Ryder Cup predictions, matches we want to see

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MEDINAH, Ill. – We are a little more than 48 hours from the first tee ball being hit at Medinah Country Club, and there are plenty of opinions in the room about who has the advantage in the Ryder Cup.

Does the Americans' length off the tee make them the favorites? Or do the Europeans just want this more?

Our staff of experts took a few moments to offer up their predictions, as well as some matches they'd like to see on Friday and Saturday, and a singles showdown they'd pay to see on Sunday.

Take a look . . .

• • •

OVERALL PREDICTION

Jeff Babineau

U.S. 15, Europe 13: Take away Justin Leonard's Hail Mary putt at Brookline in 1999, and we're looking at Europe winning seven of the last eight Ryder Cups, which is startling when one considers how closely matched in talent these two teams appear to be. Not a single player on the U.S. team has a winning record in this competition, but U.S. players seem to be in good form, a handful are putting quite well, and the modern-day tradition of losing begins to reverse at Medinah. Expect the 13th man (home crowd) to play a significant role.

Jim McCabe

Europe 15, U.S. 13: This is their show, their lifeblood, their everything. They're good at it – very, very good at it – they live for it and their immense love for their captain is real and genuine and stretches forever, not just for this one week because they have to. They will pour their hearts out for Jose Maria Olazabal. Having the best player in the world doesn't hurt, nor does having a few guys who not only excel at foursomes, they enjoy the format.

Jeff Rude

U.S. 15, Europe 13: More American players seen to be in form. Medinah is a bombers' paradise, and the Yanks have more bombers. And it helps playing on home soil. What's more, Tiger Woods hasn't been on a winning Ryder team since the 1990s. You might say he's due.

Sean Martin

USA 15, Europe 13: I like the parallels between this and Valhalla. We're in Middle America, on a course set up for plenty of birdies. Yes, we lost in 2010 and are only 1-3 since 1999, but the tide seems to be turning since the dismal years of 2002-06, when the United States lost by a combined, 52.5-31.5. The Americans won in 2008 and lost by just a point last time in Wales, in an event whose schedule was drastically impacted by weather.

Nick Masuda

U.S. 15, Europe 13: Call me a homer, but I think the U.S. has the firepower - and deadly putters - to pull this one off and keep the Ryder Cup here in the U.S. for a couple of years. Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson give the U.S. a gigantic edge off the tee at Medinah, which rewards the longball. I think the U.S. will make a big move on Friday and Saturday, giving the Americans a three-point lead and allowing them to relax just a bit come Sunday singles, when every man must putt for himself.

Alistair Tait

Europe 14.5, U.S. 13.5: You'd expect me to say that, given I'm European. However, like the last match, this one will be close, too. In fact, so close it could just as easily be the other way around. British bookmaker William Hill is offering odds of 10-1 on a tie, and that looks pretty attractive. I'm stumping for Europe to edge it, though. I think they want it just that little bit more than the U.S. players, and that might make the difference.

Adam Schupak

U.S. 14.5, Europe 13.5: This time the American team has enough magic on the greens to silence the cheers of Ole! Ole! Ole! Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson, and Brandt Snedeker will make their share of clutch putts. Captain Davis Love III has set Medinah up for bashers such as Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Tiger Woods to blast away at will. Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson will kill them with kindness, and Jason Dufner will prove to be the silent assassin. Jim Furyk will attempt to match his unblemished record at last year’s Presidents Cup while Keegan Bradley will bring youthful exuberance. What will Phil do next? Mickelson and his U.S. teammates will hoist the Cup come Sunday.

• • •

OUR DREAM FRIDAY FOURSOMES

Jeff Babineau

Tiger Woods-Steve Stricker vs. Lee Westwood-Luke Donald. Last time these teams were paired, they were shaking hands on the 13th green, with the English duo romping, 6 and 5. I'm guessing the U.S. boys wouldn't mind a rematch.

