The biggest team event in golf is here as we finally get our encore to that bonkers 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine where the United States broke a three-event losing streak. Now they'll try to make some more history in Paris where a win would be their first on European soil since winning at The Belfry in 1993.
That's a monstrous storyline, of course, but it's not the only one. Several golfers are coming into these matches playing as well as they've played all season. Several others are not. We have rookies, veterans, all-time greats and golfers who are going to be a little out of their world when the golf balls go in the air on Friday morning.
Let's take a look at the eight biggest storylines of the 2018 Ryder Cup.
1. Surging Tiger: We start with the epicenter of golf. Tiger Woods is coming off his first win in over five years, but it certainly wasn't an outlier. Woods finished No. 4 on the PGA Tour this season in strokes gained overall (the U.S. has seven of the top 11 on its squad) and is ranked No. 4 in the current Sagarin rankings. No, his Ryder Cup record is not stellar, but Woods also won't be asked to carry this team this year like he has been in the past. His experience as a player as well as a vice captain will be paramount in Paris.
2. Struggling Sergio: While we're here, we should talk about Sergio Garcia. Look, he's arguably the greatest Ryder Cup golfer in history, but he has been lousy for all of 2018. Garcia missed more cuts (eight) than he made (seven) and didn't notch a top 20 on the PGA Tour from April onward. We might get all-time Sergio in Paris, and the event might actually hinge on how he plays. But going into the week, Europe can't be confident about his form.
3. More magic? How about these numbers: Patrick Reed and Ian Poulter are a combined 18-5-4 in seven total Ryder Cups. That's an impossible number and logic says there is no way it can continue. And yet, nobody watching this event will be remotely surprised if it continues!
4. No drivers: One of the strategically intriguing parts of this Ryder Cup is that Le Golf National doesn't demand you to hit many drivers. That probably hurts the U.S. team more than it does the European side, but the heartbeat of Europe's team -- Rory McIlroy -- is also probably the greatest driver of the golf ball in history. Seeing how this plays out over the week in Paris will be interesting.
5. Fan behavior: It became such a huge story at Hazeltine with players insinuating that they were concerned about the future of the event. The quarters are so close and the atmosphere so tense that it feels like a tiny spark could cause an explosion. I suspect the vibe will be more laid back in Europe, especially given the seeming lack of interest from French fans, but this will remain a storyline in years to come.
6. Breakout stars: In 2014, it was Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed. In 2016, it was Thomas Pieters. Every year there's one or two players who play out of their minds. Who will it be this year? I think the best candidates are Tommy Fleetwood, Alex Noren, Tony Finau and Jon Rahm. The U.S. team doesn't have as many rookies to choose from so I guess you could throw Webb Simpson in there for me. He's had an incredible year, and Vegas isn't expecting much.
7. First tee mania: At my first Ryder Cup to cover in 2016, I was probably most blown away by the enormity of the first tee. That tee held 1,700 fans who ripped off "U-S-A" chants and lost their minds when Tiger appeared with his earpiece in. This year's first tee? It will apparently hold 6,500 who want to send off golfers on their rounds. That's going to be tough sledding for the eight rookies who have never hit an opening tee shot at a Ryder Cup.
8. The event of the year: I have to confess something. I was feeling slightly down following the Tour Championship on Sunday. How is the Ryder Cup going to top that? I thought. Of course, the same probably could have been said in 2016 when Rory McIlroy won the Tour Championship in a playoff. Then we got three days of bedlam at Hazeltine.
I snapped out of it when I saw this video from the Euro side and fell right back into thinking what I've thought for most of 2018. That this Ryder Cup could be one of the greatest of all time with as many as 15 or 16 hall of famers on both sides of the aisle and a revenge match on foreign soil at stake. I'm fully ready to drink the whole thing in for three straight days at the end of this week.