Reasons to be cheerful for Europe's Ryder Cup cause
If you’re not familiar with Alan Shipnuck then he might be the best golf journalist in the business. All a matter of opinion of course but he’s pretty much one of the go-to guys for some sound reading.
Those in the States would have us believe, quite rightly to be fair, that this is the best crop of their players to emerge for decades.
This U.S. team is so deep/talented/cohesive they're gonna ruin the Ryder Cup, too. I fear a decade+ of American blowouts.
— Alan Shipnuck (@AlanShipnuck) October 1, 2017
On paper, and on the course, it’s terrifying.
For the next decade, or even longer, we’re going to be staring down the likes of Jordan Spieth (age 23), Justin Thomas (24), Daniel Berger (24), Brooks Koepka (27) and Patrick Reed (27). These days the still fresh-faced Rickie Fowler is considered more of an experienced hand. He’s now 28.
This year three of them won majors. They hammered us, without Thomas and Berger, at Hazeltine a year ago and opposing captains describe them in terms of being like a ‘juggernaut’.
And we haven’t even mentioned the world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
With the Ryder and Presidents Cups they do this team golf every year, they now have tried-and-trusted partnerships and they have even had, get this, a Task Force put in place to stop the silly in-house squabbles that took place at Gleneagles.
While it is very easy to get carried away by the brilliance of the Americans after last week’s Presidents Cup thumping you might just as easily argue that it means next to nothing.
Here are five reasons for the European fan to be cheerful ahead of next year’s matches in Paris…
1. We’re at home – Allez l’Europe
Yes, they’re in Paris. We’re not at Liberty Island with Mr Trump watching over us, we’re on the outskirts of the French capital with our fans, on our time and on our course – a layout that has been the home of the French Open since 1991, other than those two years where Medoc and Lyon got the nod, for whatever reason.
The matches take place on September 28-30. A look at the temperatures in Paris on those dates this year show something around the 15˚ mark with the prospect of heavy rain on one of the days.
We might get to see those famous American waterproofs again…
2. It’s worth reiterating, we’re at home
While Hazeltine might be seen as the new dawn for American success, it might not be. Phil Mickelson made his Ryder Cup debut in 1995 and hasn’t missed a match since. Here’s his record in Europe: L-L-L-L-L.
Tiger Woods is zero-from-four.
Mickelson said that making next year’s team is a huge priority of his given that he has never won in Europe.
When the matches get going at Le Golf National it will be 25 years since it last happened.
Have a look at the Walker Cup where we don’t have the skills of Europe to call on, hence an even more lopsided playing field. In the last 12 encounters it is six apiece with both teams having just won once away.
3. It’s men against boys, isn’t it?
For whatever reason – the majors most likely – people seem to think that European golf is in some sort of malaise. McIlroy hasn’t won for a year so that almost translates to everyone else struggling.
By late September 2018 McIlroy might well have picked up another two majors, he surely won’t have another year like the one just gone, and we might have the world No. 1 again. Just as he did in Scotland when, after a slow start he signed off by not losing again and hammered Fowler in the singles.
(Mind quickly flashes to Tiger’s record, he lost more than he won in the Ryder Cup. Then there was Padraig Harrington in 2008, he arrived at Valhalla having just won the last two majors, was therefore pretty much spent and only contributed half a point. Let’s move on…)
What we do know is that things can change very quickly in the game. Going into Augusta, Hideki Matsuyama and Dustin Johnson seemed shoo-ins for a major in 2017, instead we got Sergio Garcia breaking through at 37, Koepka winning by four at Erin Hills and Spieth doing what he did at Birkdale. By the time the PGA rolled around, Thomas’ victory was probably the most predictable of the four.
Ahead of McIlroy on the current rankings is Jon Rahm, a near-certain European rookie. The Spaniard began the year well outside the top 100 demonstrating pretty clearly how things can turn in a year. There’s every chance that both teams might have someone on their ranks that none of us have even considered.
4. But where’s the depth?
One Rahm doesn’t make a summer, the Americans will say. If you want depth then let’s look at the best gauge for form, the world rankings.
In the top 20 half of them are Europeans, just six American. Yes, dig a little lower and you then get a host of Americans but the vast majority of our side will come from the very top table.
How do you like these onions? McIlroy, Garcia, Rahm Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Alex Noren, Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari and Rafa Cabrera Bello.
Comfortably inside the top 60 sit Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters, Matt Fitzpatrick, Berndt Wiesberger, Ross Fisher and Ian Poulter. (Remember him?) Then you’ll also expect a run at it from the likes of Andy Sullivan, Chris Wood, Russell Knox, the star-in-waiting Jordan Smith and last year’s Masters champion Danny Willett.
Lee Westwood, Alex Levy, Thorbjorn Olesen, Shane Lowry… OK, I’ll stop now, you get my point.
5. We get it, we always have
We could second-guess all day why the Internationals have only won one Presidents Cup match in 12 attempts. This isn’t the place for some cheap cod psychology, but here we go anyway…
A team who last – and only – won back in 1998 are going to struggle to find the belief that things will be different this time around.
Despite what everyone is saying, and with good reason, we can call on players who have been there and done that.
Maybe half the team in Paris will have been at Gleneagles, Thomas Bjorn and his assistants will all have good memories of the competition and, dotted around the Versailles venue, there will be snapshots of the players’ heroes from over the years.
Front and centre the man who instilled a good part of this belief in the first place, and the greatest European ever to play in the competition, Seve Ballesteros.
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