> They look better on paper and are wasting little time in provoking European rivals ahead of Ryder Cup, the gripping cross-Atlantic bi-annual golf event Europe has dominated for over two decades now.
THE AMERICANS have wasted no time in making an always engrossing Ryder Cup more intriguing. The Europeans already need little motivation for golf’s gripping cross-Atlantic competition, having won the biennial event eight of the last 10 meetings – including three straight.
But the American team has decided to provide its rival with extra motivation heading into Friday’s opening foursomes at Hazeltine National.
“We don’t have to do anything superhuman. We’re a great golf team,” American captain Davis Love III said. “This is the best golf team, maybe, ever assembled.”
With the likes of US Open champion Dustin Johnson, PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker and two-time major winner Jordan Spieth, the Americans look stronger on paper with Europe carrying six rookies in its 12-man team.
Confidence is high with home field advantage for the the 41st edition. But the Americans will be humbled if all of the recent proclamations come back to haunt them.
“I do believe the Europeans have got, at least on paper, the worst team they’ve had in many years,” former British Open champion Johnny Miller commented in the buildup.
“I think this is the year not only could the US win, they could win by like five points.”
Strength on paper has not always translated to victory on the course.
Europe has dominated the competition for two decades now, including during Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson’s prime years.
The Europeans always tend to come together better as a team than the Americans, where balancing individual egos has always been a problem.
Love III was looking to address that by leaving No. 7-ranked Bubba Watson out of the team – instead choosing Ryan Moore as his last pick – with some believing Watson’s personality would be a distraction.
But a solitary figure like Woods is in the team as a vice-captain, a decision that has many wondering if the Americans are ripe for implosion. “We want to win so badly that when we have a bad session, or we lose the momentum, we panic a little bit and start playing not to lose rather than playing to win,” Love III said.
“You need to stand up there, smash it down the middle and take off walking, and letting the other team know we are going to dominate you.”
Love III certainly sounds as if he has a game plan two years on from the Americans’ 16-1/2 to 111/2 defeat at Gleneagles.
Mickelson was scathing of then-captain Tom Watson in his criticism, saying the Americans had no real game plan.
Mickelson, who is playing in his 11th Ryder Cup, and J.B Holmes are the only Americans to have been part of a successful Ryder Cup weekend.
The US, which has two rookies in Moore and Brooks Koepka, last won at Valhalla in 2008.
While the Europeans have a number of firsttimers, they certainly do not look like pushovers.
Olympic champion Justin Rose and British Open champion Henrik Stenson return alongside veteran Ryder Cup players Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy, who is fresh off Sunday’s dramatic comeback victory at the Tour Championship to clinch the FedEx Cup. Only stalwart Ian Poulter is missing to a foot injury. “There are six rookies there, but with the talent that they all possess, I’ve got no worries at all about the strength of that team going to America,” said European captain Darren Clarke, who counts Masters champion Danny Willett as one of his newcomers. “It’s a team that’s going to go there and do everything we possibly can to bring that trophy back home again.” The Europeans will need to draw on their team unity in what will certainly be a hostile environment, with patriotism running high in the buildup to the national elections in November. The American team will also be determined to earn the victory in memory of all-time great Arnold Palmer, who died on Sunday at the age of 87. – dpa Watson was among the final selections for the last US captain’s selection that was given Sunday to first-time Cup starter Ryan Moore hours after he finished second in a playoff to Rory McIlroy at the Tour Championship.
Europe team captain Darren Clarke (left) and Team USA captain Davis Love III pose with the Ryder Cup.