MEDINAH, Illinois -- Of all the Ryder Cup events I've covered and watched, I can't remember one being as evenly matched as this one. It's also one of the few times I've seen 12 players on either side arriving with their games in order. It's hard to point out any of the 24 golfers who are struggling at the moment.
For that reason, picking a winner could come down to one or two small differences. Here are a few things I think are worth noting that could play a part in deciding who wins on Sunday.
Putting – Golf is definitely a power game these days, but in match play, it all comes down to putting. A long putt made can do more than just win a point; it can swing momentum or stop the bleeding. Think back to Graeme McDowell's big putt on Sunday at the last Ryder Cup as evidence. There are some great putters on both squads: Steve Stricker and Brandt Snedeker for the Americans, Luke Donald and Justin Rose for the Euros. But it seems to me the U.S. has more players who are great with the flatstick. Advantage: USA
The Crowd – The fans are always a factor in the Ryder Cup, and Chicago could be even more so. Players will tell you it doesn't matter much, but they'd be lying. A partisan gallery that's yelling and screaming pumps them up, and they can get swamped if they're on the other side, having to hear it. This is one of the few times in their career that these golfers are team players and so the crowd becomes part of that. Advantage: USA
Strategy – It may not be quite as important as it's made out to be (see: Azinger, Paul. The Pod Strategy), but getting the right pairings in the right order can make a difference. You have to play 12 golfers and you have to put them together properly for the proper game being played. In this case, I think that Jose Maria Olazabal has an easier job with the team he has and may have a few more deep thinkers on the sidelines helping him. Advantage: EUROPE
Big Guns – No real contest here. The American big guns – Mickelson, Furyk and Woods – have been rotten in Ryder Cup play. Mickelson has contributed three and a half points over the last cups, Furyk four.
On the other side, Westwood, Garcia, Poulter and Donald have been strong. To win the cup, you not only need the supporting cast to help, you also definitely need your stars. Right now, the European stars are shining brighter. Advantage: EUROPE
Fourball -- For some reason, the Americans haven't been able to play fourball very well in the Ryder Cup. In fact, since 1985, Europe leads the US by a 20-point margin in fourball, 62-42. The Americans need to figure out how to fix that if they want a chance at winning. Advantage: EUROPE
Singles – If they can get to Sunday with the lead, the Americans will be awfully tough to defeat. Even though they've only won four cups since 1985, they hold an advantage of 74-70 in singles play. The moral of the story is the US golfers like to play alone. Advantage: USA