Heck­ling at Hazel­tine

> US out to snap Europe streak in in­tense Ryder Cup show­down

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

AREVAMPED Amer­i­can squad that US cap­tain Davis Love called the best ever as­sem­bled faces a Europe team that has dom­i­nated them for two decades when the 41st Ryder Cup opens to­day.

As play­ers on both teams at Hazel­tine mourn the death of legend Arnold Palmer, hold­ers Europe seek an un­prece­dented fourth con­sec­u­tive victory over their US hosts, who have dropped six of the past seven meet­ings and eight of the past 10.

“We are very de­ter­mined to keep the Ryder Cup and keep this streak go­ing,” Bri­tish Open cham­pion Henrik Stenson said.

US Open cham­pion Dustin John­son, PGA Cham­pi­onship winner Jimmy Walker and five-time ma­jor winner Phil Mickelson, mak­ing his 11th Ryder Cup ap­pear­ance to match Nick Faldo’s record, lead an Amer­i­can squad hun­gry to re­claim the Cup.

“We’re just tired of be­ing told we haven’t won in a while,” said two-time ma­jor winner Jor­dan Spi­eth. “We want this one.”

Swip­ing a page from Europe’s play­book, the US team as­sem­bled a com­mit­tee to man­age details and fo­cus upon Ryder Cup is­sues, end­ing last-minute hur­ried pair­ings that of­ten failed for unan­tic­i­pated prob­lems.

“It’s very much like the model that the Euro­peans have done with tremen­dous suc­cess in bring­ing out their best golf,” said Mickelson. “When you get to­gether as a team and work to­gether, you can achieve much greater suc­cess than you ever can as an in­di­vid­ual. It’s ex­cit­ing to be part of the ground­work and the foun­da­tion of the US side try­ing to do that now go­ing for­ward.”

Olympic cham­pion Justin Rose, US PGA FedExCup play­off cham­pion Rory McIl­roy and Stenson spark Europe, but a chang­ing of the guard has six Ryder Cup new­com­ers on the ros­ter, in­clud­ing Masters cham­pion Danny Wil­lett, who has al­ready had to apol­o­gise for in­sults to US fans by his brother Pete.

If enough US sup­port­ers were an­gered by the com­ments in an Euro­pean on­line col­umn, the Heck­ling at Hazel­tine might join the Bat­tle of Brook­line, War at the Shore and Mir­a­cle at Me­d­i­nah in Ryder Cup lore.

But that’s not the spirit Palmer would want to see at an event where he will be hon­ored af­ter his death last Sun­day at age 87 from heart prob­lems.

“I hope he in­spires this Ryder Cup to be all about good team­work, fair play, good fun, ca­ma­raderie amongst both teams and all the fans – be­cause that’s what Arnie stood for,” Rose said. “He was such a gen­tle­man and he would love to see it con­tin­ued to be played in that way.”

The Amer­i­cans, who lead the over­all ri­valry 25-13 with two drawn, suf­fered the great­est last-day col­lapse in Ryder Cup his­tory in 2012 with Love as cap­tain, Europe win­ning eight sin­gles matches and halv­ing an­other for a 14 1/2-13 1/2 victory.

“Cer­tainly Me­d­i­nah was a hard loss for us,” US vet­eran and Olympic bronze medal­ist Matt Kuchar said. “But when it comes down to it, we all still feel the pain and there’s prob­a­bly some left over.

“I know a lot of us, we’ve been on a lot of los­ing teams, but sure would be nice to feel the joy of win­ning one of these Cups. I think we’re all hop­ing to taste that feel­ing this week.”

Europe star Rose dis­misses favoured and un­fan­cied tags in favour of prepa­ra­tion ahead of to­day’s first tee shots.

“We’ve got play­ers who can step up and de­liver,” Rose said. “To win this week, you’re go­ing to have to step up and de­liver.

“I don’t look at us as six play­ers who have played the Ryder Cup and six rook­ies. I look at us as a 12-man team and it’s just about go­ing out and play­ing good golf. That’s what’s go­ing to take care of busi­ness.”

Each team will com­pete in four al­ter­nate shot four­somes matches to­day and to­mor­row morn­ings and four four-ball matches in the af­ter­noons, sit­ting out four play­ers from each ses­sion. On Sun­day, there will be 12 con­clud­ing sin­gles matches.

Cap­tains will each sub­mit their line­ups, al­low­ing no chance to guar­an­tee spe­cific matchups. But some of the ones that could hap­pen are quite in­ter­est­ing.

Two-time ma­jor cham­pion Jor­dan Spi­eth, who col­lapsed on the back nine to squan­der the Sun­day lead at the Masters, could meet Wil­lett, the man upon whose shoul­ders he placed the green jacket at Au­gusta Na­tional in an un­com­fort­able cer­e­mony.

Stenson, who won his first ma­jor this year at Royal Troon with a 72-hole ma­jor record 264, could be matched up against Mickelson, who bat­tled him through­out the fi­nal round last July.

And in pairs, a likely com­bi­na­tion that went 3-0 in 2014 at Gle­nea­gles is Stenson and Rose, who staged an epic fight in Rio for the first Olympic ti­tle since 1904. – AFP

– REUTERSPIX

Europe team’s Ser­gio Gar­cia of Spain (left) and Danny Wil­lett of Eng­land (right) on the 16th green dur­ing the prac­tice round for the Ryder Cup at Hazel­tine Na­tional Golf Club yes­ter­day.

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