Ryder Cup Returns as All Eyes on Tiger Woods-Rory McIlroy Individual MatchupOn Wednesday, professional golfers from around the world descended on Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. in preparation for the 39th Ryder Cup Matches, which will officially kick off on Friday as the 12 best golfers from Europe take on the 12 best golfers from the United States.

The Ryder Cup should have a special place in the heart of all New Englanders, as the best of them all took place just outside of Boston in Brookline at The Country Club. In that 1999 matchup Justin Leonard famously drained a 45-foot putt on the 17th hole of his Sunday match to best singles-matches opponent Jose Maria Olazabal and secure the cup for the Americans in dramatic fashion.

13 years later, however, the biennial tournament is ruled by the Europeans, who currently hold the cup after defeating the USA 14 1/2 to 13 1/2 at Celtic Manor in Wales in 2010. That year was a bit different, as weather forced the competition to conclude on Monday, but either way Colin Montgomerie captained his squad over Corey Pavin‘s, and here we are two years later.

This year the captains are Davis Love III for the U.S. and, coincidentally, Olazabal for the European squad. As part of the preparations for the event, Medinah — which had previously hosted three U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships, but never a Ryder Cup — underwent a $1.5 million renovation under famed architect Rees Jones. The course now features more risk-reward options, which should lead to some interesting decision — particularly during Sunday’s singles matches.

Leading the Americans is Tiger Woods, who ranked first in Ryder Cup points and currently stands at second in the World Golf Rankings — we’ll get to No. 1 in a moment. Behind Woods are Cup veterans like Phil Mickelson (nine Ryder Cup appearances) and captain’s pick Jim Furyk (eight appearances), in addition to Ryder rookies Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson — all of whom have enjoyed impressive 2012 seasons on the PGA Tour.

Top dog on the European side, unsurprisingly, is the 23-year-old Irishman Rory McIlroy, the No. 1-ranked player in the world and winner of the 2012 PGA Championship, his second career major. Following McIlroy are Lee Westwood (eight appearances) and Sergio Garcia (six), and a litany of players who have enjoyed plenty of success on the American tour, such as the likes of Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald and Justin Rose. The only rookie is Nicolas Colsaerts.

Back on American soil is where this year’s matches are, and that’s where the Americans hope to keep the cup.

Photo of the Night

Okay, Papi, don’t crush Pedro Martinez, now. You do have just a few pounds on him.

Ryder Cup Returns as All Eyes on Tiger Woods-Rory McIlroy Individual Matchup

Quote of the Night

“I have the gas masks. I can handle the chemical weapons. A
lot of the bullets penetrated, but they didn’t kill me. I guess I’m —
what do I know about myself? I’m almost a year older. I know that, and
it’s gone quickly.”
–Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine, on the criticism that he has received throughout the 2012 season.

Tweet of the Night

Thursday night, apparently.

Video of the Night

What… the…?