Will Europe make history and win the Ryder Cup for a fourth successive time?
It’s the most anticipated event in the golfing calendar, but Europe’s dominance in the Ryder Cup could come to an end this weekend following fears over the number of rookies in captain Darren Clarke’s team.
Six of Clarke’s 12-strong team will be making their Ryder Cup debut at the Hazeltine National in Minnesota. A zealous American crowd awaits Europe, who’re aiming to win the famous trophy for a record fourth successive time.
It’s the home advantage, and a more experienced team, that UCFB’s Neil Silver feels will see the United States, captained once again by Davis Love III, reclaim the trophy.
Neil, Head of Complementary Curriculum, Employability and Media at UCFB and a huge golf fan, said: “I hope I am wrong but on this occasion I believe that home advantage will prove crucial and, having visited Hazeltine I know they will set up the course to favour the Americans in front of their fervent fans.”
He added: “I fear that six rookies will be just too many. Only Danny Willett has experienced Major pressure and even that is nothing like the feeling of playing in a Ryder Cup.”
By contrast, the Americans only have two rookies in their team including Ryan Moore, who took Rory McIlroy to a four-hole play-off last weekend in the Tour Championship.
Neil said: “Love has also put together an impressive backroom team, with the likes of Tiger Woods, Tom Lehman, Bubba Watson and Jim Furyk on hand to offer invaluable experience.”
The Ryder Cup has been the scene of some of the most iconic images in sport in recent years. Seve Ballesteros captaining Europe to a narrow victory in 1997 at Valderrama; the infamous Battle of Brookline in 1999 and the American team dancing over the 17th green with Jose Maria Olazabal still to play his putt; Paul McGinley sinking the victorious putt and then going for a swim at The Belfry in 2002; the tears of Darren Clarke and the crowd as he won all three of his matches just weeks after the death of his wife in 2006; and of course the Miracle in Medinah in 2012, where Europe came from 10-6 behind to retain the trophy in a mesmerising day of singles.
This year’s event promises to be an equally emotional affair, coming just days after the sad death of the American golfing legend Arnold Palmer.
Neil highlighted three players crucial to any European success – McIlroy, newly crowned Olympic champion Justin Rose and Open champion Henrik Stenson.
In the American ranks though lurks real danger. Neil said: “I expect the likes of Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker, and Moore, to be too good for Europe.”
Europe have a ferocious pedigree in the Ryder Cup, having won ten and drawn one of the last 15 events.
According to Neil though, an American win this weekend could be best for the future of the competition. He said: “I can console myself by thinking that an American win is what the competition needs. It might be just what is needed to stop the Ryder Cup from being devalued by our friends across the pond.”