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Article updated: 9/24/2012 12:51 PM

Our Ryder Cup team breaks down the challenge

By Mike Spellman

We're not golf experts and we don't play them on TV. Just four guys from the newspaper who watch a lot of golf and love to sit around and talk about the game.

We'll be out at Medinah Country Club all week for the 39th Ryder Cup. But before we go, here's what we're talking about.

What's the one thing you can't wait to see this week?

Len Ziehm: Rory vs. Tiger, but we'd have to wait until the last day to see that. I think what will be interesting is how the crowd reacts to Luke Donald -- a popular local player playing for the enemy.

Mike Spellman: The first tee first thing Friday morning.

John Dietz: Just how excited Ryder Cup crowds respond in important matches -- that should be a lot of fun.

Joe Aguilar: The enthusiasm of the players. When I covered the Solheim Cup a few years ago, the women were real and fun and engaging I want to see the guys in that same atmosphere, and see if they're the same way.

We've all played Medinah, but we've never played it with the rough this low. Is it going to be a birdiefest?

Dietz: I think it will be. When the PGA was there (2006), the pros ate up that course and the rough was six inches. We didn't even play that terribly when we played it from the tips. I think they're going to eat it up.

Ziehm: Medinah has never been set up like this for any real serious competition, or for the members. That's a tough golf course and my suspicion is it should be set up this way more often.

Aguilar: Whether it's tough or easy, it's still going to be exciting, and past Ryder Cups have proved that. It's going to be exciting whether it's a lot of birdies or a lot of bogeys.

Dietz: I agree with that. It's going to be a lot of fun to see it that way.

If you were on the U.S. team, who is the one European, other than Rory McIlroy, that you wouldn't want to face?

Spellman: Ian Poulter just seems like a beast in this kind of competition.

Ziehm: Lee Westwood. His consistency over the years has been very good. He's a wily kind of guy who would make a tough opponent. He knows what he's doing.

Aguilar: Justin Rose has been playing well. He won here last year at the BMW. He's a player I really like and I expect him to do well.

Dietz: Len brought him up earlier: I wouldn't want to face Luke Donald. He's been very tough in Ryder Cups -- I think his winning percentage is almost 80 percent in his Ryder Cup matches (8-2-1).

Who is the guy the U.S. will need to do well in order for the team to do well?

Aguilar: I think, even though he's had a mediocre record in the Ryder Cup, it's Tiger. If Tiger plays well, that will give the U.S. team momentum and the crowd will really get into it. We've seen what kind of effect he has on crowds, and I wouldn't be surprised if it rubs off on his teammates.

Dietz: I hate to take the easy way out, but Joe's right. You take out his record in singles matches and for a golfer of his caliber, he's been terrible in the Ryder Cup. He needs to have a huge weekend.

Ziehm: I'm intrigued with how Brandt Snedeker might do. He's a real streaky player, a great putter and a rookie. There's just something about him that makes me think he might have a real impact.

Spellman: I'll go with Phil Mickelson -- terrible through most of the year but much better toward the end. They need him, big time.

What U.S. rookie will garner the most points?

Ziehm: Jason Dufner, I think. He did a smart thing recently when he skipped the first playoff tournament, which was a surprise at the time, but this is a pretty heavy stretch of golf. He obviously must have needed the break. Maybe some of that was designed in hopes of good play in the last few weeks of the season.

Dietz: I'm going to take a stab here and say Keegan Bradley. Of the four rookies on the team, he's got the best final round scoring average by far.

Aguilar: I'm going to go with Keegan Bradley, too. After what he did last year in winning a major, and he's still playing well. And he's got good genes, being Pat Bradley's nephew.

Spellman: I'm going to make it 2 against 2 here and go with Dufner. Just the blood pressure factor; the guy doesn't seem to get nervous at all.

It's Sunday singles and it's Tiger vs. Rory. If you're the U.S. captain, which player takes on Graeme McDowell?

Ziehm: I think I'd put Phil up against him. For no other reason than it would be an established star against an established star kind of thing. You couldn't go wrong putting Phil up against anybody. That would be a heck of a good match. I'd like to see it.

Spellman: I'd go with Stricker, a nice low-key guy. That would be some good, steady golf between those two.

Dietz: I'd go against that thinking and put Bubba Watson out there.

Spellman: Wow, we haven't even mentioned Bubba Watson yet.

Dietz: Talk about excitement!

Aguilar: I just know this: it would be fun to watch Bubba on the Par 4 15th hole if he were down one.

Now for the big question: who is going to win the 39th Ryder Cup?

Aguilar: If you look at it on paper, it's a no-brainer -- it's Europe. But all that said, and knowing how bad I am at predicting things, I'm going to go with the U.S. I don't know how, but I think a new hero will emerge and the U.S. will pull it out somehow.

Ziehm: I think it's going to be a pretty clear victory for Europe. To me, it's Europe by maybe a 3-point margin.

Spellman: I've been leading toward Europe the whole time, but for some reason I'll go with the U.S. just squeaking by with my man Dufner winning 3 big points.

Dietz: I've been thinking Europe. Maybe the home-field advantage can come through for the U.S., but I'm just going to go with Europe. I'll go a little closer than Len and say by a point and a half.

Care to share your opinion? Visit our Ryder Cup page at dailyherald.com, and click on the comment link to this story.

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