Ryder Cup: One year on schedule, golf’s biggest rivalry is ready to kick off

Delayed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the tournament will consist of its usual foursome, four-ball and singles format in front of an American partisan crowd hoping its players can bring the trophy back to American soil after the last one. victory for Europe in 2018 in France.

US captain Steve Stricker and European captain Pádraig Harrington have selected strong teams, filled to the brim with big winners and former and current world No.1s and even an Olympic gold medalist.

So three years after “Moliwood” – the couple Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood, who took golf by storm and led to one of the sport’s most viral videos with the two in bed with the trophy – who will be the next breakout player?

Will the USA team get the trophy back or can Europe make sure they join them on the flight back over the Atlantic?

Meet the teams

For the home team, Stricker was almost spoiled for choice when making his picks.

Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay have all automatically qualified based on points obtained from their performances over the past two years.

That’s 10 major titles and three FedExCup titles in between the six.

In addition to these, Stricker has selected Jordan Spieth, Xander Sc Chaudele, Harris English, Scottie Scheffler, Daniel Berger and Tony Finau.

That’s three more majors, 26 PGA Tour wins and an Olympic gold medal to add to the squad.

The biggest name to miss for the United States team was Patrick Reed, the 2018 Masters winner, which was a “very difficult call,” according to Stricker.

But finding the balance between rookies and veterans and players who match the course of Whistling Straits was paramount for Stricker and his assistant captains.

“We are looking for the best players to play here at Whistling Straits, and these six guys that we have chosen, we feel up to Whistling Straits,” he told media.

“We’ve done some analysis of these rookies since 2008, and the American rookies are 40-29-17 in the Ryder Cup. So the rookies are doing really well in that type of form, and we’re delighted to have these rookies. Some of them aren’t really rookies. They played for former Presidents Cup teams. Some of these guys also have games under their belt and other events that they’ve been to . “

There is also the question of the rivalries that are bubbling within the American team, notably the icy relationship between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.

There is little love lost between the two, with their minor feuds often spilling out onto social media. The moment Koepka rolled his eyes as DeChambeau walked behind him at this year’s PGA Championship perhaps sums up their strained relationship perfectly.

But both have already said their rivalry is good for golf and Stricker doesn’t expect that to be a problem during the Ryder Cup.

“It’s really not a problem for me and the team. We got together a few weeks ago, the six of us and I had conversations with both of them,” Stricker said. “They assured me it would not be a problem. I have nothing to worry about.”

“Will we involve them?” I don’t think so at the moment, but things could change. It could always happen. But probably not.

“But again, I had dinner; they all introduced themselves. We had a great conversation, great discussions. So I don’t see that as a problem at all and they totally agree.”

Stricker (left) and Harrington (right) pose with the Ryder Cup.

A European advantage?

For the European team, Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Paul Casey, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton, Lee Westwood, Matt Fitzpatrick and Bernd Wiesberger all achieved automatic qualification based on the World and European points lists.

Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Shane Lowry were selected by Harrington as he rounded out his 12-man squad to take on Stricker and the Americans.

“I’m really happy with my team,” Harrington said during the announcement. “They’re a great foursome and four-ball team, a lot of good ball forwards and they’re a team that goes to Whistling Straits that suits the golf course well. They’re a strong team, well. balanced and very balanced. “

Whistling Straits is a course reminiscent of British and Irish golf heritage.

Based on the shore of Lake Michigan, the course is “defined by open, rugged and windswept terrain,” the course’s website states.

Designed by legendary golf course designers Pete and Alice Dye, it offers “feedback on the raw freshness of Ireland”.

In addition to the US Senior Open, the course has hosted the PGA Championship three times in the past 17 years. Each time, it has been won by a non-American: Fiji Vijay Singh (2004), German Martin Kaymer (2010) and Australian Jason Day (2015).

Could the challenges offered by the course – with strong winds and ruthless harshness – be those that the European team is more used to facing and therefore better prepared to overcome?

Even Stricker called the course a “huge test” for his players, but he thinks he picked the right ones for the job.

“You can have big winds here or breezes off Lake Michigan, and it’s going to be a challenge for all the guys and there are birdies to be made there, but there is also a danger lurking out there. every corner. I think it’s going to be a great place to host this event. “

A view of the 17th hole of the Whistling Straits golf course.

Maybe not here

For some, their golfing career might not have taken off without the Ryder Cup.

For the world no. 1 Jon Rahm, the 1997 Ryder Cup in his home country of Spain was his father’s introduction to golf and by proxy he did.

Led by legendary Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros, the European team retained the trophy at the Valderrama Golf Club in the seaside resort of Sotogrande in Spain.

Rahm’s dad and his friends traveled to the course to watch Europe win by a narrow 14.5-13.5 margin and returned with a desire to try the game for themselves.

“They thought it was a really cool atmosphere, a very unique event in sport, and when they got home they said, ‘Oh, let’s try that,'” Rahm told CNN Sport’s Alex Thomas.

The European team celebrates after winning the 2018 Ryder Cup.

“And that’s how my dad got into golf. So I guess it’s because of the Ryder Cup and Seve and a lot of other people in Spain why my family plays, why I am. here.”

With his first major win under his belt and at the top of the golf rankings, Rahm is aiming for a more positive result than that recorded in the 2018 Ryder Cup, winning only one of his three games.

Will it be the stars and stripes of the United States or the dark blue of Europe that drapes the Ryder Cup? Will the star-studded American team be able to shine or will Europe’s team spirit be decisive again?

One thing is certain: the European team will have to contend with a mood down in Wisconsin if they have any hope of retaining the famous trophy.

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