WILL EUROPE’S RY­DER CUP STARS STILL BE SMIL­ING ON SUN­DAY?

Rory and Co have a tough task ahead to re­tain the Ry­der Cup

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE -

The 41st Ry­der Cup is al­most upon us. The bat­tle at Hazel­tine will com­mence to­mor­row as the United States at­tempt to end a run of three con­sec­u­tive de­feats.

But be­fore the first ball is struck we de­cided to as­sem­ble our own golf­ing ex­perts to pro­vide their in­sight and pre­dic­tions as to who will emerge vic­to­ri­ous in Min­nesota. So please wel­come to the first tee, Barry King, Mike Star­ling and Si­mon Pluck­rose.

SHOULD THE SIX ROOK­IES IN DAR­REN CLARKE’S SIDE BE A CON­CERN FOR EURO­PEAN FANS?

No, but let’s hope none of them BK: do a Webb Simp­son in 2014 and top it off the first tee. I’m sure Dar­ren Clarke and Lee West­wood will have their arms around them and if they can’t han­dle the pres­sure they shouldn’t be play­ing pro­fes­sional golf.

Yes and no. MS: The rook­ies may not have ex­pe­ri­ence of Ry­der Cups, so they may get over­awed by the oc­ca­sion if they need to sink a vi­tal putt for ex­am­ple. But it will be down to Dar­ren Clarke pick­ing and pair­ing the right bal­ance in the team.

Ab­so­lutely, the Ry­der Cup isn’t SP: like any other com­pe­ti­tion. Th­ese rook­ies may be win­ners on the tour, how­ever it’s not just the pres­sure they put on them­selves but the weight of team­mates, fans and a con­ti­nent they have to cope with.

This means, half of Clarke’s team are ef­fec­tively un­known quan­ti­ties.

THE AMER­I­CAN TEAM LOOKS STRONGER ON PA­PER, BUT DO THEY HAVE ANY WEAK­NESSES?

Play­ing as a team al­ways seems BK: to be an is­sue for the Amer­i­cans. Some of the play­ers are ar­guably a lit­tle streaky in terms of con­sis­tency so they will need to find fo­cus from some­where. It will be about the pres­sure of MS: hav­ing not won for so long. Al­ready Davis Love III has come out and said he has the best golf team ever, that may come back to haunt him. Their SP: achilles heel is go­ing to be unity. In the past, the Amer­i­cans have shown they strug­gle to work to­gether as a unit. I don’t see Davis Love’s line-up this year be­ing any dif­fer­ent as there are a lot of egos in the red, white and blue cor­ner.

WILL THE IN­CLU­SION OF TIGER WOODS AS VICE-CAP­TAIN BE A HELP OR HINDRANCE FOR THE US?

His weird beard will give us BK: some­thing to talk about away from the golf, but I can’t see one pos­i­tive of hav­ing him there for Team USA.

It will help the MS: US team be­cause it may take away some of the spot­light from the on­course ac­tion. He will be able to give some great in­sight.

I doubt Tiger will have much SP: im­pact on the course but his pres­ence will give the cam­era­men some­thing to fo­cus on be­tween shots.

WHO DO YOU SEE BE­ING THE VI­TAL PAIR­INGS – OR IN­DI­VID­U­ALS – WHO COULD SWING THE CON­TEST IN THEIR TEAMS FAVOUR?

Zach John­son and Jimmy BK: Walker could be the sur­prise dan­ger men for the US – and the power of DJ. For Europe, they’ve got some great heads as vice-cap­tains, then on the course, Danny Wil­lett for me. He’s a grinder and won’t be beaten eas­ily.

It will all come MS: down to who the rook­ies are paired with for Europe... Ser­gio Gar­cia, Lee West­wood and Hen­rik Sten­son have a huge role to play. For the US the steady ed­dies like Zach John­son, JB Holmes and Jimmy Walker will be key.

For the Amer­i­cans, Dustin SP: John­son will be vi­tal. If their big gun can blast his Euro­pean ri­vals off the

18 The age Al Balooshi started riding com­pet­i­tively

course then it could cre­ate a lot of mo­men­tum for his team. In the Euro­pean side, it will be vet­er­ans like West­wood and Sten­son who will need to prove their worth by keep­ing the nerves at bay of their rookie part­ners.

FI­NALLY, WHICH TEAM WILL TRI­UMPH AT HAZEL­TINE AND BY WHAT SCORE­LINE?

At first I went with USA but I think BK: Europe’s vice-cap­tains will talk their men into win­ning it and the team spirit will be rock­ing. Europe by 3.5 points Although I think the US have a MS: stronger team, I think Europe will re­tain the cup. But only by a cou­ple of points. I would love to see an­other Europe win, SP: how­ever I sus­pect that the US, on home soil, will be too strong for the vis­i­tors. And un­less Clarke can keep a close eye on his rook­ies, the mar­gin could be big.

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