The Ryder Cup is upon us, an event that pits the United States against Europe for three grueling days of soul-crushing golf. The matches start on Friday, so what better time to knock out all 24 players in order than the night before the storm? Here are Devil Ball's rankings of the lucky gentlemen that will be representing their homeland in 2010 when they tee off on the 7,378, par-71 Celtic Manor.
1. Jim Furyk (Ryder Cup record: 8-13-3): He is top dog for a lot of reasons, none of those coming because of his previous record in this event. Furyk is everything you want in a partner, so it's confusing why his success has never translated here. No worries, the FedEx Cup champion and shoe-in for PGA Tour Player of the Year is playing the best golf of his career, and plays a more European style of golf anyway, which sets up well for Celtic Manor.
2. Martin Kaymer (Rookie): Forget his rookie status, Kaymer has the game to be great at this right off the bat. The 2010 PGA Championship winner is just one of three major winners on the European squad, and has another win under his belt since his victory at Whistling Straits.
3. Luke Donald (5-1-1): A captain's pick more for his past than his present, Donald finished his year on a hot streak, with two second-place finishes in his last three starts. Donald has been downright nasty in the Ryder Cup, but there is still one problem; his 4-0-0 record in foursomes all came with a guy (Sergio Garcia) who will be driving a golf cart all weekend.
4. Dustin Johnson (Rookie): Another one of those rookies that doesn't seem to let anything bother him. Johnson has two wins on the PGA Tour this year at 26, and showed a ton of nerve at the PGA Championship to fight back and make the playoff (well, you know what I mean). He hits it a mile off the tee, and really straight, which will make him an ideal partner for anyone looking to sneak away with a point.
5. Graeme McDowell (2-1-1): Talk about a banner year for McDowell. The guy not only won the U.S. Open, but took down the Wales Open in June that happened to be, you guessed it, at Celtic Manor. He was one of the few Europeans to have success in '08 at this event, and will most likely be paired with McIlroy all week, which will be as scary a group as Colin Montgomerie will throw out there.
6. Steve Stricker (0-2-1): Right out of the Jim Furyk mold for consistency and excellence, Stricker continues to be one of those guys that gets better with age. He had two wins this year on the PGA Tour, and will most likely be next to Tiger for most of the weekend, a team that went 4-0-0 at last year's Presidents Cup.
7. Rory McIlroy (Rookie): Youth + talent + confidence + expectations + popularity + fellow countryman = Sergio Garcia 2.0. Look for McIlroy to be the new-age Sergio in this event for the Europeans, winning matches and pumping up the crowd. Think he's nervous this week? He already said he wants Tiger in the singles matches, and he's 21.
8. Edoardo Molinari (Rookie): The older of the two brothers, Edoardo has two wins on the European Tour this year, and made the cut in the last three majors, the first time in his career he has done that. If you're talking about comfort level in a Ryder Cup, could you imagine a better situation than being alongside the guy you grew up with? I expect the brothers to have a big week.
9. Hunter Mahan (2-0-3): Interestingly enough, Mahan is the only American in the event to have a winning record. He carries that type of confidence that is rare for youngsters, and honestly believes he can go out and win all his matches. Mahan is coming off his first two-win season of his career, and is a good partner for basically any of the other 11 American players.
10. Ian Poulter (5-2-0): The surprise superstar at Valhalla, Poulter is coming into this event more as a big name than a big player. He's had some success this year, but it all came early. That being said, his win was at the match-play event of the season, so that has to be something he can build on this week.
11. Tiger Woods (10-13-2): Who knows, right? Do we get the Tiger that always seems to stumble in this event, or the guy that dominated at the Presidents Cup last year, highlighted by a 4-iron into the 18th green at Harding Park, so crisp and beautiful that he flipped his club and started walking after it? Will we get the guy that won three majors in one year, or the guy that didn't win a tournament all season? Will we get good Tiger or bad Tiger? I'm leaning towards good.
12. Phil Mickelson (10-14-6): An eerily similar record to Tiger, Phil has never seemed to be comfortable in this setting, especially when the matches are across the pond. No matter, for all the FIGJAM talk tossed Lefty's way, it seems that most of the guys like him a lot, and if he and Dustin have a good pairing, they could be together all week. Also, lest us forget that just a few months ago, Mickelson was trying on his third green jacket.
13. Francesco Molinari (Rookie): The other brother, but the one that played well enough to qualify for the event without needing a nod from Montgomerie. Same thing you're going to get with Edoardo, and if one plays well, I'm assuming the other will benefit.
14. Bubba Watson (Rookie): A winner on the PGA Tour for the first time in his career, Bubba's only true battle will be with his nerves. If the long-hitting lefty can keep it together between the ears, he will be a huge benefit for the Americans. Also, don't rule out a Tiger-Bubba pairing at some point if Stricker and Woods struggle.
15. Zach Johnson (1-2-1): You can't hate a guy that can roll the ball well and stick it close from that all-important 100 yards and in distance. If you pair him with the right guy for foursomes, he could strive, especially if his partner can boom it off the tee.
16. Miguel Angel Jimenez (2-7-3): A shoddy record at these matches for the 46-year-old, but he does have three wins this year. Expect him to come out in some fourball matches, but you'll most likely see him just three times this week, including singles.
17. Matt Kuchar (Rookie): Another one of those "everything you want in a rookie" guys even though he hasn't played his best golf of the year the last few weeks. Still, this is a guy that finished in the top 10 11 times this year, and was mentioned by Mickelson as the best ping-pong player in the group, meaning he is sure to be winning at something.
18. Ross Fisher (Rookie): He won the Volvo Match Play championship in Europe, so he knows how to get it done in this format, but he obviously doesn't have a ton of experience and isn't a big name. Still, Fisher is the type of European that could sneak away with three points without anyone realizing it.
19. Rickie Fowler (Rookie): Feast or famine with this kid, who can miss a cut and then finish in the top five the next week without batting an eye. He has the game and the firepower to strive in this format, and is the odds-on favorite to be the 2010 version of Anthony Kim.
20. Stewart Cink (4-7-4): Probably the most interesting captain's pick by Pavin, Cink has never done much in this event and isn't having that great of year. That said, he does drive the ball long and straight, and if he can get the putter going like Turnberry a year ago, he could be scary.
21. Lee Westwood (14-10-5): He played the best golf of anyone in the world for eight months, but an injury sidelined him in the early part of August and we haven't seen him play competitive golf since. Always a factor in this event; if Westwood isn't healthy, it'll be a huge blow for Monty and the Europeans.
22. Peter Hanson (Rookie): Another question mark for Montgomerie, Hanson pulled out of an event last week because of a cold, but seems to be healthy now. Still, not much experience for Hanson means we should see him sparingly for Team Europe.
23. Padraig Harrington (7-11-3): If his name wasn't Padraig Harrington, he wouldn't be anywhere close to Wales, but history reigns supreme when captain's make their selections. He hasn't been the same since those swing changes after the '08 season, and will have to shake a recent case of choke-itis if he wants to make an impact this weekend.
24. Jeff Overton (Rookie): The only thing he has going for him is his ability to play in tough conditions, so if it rains this week, he might be a benefit for the Americans. Still, he is a young guy that has never won a PGA Tour title, and maybe the most unknown of all the 24 players on this list.