ATLANTA — Johnny Miller doesn’t agree with Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III that this U.S. team is the best “maybe ever assembled.” He still has a hunch the Americans finally will win, mainly because of the European team they are facing.
“I do believe the Euros have got, at least on paper, the worst team they’ve had in many years,” Miller said Saturday at the Tour Championship.
Europe is going after its fourth straight victory — and ninth out of the last 11 — in the Ryder Cup next week in Minnesota at Hazeltine National. Europe has six rookies on its 12-man team. It has never won a Ryder Cup with that many rookies when the matches were in America.
“I just think with all those rookies … when you lose (Ian) Poulter, it’s like tearing your heart out,” Miller said. “I think this is the year not only could the U.S. win, they could win by like five points.”
Poulter led Europe to a record-tying comeback the last time the Ryder Cup was held on U.S. soil, making five straight birdies in a fourballs match Saturday night at Medinah that gave his team hope going into Sunday singles, which it won to overcome a 10-6 deficit.
Poulter is recovering from a foot injury and will be at Hazeltine as a vice captain.
Miller, a two-time major champion and now the lead analyst for NBC Sports, played in only two Ryder Cups when it was one-sided. He went 6-2-2, and the Americans won those two Ryder Cups (1975 and 1981) by a combined 19 points.
Miller said the Americans would look down the European roster and see plenty of strong Ryder Cup players in Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer and perhaps even Masters champion Danny Willett, one of the six rookies.
“But there’s a bunch of guys you just don’t have that much confidence in,” Miller said. “Even (Lee) Westwood, I don’t know if he can make putts in Ryder Cup pressure. Chris Wood? Who knows? Thomas Pieters has a good game for Hazeltine, but he might melt under Ryder Cup pressure.”
Love said during a radio interview Friday that the Americans don’t have to do anything “super human” to win the Ryder Cup because “we’re a great team. This is the best golf team maybe ever assembled.”
Miller was on the 1981 Ryder Cup team that is regarded as the best, with 11 players who combined to win 49 majors. Nine of them are in the Hall of Fame.
Asked if this U.S. team could match his 1981 team, Miller smiled and said, “No. This is not at that level.”
“He’s just saying that, like a boxing match. You’re throwing stuff out,” Miller said of Love. “Normally, you don’t say that. Somebody must have said, ‘I’ll bet you 100 bucks you wouldn’t say that.’ Something like that. It’s all part of the tat-a-tat.”