It’s Eur ope’s cup t o lose
Looking at the Ryder Cup t eams, the players’ records and homeground advantage, Europe should retain the cup, writes RAY WHITE
WHEN the American capt ain T om Watson sat do wn to choose his thr ee picks to complete the 2014 USA Ryder Cup team, it w as acknowledged there was no one who stood out as “the pick” that demanded selection.
He eventually chose K egan Bradley, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson to accompany those w ho had alr eady made the t eam by virtue of their p ast year’s perf ormances.
None of W atson’s selections, made after extensive consultation with his assistant capt ains, sp arked an y opposition at the time. H ad he been allo wed to wait until the end of the Fedex Cup, he would undoubtedly have chosen Billy Horshel, who not only won that trophy, but is also the kind ofofrceful character who is invaluable in a team environment. He probably would have also picked Chris Kirk who is another in redhot f orm.
One of the crucial actorsf in every Ryder Cup is how the captain’s picks fair in the mat ch it self. In this r egard and in contrast to Watson’s choices, European captain Paul McGinley was spoilt for choice when it came to his decisions. He would have wasted no time thinking about Ian Poulter, hero of the past two Ryder Cups, a fier ce match play competitor who has r eserved his be st golf for the se biennial challeng es bet ween the USA and Eur ope.
More importantly, Poulter is the one European all Americans fear to play. He has w on 11 of his las t 12 R yder C up matches, which is easil y the be st individual streak in the modern er a of the competition. The brash c onfidence of the eyepopping alter ego that emerges for the R yder C up has infuriat ed the Yankees who have described Poulter as a mar ked man f or this y ear’s aff air.
Yet none of them ar e k een t o pla y him, whatever they may say in public. Poulter’s form has not been g ood this year and it remains to be seen if he can deliver another winning record for Europe.
The other captain’s picks for Europe are Stephen Gallagher and Lee Westwood. G allagher has long been acknowledged as one of the best ball strikers in world golf, but his putting veers from sound t o shocking .
Given that Ryder Cups are won and lost on the cauldrons of the greens, this is where Gallagher will come under intense pr essure.
Like Poulter, Westwood has an excellent Ryder Cup record, but his form this year has been r elatively ordinary most of the time and w eak of lat e. He was chosen ahead of Luke Donald, who has a bet ter R yder C up r ecord, but is thought to be le ss suited to the Gleneagles course where the long finishing par fives may be crucial to the final outcome.
Outside of the capt ain’s pick s, the Americans ha ve mor e pr oblems than their hosts. Jordan Speith, who started the year so w ell, has jus t about f allen off the bus in recent months. At times, he appears to have los t his s wing and composure. He is the y oungest player on both sides and it will be interesting to see how many games he is given by Watson.
Another American r ookie is Patrick Reed, who surprised the golfing world by declaring earlier this year that he was one of the top five players in the world. This was a silly comment that put him and League C up, it is the P remier League title that has always eluded him. At 34 and with Li verpool seemingly a move behind City and Chelsea, that is unlikely t o chang e.
Gerrard, lik e Gig gs at U nited, has spent his entire senior career at Liverpool. The careers of both of those men will forever be etched into the hearts of the respective supporters at Anfield and Old Trafford.
Lampard’s case is a lit tle more curious.
While his legendary status at Chelsea will never be questioned, his career began out side of the w alls of St amford under pressure and unsurprisingl y, his form fell away. He does not look in the best of shape and may have to be nursed by Watson.
By his own standards, Phil Mickelson has had an indifferent year. Despite all he has achieved in golf, he has a losing Ryder Cup r ecord. Las t time, he ble w a lead in a vital game against Justin Rose that eventually cost his team the match. Some think that, fr eed from the pr esence in the team of Tiger Woods whom he dislikes, he will perf orm better but this ma y be a lit tle optimis tic f or an elder s tatesman not in gr eat f orm.
Even Jim Furyk, who has had a brilliant year without any titles, has a losing Ryder Cup r ecord. He is the olde st in an American team that has half its players over the age of 35. This may not be important in an era where fitness levels Bridge and that is ho w it will end.
This is thr ough no will of his o wn. Lampard’s desire to sign a oneyear extension at Chelsea this season was well documented — why would you want to leave a club where you are adored and you ar e r ewriting the his tory book s (Lampard is Chelsea’s all time leading goal sc orer) with e very g oal?
But he w as deemed surplus t o r equirements, thanked f or his c ontribution over the years and then sent on his merry way.
Lampard was Americabound, where bright lights and crazed fans waited, but not bef ore C ity jumped on bo ard t o are much impr oved, but ag e often begins to tell on a player’s ability to hole vital put ts.
The Americans have been weakened by the absenc e of Tiger Woods, Jason Dufner (both injured) and Dustin Johnson. Johnson has t aken himself out of the game to sort out his per sonal lif e for reasons thought to be related to cocaine use. When he announced his leave of absence, a strong rumour was circulating he was having an affair with the wife of another pla yer who was a c ertainty for the Ryder Cup team. If true, his pr esence in the t eam w ould ha ve been mor e than mildl y disrupti ve.
The only issue confronting McGinley is the le gal wrangle bet ween Rory McIlroy and his f ormer manag ement company that also handle s the aff airs of Gr aeme M cDowell. M cIlroy’s dis have their small t aste of F rank.
What happened las t w eekend w as nothing short of epic.
I found myself wedged in between a Chelsea fan and a City fan for the match, which was rare on it s own because up until a season or two ago, the Citizens didn’t have much pull with the South African f ootball public.
A c ouple of tr ophies seem t o ha ve changed that.
When Lampard was introduced with City down a man and a g oal, you just had a sense that the script had already been written. The stage was set, and like he has done so man y time s o ver the years, Lamp ard oblig ed.
“It had t o be Lamp ard. It c ouldn’t be anyone else,” the dumbstruck Chelsea supporter to my left mustered. But the look on his face and the tone of his voice immediat ely t old me that he wasn’t shocked. He had seen enough of pute with the c ompany, of w hich McDowell is a p art o wner, c oncerns among other issues, the allegation that McDowell w as r eceiving bet ter sponsorship deals and in volved a demand from McIlroy’s lawyers that the company disclose McDowell’s earnings from it.
This has sour ed r elations bet ween the t wo w ho ha ve done their be st t o keep a harmonious front, but “for golfing r easons onl y”, McDowell has said he does not want to play with McIlroy.
On balance, McGinley has more advantages and options than Watson. He is on home gr ound where the p assion of the spectators is worth some points. He has more players with winning Ryder Cup r ecords on a c ourse that has been set up t o favour the Eur opeans.
This is Eur ope’s cup t o lose. Lampard over the years to know what he was all about. “It hadot be Lampard,” he said o ver and o ver until it became nothing more than a mumble as the final whistle ble w.
Lampard’s decision not to celebrate, or even smile, after his goal was admirable even if it was expected. And the honesty with which he approached his postmatch pr esser was t op clas s.
Comparisons between Lampard and Gerrard ha ve been g oing on f or w ell over a decade now. I always used to be on the Blue side of that deb ate.
But as I got older and Gerrard’s influence got stronger (I also convinced myself that half of Lamp ard’s goals were penalties) I became mor e undecided.
But a costly slip, a failed World Cup and a simpl y s tunning Chelsea car eer later, I think it’ s safe to say that — 1 3 years on — Super F rank has w on the war.
He ma y be full o f hims elf but ther e is no denying Ian P Gleneagles in Sc otland. oulter’s superb Ry der Cup r ecord, which is cr ucial t o Eur ope’s ambitions this w eekend at