Jim McCabe

Tiger Woods-Steve Stricker vs. Sergio Garcia-Luke Donald. There aren't many situations where Woods would be an underdog, but this might be one of them. Garcia and Donald have been immense in foursomes, undefeated in four matches. Don't laugh, but the precocious Spaniard might be the best team player in the game.

Jeff Rude

Tiger Woods-Steve Stricker vs. Sergio Garcia-Luke Donald. Woods has had Garcia's number over the years, including at the 1999 PGA at Medinah, but Garcia is 8-0-1 in foursomes and Woods is 4-7-1. Would be interesting to see which trend rules.

Sean Martin

Keegan Bradley-Jason Dufner vs. Ian Poulter-Justin Rose. I'd like to see the American rookies pair together. Maybe Bradley could even elicit some emotion from Dufner if they took on these countrymen/Nona neighbors. Both Bradley and Dufner are in the top-11 in total driving on the PGA Tour and Dufner is fourth in GIR, meaning they could set each other up for plenty of birdie opportunities.

Nick Masuda

Bubba Watson-Tiger Woods vs. Sergio Garcia-Nicolas Colsaerts. Bomber vs. bomber (Watson and Colsaerts), plus a little drama (no love lost for Woods and Garcia). If I had my druthers, Watson also would be able to live tweet the entire match. He could take over "Tiger Tracker." Would be sort of fun. The U.S. wouldn't have the advantage on the greens here, but they'd have two of the most creative players in the world to make up for it elsewhere. I think the U.S. would win this match on the 15th hole, and I think you'd see the old, hot-headed Garcia come back as soon as they got down early.

Alistair Tait

Lee Westwood-Luke Donald vs. Tiger Woods-Steve Stricker. The English duo hammered Woods and Stricker, 6 and 5, in foursomes play at Celtic Manor, and this would be a great rematch. It would be interesting to see if the U.S. pair could get fired up for a bit of revenge.

Adam Schupak

Tiger Woods-Bubba Watson vs. Rory McIlroy-Lee Westwood. I don’t expect to see Tiger and Bubba teamed up, but how much fun would that be? They used to play a lot of practice rounds together, but their relationship has cooled. The circumstances are slightly different with McIlroy and Westwood. Their relationship grew frosty after McIlroy parted from Chubby Chandler’s stable. It appears they have kissed and made up, and Westwood has said he’d like to play with the reigning World No. 1.

• • •

OUR DREAM SATURDAY FOUR-BALLS

Jeff Babineau

I'd love to see Bubba Watson, who will pair with Webb Simpson, play alongside Dustin Johnson in a four-ball session. On a birdie-friendly Medinah layout, those two bombers could make 16 birdies between them. For fun, let's put them up against Rory McIlroy-Graeme McDowell.

Jim McCabe

Phil Mickelson-Keegan Bradley vs. Rory McIlroy-Graeme McDowell. You know all those Tuesday practice rounds at the big tournaments, the money games he dragged the kids into to show them what it's going to be like? Well, this is what Lefty had in mind.

Jeff Rude

Dustin Johnson-Bubba Watson vs. Nicolas Colsaerts-Rory McIlroy. Bombs away and away and away.

Sean Martin

Tiger Woods-Steve Stricker vs. Rory McIlroy-Luke Donald. There's a couple reasons I'd like to see this matchup. Stricker (Illinois) and Donald (Northwestern) would allow us to mov this Big Ten showdown from the gridiron to the golf course. And everyone wants to see Woods and McIlroy face off this week. Also, I like the disparity in styles between the teammates, pairing a power player with a wedge maestro.

Nick Masuda

Brandt Snedeker-Phil Mickelson vs. Rory McIlroy-Luke Donald. This would be a show around the greens, with four of the best short-game artists on display. A couple of goofy Americans and a pair of Euros who have been World No. 1 this season. After watching McIlroy pull off some incredible flop shots in recent tournaments - following in Lefty's footsteps - it'd become a putting battle between Donald and Snedeker. I'd put my money on Sneds, using his $27 putter and all. Couldn't a guy who just won $11.44 million afford something new? Well, I guess what's not broken . . .

