1-1-0; Harrington 2-1-0.
Analysis: Don't let the records fool you. Johnson has made a handful of clutch putts throughout his two foursomes matches, while Harrington has largely been ineffective so far, despite posting two victories.
Advantage: USA. Monty has praised his controversial captain's pick for being a team leader throughout the week, but there's no sugarcoating the fact that his play has suffered.

Match 12
Hunter Mahan (USA) vs. Graeme McDowell (EUR)
Records: Mahan 1-1-0; McDowell 1-1-1.
Analysis: Well, either this one could decide the entire Ryder Cup or these guys will be finishing up while their teammates either celebrate or commiserate elsewhere on the course. Let's hope it's the former, because this is a very formidable matchup.
Advantage: NONE. Two of the world's best ball-strikers should enjoy a round of "anything you can do, I can do better." In the end, expect it deadlocked, whether that means a deciding half point or a late concession.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for He can be reached at

Jason Sobel | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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