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2016 Ryder Cup

Are Europe set for their first Ryder Cup home defeat since 1993?

In this week's Alternate Shot, Dan Murphy and Mark Townsend disagree about the home team's chances at Le Golf National
 

Yes, says Dan Murphy

 The last five majors have now been won by American players.  It started with Brooks Koepka a year ago at Erin Hills. Now he has successfully defended his US Open crown. In between, we have seen Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed each claim a major title.

Factor in that the Americans will arrive in Paris on the back of that emphatic Hazeltine victory in 2016 and it’s hard to be optimistic about Europe’s Ryder Cup prospects.

All four of the above will be part of Team USA and they could conceivably be joined by the likes of World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson, Jimmy Walker and maybe even Tiger Woods. That would be 10 major champions – with Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar as serial major contenders to round the team off. It would rival the Class of ’81 at Walton Heath, regarded as the greatest team ever assembled in a Ryder Cup.

While Europe’s leading lights continue to feature regularly on leaderboards, the fact remains that the likes of Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy are not finding it easy to get over the line.

That suggests to me that the home side are going to be a little bit short of what is required against fearsome opponents at Le Golf National.

Europe need all of the above to be winning more matches than they lose. Right now, you couldn’t confidently back them to take down their opposite numbers on the American team.

Brooks Koepka and Ian Poulter

No, says Mark Townsend

Ideally the Americans will win the next two majors so, come September in France, they will be mentally and physically frazzled. Winning majors brings many good things but it also brings a huge drain on your time and resources – remember Padraig Harrington arriving at Valhalla in 2008 on the back of back-to-back majors? He left Kentucky with half a point from four outings.

We’re well used to the Americans turning up to the biennial matches with a host of major champions. Tiger Woods has 14 of them and might be the best player of all time – his record is 13-17-3.

What we generally do well is conjure up some incredible partnerships and team spirit over a home course that our players know well. Le Golf National has played host to the French Open since 1991 with Tommy Fleetwood the reigning champion. As resolute and impressive as Brooks Koepka was at Shinnecock Hills would you really want him on your side ahead of Fleetwood?

I definitely wouldn’t.

Two years ago we had a relatively ordinary line-up and they got soundly battered. This time around there is loads to like about our chances. As things stand our team would be Hatton, Rose, Fleetwood, Molinari, Rahm, McIlroy, Noren and Fitzpatrick – and then four from the likes of Stenson, Olesen, Cabrera Bello, Fisher, Noren, Lowry, Garcia, Casey, Dunne and our old friend Mr Poulter. One or two others might make a late run.

We’ve still got three months for a few to find a bit of form but it’s not the be all and end all.

Think back to another Ryder Cup powerhouse in Lee Westwood in 2002. He was completely out of touch and ranked 148th in the world when the matches finally took place at The Belfry but, alongside Garcia, his putter caught fire, the smile and confidence returned and they won their first three matches. His overall record? 20-18-6.

Finally whose record is 20-9-7? Clue: he never tasted major success. Answer: Monty. Winning majors doesn’t butter the parsnips in Ryder Cups.

We’ll be just fine. Again.

NCG

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