Alistair Tait

Sergio Garcia-Nicolas Colsaerts vs. Bubba Watson-Dustin Johnson. Garcia isn't short off the tee, but he would be in this group. This would be the battle of the bombers. Colsaerts is probably the longest on the European Tour, and it would be interesting to see how he'd fare against the two U.S. long hitters.

Adam Schupak

Keegan Bradley-Phil Mickelson vs. Luke Donald-Sergio Garcia. I can’t wait to see which versions of Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson will show up for the Ryder Cup. That will go a long way toward determining which side ends up the winner. Mickelson-Bradley is a classic mentor-student tandem, while Donald is a Windy City resident who is tight with Garcia. You never know when Sergio will bring back his running scissor kick down the fairway he first trotted out at Medinah in 1999.

• • •

SUNDAY SINGLES SHOWDOWNS

Jeff Babineau

Everyone wants to see Rory-Tiger, but I'd like to see Sergio Garcia-Tiger Woods in singles. There would be a little more fire into the mix, because there is not a great deal of love lost here on either side, and Garcia is one of those players who might be better at the Ryder Cup than he is on his own at other big events. He channels his inner-Monty. Garcia is only 1-3 in Ryder Cup singles (though 14-6-1 overall), but I think he'd rise to the assignment, and chances are he will be a little more rested than usual for singles. Who'd win? Woods, of course.

Jim McCabe

Brandt Snedeker vs. Ian Poulter. The only thing in golf that can match Poulter's Ferrari for speed is the fast-talking, fast-playing Snedeker. Send them off first and try to keep up with them. Poulter first? Don't laugh. There may be marquee names ranked higher in the world and more capable of winning the individual glory at the majors, but when it comes to Ryder Cup leadership, it starts with the one-time club pro from England.

Jeff Rude

Like everybody else, Tiger Woods vs. Rory McIlroy with the Cup on the line. Too bad the Ryder doesn't match up pairings as in the Presidents Cup so people could get what they want.

Sean Martin

Tiger Woods vs. Sergio Garcia. Of course Woods-McIlroy would be the marquee matchup, but I'd like to see Woods and Garcia relive their showdown at the 1999 PGA. We thought that was going to be the start of a long-lived rivalry. It wasn't, but this would be a match of two players on the upswing after enduring their share of (mostly self-inflicted) issues.

Nick Masuda

At this point, this choice is probably cliche, but I want to see Rory McIlroy go mano-a-mano with Tiger Woods. We've seen them chum it up while playing together in the FedEx Cup playoffs - almost a downright bromance - but I have a feeling the chatter would be minimal in this one. I want to see the wunderkind against the best golfer of all-time (go ahead, start sending the hate mail). Has the "torch" really been passed yet, because my guess is that it hasn't. In nine rounds together in the playoffs, Woods outplayed McIlroy in six of them. I believe Tiger would win this match, 2 and 1. No 18th hole will be necessary.

Alistair Tait

Ian Poulter vs. Tiger Woods. Poulter lives for the Ryder Cup, and he'll be pumped for the match anyway. If I were Olazabal, I'd have him penciled into that spot right now, which is where Nick Faldo should have put him four years ago at Valhalla. The Englishman would relish the chance to take down Woods. It would be a great start to the singles session.

Adam Schupak

Keegan Bradley vs. Graeme McDowell. It will be a colossal disappointment if the Rory vs. Tiger heavyweight championship bout doesn’t come off. That being said, the other match I’d pay top dollar to see is Bradley against McDowell. Bradley has said he goes to sleep thinking about the Ryder Cup. He will bring passion, fist pumps and excitement to the Cup. He’ll be a breath of fresh air. Whom does that remind me of? McDowell circa 2010, when he was the Man of the Match.

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