The 42nd Ryder Cup is just days away, with Le Golf National near Paris ready to play host to the latest battle between Europe and the United States.
A spirited effort by Patrick Reed and the addition of the well-chronicled "task force" helped the Americans end a run of three straight losses in 2016 when Team USA defeated Team Europe at Hazeltine National.
With six of the world's top 10 players on the team, the US enters the competition as the favourite despite losing the last five times they have been overseas.
Ahead of Friday's opening matches in France, we assess Jim Furyk's team:
ROOKIES HAVE SERIOUS GAME
Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau will make their Ryder Cup debuts in France, but none of them should be hidden by Furyk when selecting pairings.
Thomas, who in 2017 won his first major championship, the FedEx Cup playoffs and earned a spot on the Presidents Cup team, is an elite force who can match up well with anyone else on the European squad. He hits it far and has shown steady improvement around the greens. He seems like an ideal partner for good friend Rickie Fowler.
DeChambeau won three times on the PGA Tour this season, including the first two FedEx Cup Playoff events. He also finished runner-up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, proving he is one of the game's elite young talents. DeChambeau and Tiger Woods have hinted that they might make a well-calculated duo in France.
With three top 10s in majors this year, and three runners-up finishes, Finau took his game to another level in 2017-18. Though he has only one win on the PGA Tour, he has become a consistent threat to contend with. He is like a longer-hitting version of Chris DiMarco.
TIGER RETURNS TO THE TEAM
Playing in his first Ryder Cup since 2012, Tiger Woods has defied modern science to return to form this year, capped by Sunday's emotional victory at the Tour Championship.
After undergoing his fourth back surgery since 2014, he seriously wondered if he would ever play competitive golf again. Not only has Woods returned, but he recorded nine top-12 finishes and was a runner-up at the PGA Championship before winning the PGA Tour's final event of the season.
“It’s beyond special,” said Woods of being chosen by Jim Furyk to join the U.S. Ryder Cup team. “Deep down, I wanted to make the team.” - TGRhttps://t.co/89lSlDZkry— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) September 5, 2018
After serving as vice captain in 2016, Woods will look to improve upon his 13-17-3 career record. He seems like an ideal partner for all of the young players, but Woods has been a member of the winning side just once.
He might be the best to ever play the game, but the Ryder Cup always seemed like an exhibition to him throughout his prime. Now, at 42, he is much more of a team player and can restart his Ryder Cup career this week.
LOADS OF BIG HITTERS
This US squad has no shortage of mashers off the tee. Finau, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Woods, Thomas and even 48-year-old Phil Mickelson are known as bigger hitters who have only gotten longer over the last couple years.
Johnson and Koepka, friends off the course, have already hinted they may play together. That would be scary. The two have accounted for the last three U.S. Open titles, and Koepka has three major championship wins in the last two years.
A dream come true!! Incredibly honored to be a part of @RyderCupUSA! Excited to join the team and do whatever it takes to help us bring home a victory!! Thanks to Captain Jim Furyk for believing in me and to all the fans for their support. I’m truly humbled. #GoUSA #RyderCup pic.twitter.com/E9qR4S7KnP— Tony Finau Golf (@tonyfinaugolf) September 10, 2018
On paper, Watson is a more difficult player to hand a partner. Though explosive off the tee and solid around the greens, his putting occasionally escapes him, and the team's best putter Jordan Spieth likely will rejoin Patrick Reed.
Finau, Thomas and Mickelson provide depth in the event that any of the three aforementioned players struggles. Whatever Furyk decides to do, he is going to have plenty of firepower from which to choose.
GOLF IS THE SECOND MOST-HEATED COMPETITION
Ping-pong has long held a place on the USA Ryder Cup squad, with detailed stories of heated locker-room matches between team-mates. Vice captain Matt Kuchar has a storied reputation as a dominant table-tennis player, and he could be the week's biggest winner without picking up a club.
"You know, we played mostly doubles," Kuchar told CBS in 2014. "I think Jordan Spieth was the one guy that challenged me to singles, and he got what he knew he was going to get."
Woods and Thomas have also talked about team bonding and ping-pong. Maybe they can take down Kuchar and Watson this year, and at any rate it should help keep Team USA loose as the golf competition heats up.
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