Ryder Cup Schedule 2012: Must-Watch Players and Pairings

Colin Kennedy@ColinKennedy10Featured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2012

Phil Mickelson tees off during a practice round at Medinah Country Club
Phil Mickelson tees off during a practice round at Medinah Country ClubAndy Lyons/Getty Images

United States Team Captain: Davis Love III

Players to Watch:

Phil Mickelson 

Phil isn't having the greatest year of his career in 2012. Heck, he may be having one of his worst, but that doesn't take away from the fact Mickelson has been there before, and in a competition such as the Ryder Cup, experience matters. 

An argument could be made that every player on the U.S. squad has enjoyed a more successful 2012 than Phil Mickelson. Yet he still stands as the most experienced player on Davis Love's team, having played in every Ryder Cup since 1995. 

I expect the United States team to go as Mickelson goes. If Phil plays poorly early on, it could be a long event for Love's guys. However, if Phil is right, the cup could come back to the States. 

Brandt Snedeker

 Europe can claim the world's No. 1 ranked golfer at the moment, but the United States may have the hottest. 

After edging Rory McIlroy at the FedEx Cup playoffs event last week, Brandt Snedeker enters the 2012 Ryder Cup with $10 million and high expectations.

At 31 years of age, Snedeker will be playing in the Ryder Cup for the first time this coming weekend. With all the confidence in the world, don't be surprised if Snedeker continues his winning ways at Medinah Country Club.  

Expected Pairing of Note:

Tiger Woods & Steve Stricker

The two Americans are no strangers to match play. In the 39th edition of the Ryder Cup, any pairing other than this would be shocking. 

Arguably the greatest individual golfer of all time, Tiger Woods had a tough time finding a suitable partner prior to the 2009 President's Cup. After Fred Couples first put him together with Stricker at Harding Park three years ago, there has been no turning back.

The duo of golfers went 4-0 in 2009, and a 2-1-0 record at the Ryder Cup means that any changes to the combination would be idiotic for a U.S. team struggling for success. 



European Team CaptainJose Maria Olazabal

Players to Watch:

Rory McIlroy

The obvious leader of the 2012 European Ryder Cup team is coming off a strong yet disappointing performance at the FedEx Playoff event last weekend. 

After losing narrowly to American Brandt Snedeker, Rory McIlroy looks to bounce back at Medinah Country Club. 

The 23-year-old golfer enters the 39th edition of the Ryder Cup with a bullseye on his back. As the world's No. 1 ranked player, the United States will have their sights set on upset. 

But McIlroy embraces the challenge, and has confidence in his game. The winner of the 2012 PGA Championship also won two legs of the FedEx Cup playoff. 

This weekend, the world's top-ranked golfer will look to add a second Ryder Cup title to his already-impressive resume. 

Lee Westwood

 Like Phil Mickelson on the American side, Lee Westwood presents the European with veteran leadership. 

Entering his eighth consecutive Ryder Cup, the 39-year-old Englishman hopes to improve upon his winning ways at Medinah. 

Westwood is 16-11-6 all time in Ryder Cup play and 4-1-2 with returning Euro Sergio Garcia. A pairing that may be reunited could spell trouble for the Americans. 


Expected Pairing of Note:

Graeme McDowell & Rory McIlroy

 The two former U.S. Open Champions ironically represent one of Europe's most certain pairings. 

Previous partners and close friends, McIlroy and McDowell played three matches together in the 2010 Ryder Cup in Whales. 

In his two Ryder Cup appearances, McDowell has won both his singles matches. McIlroy stands as the American's main target and Europe's strongest link. 

Look for this pairing to be key at Medinah Country Club.