Daily Mail



- By RIATH AL-SAMARRAI Athletics Correspond­ent

SOME of Britain’s leading athletes have pleaded with Lord Coe to step in and save the sport in this country after becoming furious with the current regime at UK Athletics. Sportsmail has been told the impassione­d encounter between the World Athletics president and several GB track and field stars took place by chance at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Zurich last Thursday. The conversati­on, which followed the Diamond League finals earlier that evening, was described by one source as a ‘proper cry for help — the athletes were really reaching out’. Multiple sources have come forward to Sportsmail to paint a picture of an underachie­ving sport mired in chaos, with athletes and coaches at breaking point in the wake of Britain’s worst performanc­e at an Olympic Games since 1996. Some are even considerin­g the drastic step of walking away from UKA’s World Class Programme if changes are not made. That would mean the damning move of operating entirely outside the British system and foregoing lottery funding for the sake of disassocia­ting with UKA, though they would still be

THE Americans have got rather sick over the years of Europe’s Ryder Cup team casting themselves in the role of underdogs. How can you be the underdogs when you win all the time? Not this Ryder Cup. Europe are most definitely the underdogs for the match at Whistling Straits next week. Heavy ones at that. A glance at the world rankings illustrate­s the point. The average world ranking of the American team is 9.0, statistica­lly making this side the best since the rankings began in 1986. The Europeans, by contrast, are 30.1, which might well be the worst.

This American team have two current major champions, the Olympic gold medallist and eight players in the world’s top 10, against only one for the visitors. All but two of the American players have won this year on the PGA Tour, against only two in Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy from Europe.

The other great discrepanc­y is in the ages of the two sides. When Europe won the Ryder Cup for the first time on American soil in 1987, the oldest player in the team was Eamonn Darcy at 35.

Now you have got four players in their forties with three over the age of 44. The oldest player in the American team is Dustin Johnson at 37. The next after him is Harris English at 32.

Europe have seven players older than English, including two rookies. At just under 35, the average age of the Europeans is almost six years older than the Americans. The worry is that this edition will follow the pattern set in 2006, where the home side cruises to an easy victory. Five of the last seven Ryder Cups have resulted in blow-out victories for the host team. It is not a healthy pattern. What chance of Europe providing us with a thriller on the lines of Celtic Manor in 2010 or Medinah in 2012? You look at the pairings they can put out over the first two days and there is no reason they should not be able to hold their own going into the singles. Rory and Sergio Garcia has a potent fourballs ring to it, as does Ian Poulter and McIlroy in the foursomes. How about Viktor Hovland pairing up with Tommy Fleetwood? Shane Lowry and Lee Westwood can play with anyone and might be perfect for one another, while one of the trickiest partnershi­ps for captain Padraig Harrington (left) is who plays with Rahm. You would think everyone would put their hands up to play with the world No 1 but we have seen down the years it is not as straightfo­rward as that. It needs someone with plenty of belief in their own game. Paul Casey, perhaps? Matt Fitzpatric­k will play in the foursomes and Tyrrell Hatton in the fourballs, while Bernd Wiesberger is a much better golfer than outsiders think. He is certainly capable of taking down anyone in an 18-hole match.

The Americans do look a formidable outfit, though. The FedEx Cup was a brilliant rehearsal for them.

The winner Patrick Cantlay and gold medallist Xander Schauffele are bosom pals and could putt anyone to defeat. Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas will team up once more and they are not bad putters either. Then come the bombers. Johnson and his likely fourballs partner, Tony Finau. Scottie Scheffler, and Brooks Koepka (if fit) and the biggest bomber of all in Bryson DeChambeau.

Not to mention the man who might get to be Bryson’s partner and just happens to be the best iron player in the game — Open champion Collin Morikawa.

A team full of great putters and huge hitters, therefore. If Europe pull this one out of the fire, we really will know the inestimabl­e value of experience.

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