2006 Ryder Cup Rookies

What kind of dent will rookies make in the 2006 Ryder Cup? Take a peek at rookies on both sides of the isle and get an idea of what kind of impact they’ll have.

ProFilesThis is it. All the predictions are in. All any fan on either side of the pond can do is sit back and enjoy the competition. Europe has fielded a very good team once again and it is incumbent upon the Americans to validate their potential.

Lehman and Woosnam have made their crucial pics. With the top three players in the world on the United States team there is good reason to expect good things. But Europe has made a habit of foiling U.S. plans.

What impact will this year’s rookies have. Read on to find out…

United States
J.J. Henry
Henry is eager to be a part of the action this week in Ireland. He’s earned his way onto the team by posting five top-tens, one of which was a win at the Buick Championship. He pulled away from the field during his final round at the Buick and there’s no reason to believe he can’t play under similar pressure at the Ryder Cup. OK, more pressure.

Henry is 40th in driving distance on the PGA Tour (296.8 yards), 21st in GIR (67.7%), 42nd in scoring average (70.55), but 123rd in putting average (1.789). Henry’s putting and driving accuracy could prove to be a problem in key moments of the Ryder Cup. Ranked 64th in the world, Henry will need to roll in key putts and keep the driver between the trees.

Zach Johnson
Currently 42nd in the world, Johnson strikes me as collected. Not much seems to rattle him. This bodes well for the U.S. team. He’ll be a solid edition to the team and will play like a veteran.

More accurate than Henry, Johnson earned 28th place in driving accuracy this year averaging a respectable 286.1 yards per drive. Johnson earned his way onto the PGA Tour through the developmental tour circuit. He topped the Nationwide Tour money list in 2003 with $494,882. Look for Johnson to be the steadiest rookie on the United States team.

Vaughn Taylor
Everyone knows that Taylor hates to lose. Hopefully Taylor can manage his emotions. If he doesn’t his match play rivals will eat his lunch.

Give him credit for being one of the best putters on either side. He ranks 6th in putting average at 1.736 putts per green. Untested and at 60th in the World Golf Rankings Taylor needs to win some points if the Americans are to recapture the Cup.

Brett Wetterich
Here is a guy who can hit it a long way and still retain his card. 4th in driving distance (308.4 yards) and 3rd in birdie average (4.02) Wetterich has the firepower to make a dent for the United States.

Ranked 68th in the world, Wetterich has been tested on both the Nationwide and PGA Tours. In a couple of days we’ll know how he handled the Ryder Cup spotlight. It’ll be tough for Wetterich to stare down any of the confident Euros.

Robert Karlsson
At 6’5″ Karlsson is an imposing figure. Short answer: he’ll be the tallest guy at The K Club. Yes, even taller than Captain Woosnam.

Karlsson’s fairways hit isn’t overwhelming at about 55% but he hits greens (70.01%) and is a solid putter with 1.73 putts per green in regulation. He is third on the European Order of Merit this year, is ranked 36th in the world, and has won twice in 2006. He’s bringing experience and confidence to the European team.

Henrik Stenson
Stenson has climbed the ladder quickly on the European Tour. He topped the Challenge Tour’s money list (Europe’s equivalent to the Nationwide Tour) only a year after turning professional.

Currently ranked 11th in the World Golf Rankings Stenson is going to be a tough adversary for the Americans.

Who has the Edge?
There are fewer rookies on the European side and they both look stronger on paper than any of the U.S. rookies.

The United States was in need of a blood transfusion after too many losses so its time for a new crop of players to get initiated into Ryder Cup competition.

The two European rookies have the edge on our rookies but they won’t make them look silly. I’m sticking by my earlier prediction that the United States will win. Enjoy the competition.

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