THE Ryder Cup is always special but this year's tournament in France could be one of the greatest showdowns.
Europe always win at home – it's 25 years since they were defeated – but at the end of September they face possibly the strongest side the USA have put together.
Crucially, it's not just supremely talentes but has team spirit which has been forged by recent captains and it helps some players are pals from college days.
Skipper Jim Furyk named Tony Finau as his final wild-card pick and while many were surprised he didn't go for in-form Xander Schauffele the final man to be picked hardly weakens the side and is ranked 15th in the world.
Furyk earlier chose Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau – the three players in ninth, 10th and 11th on the standings.
The top eight to qualify were Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth.
Simpson and the inconsistent but on his day incredibly talented Watson are the only possible weaknesses. The others are some of the toughest competitors with Fowler the only one lacking a Major on his cv.
Thomas Bjorn's side are boosted by the fact Justin Rose is the new world No.1 although that could change by the time the players tee up at Le Golf National.
Rose qualified automatically alongside Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Alex Noren, Thorbjorn Olesen and Jon Rahm, Bjorn went for experience ahead of form and added Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey as his wild cards.
So plenty of talent there but not as explosive looking as the American team and obvious weakenesses are Olesen and Garcia who has been struggling recently.
USA won 17-11 at Hazeltine last time but haven't triumphed in Europe since 1993 at The Belfry.
I'm backing them to break that run and they are odds-on favourites and a best 16-19 with 188BET. Europe are 6-4 with BetStars and a draw pays 12-1 with Ladbrokes and William Hill. To be leading after day one the USA are 7-5 at BetStars.
There are eight rookies in the line-ups – five for Europe and three for the USA.
Joh Rahm is 11-5 favourite at Betfred to be Europe's top debutant but the Spaniard's temperament is questionable and I'd rather be on England's Tommy Fleetwood at 11-5 with bet365 as he's a class act who's enjoyed another good year.
Former world No.1 Justin Thomas is 4-5 favourite to be best first-time performer for the Americans and interestingly he was the only team member to play the course in this year's French Open finishing eighth on four under – three shots behind Noren.
That course experience should be invaluable to Thomas although many players including Phil Mickelson went on a fact-finding trip with Furyk when they were over for The Open in July.
Mickelsen and Woods have poor Ryder Cup records but even those two giants of the game have out their differences behind him although there's little chance they'll be playing together.
Thomas is expected to play at least four games while fellow rookies Finua and DeChambeau may get just three so he looks a solid favourite in this market.
Rose will be one of Bjorn's go-to guys and almost certain to play all five matches. The Englishman is 5-2 with William Hill to be Europe's top points scorer ahead of McIlroy (11-4).
Koepka, this year's US Open and US PGA champion, has proved he's the man for the big occasion and will love this event. He's a former European Tour member and will feel right at home in Paris.
I'm backing him to be highest combined points scorer at 11-1 with McBookie – Johnson is the 10-1 favourite. Woods will have backers at 18-1 but the big question is how many games will he play? Bjorn could protect him and keep him fresh by limiting him to 18 holes each day but I suppose it depends on how he performs in the morning sessions.
There are loads of other specials about so have a look and see what you fancy.
- USA to be leading after day 1
- Fleetwood top Euro rookie
- Thomas top USA rookie
- Rose top European
- Koepka top points scorer
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