Ryder Cup: A year after originally planned, golf’s biggest rivalry is ready to start

One year late due to the coronavirus pandemic, the tournament will consist of its usual foursome, fourball and singles format in front of a biased American crowd hoping their players can return the trophy to American soil after Europe last won in 2018 in France .

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

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

Will Team USA regain the trophy, or can Europe make sure it joins them on the flight back across the Atlantic?

READ: The Power of Three: How Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus Revolutionized Golf
A view of the Ryder Cup Trophy at Whistling Straits Golf Course.

Meet the teams

For the home team, Stricker had almost an embarrassment of wealth to choose from when it was time to make his choices.

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

There are 10 major titles and three FedExCup titles between the six of them.

In addition to them, Stricker selected Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Harris English, Scottie Scheffler, Daniel Berger and Tony Finau.

There are three more majors, 26 PGA Tour victories and an Olympic gold medal to add to the team.

The biggest name to miss for Team USA 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 fit the Whistling Straits pitch was paramount for Stricker and his assistant captains.

“We’re looking for the best players to perform here at Whistling Straits, and these six guys we chose, we want to fit Whistling Straits to a T,” he told the media.

“We’ve been analyzing these rookies since 2008, and American rookies are a record of 40-29-17 in the Ryder Cup. So rookies are doing very well in this form, and we’re happy to have these rookies. Some of “They are not really rookies. They have played in former Presidents Cup teams. Some of these guys also have match-play competition under their belt and other events they played.”

There are also questions about rivalries bubbling inside the American team, especially the frosty relationship between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.

There is a bit of love lost between the couple with their smaller spats often spilling over on social media. The moment Koepka rolled his eyes as DeChambeau walked behind him at this year’s PGA Championship, it might sum up their strained relationship perfectly.

But both have previously said their rivalry is good for golf, and Stricker does not predict it will be a problem during the Ryder Cup.

“It’s really a problem for me and the team. We got together a few weeks ago, the six of us and I’ve had conversations with both of them,” Stricker said. “They have assured me that it will not be a problem. I have no worries whatsoever.”

“Will we pair them together? I do not think so at this point, but things can change. Could always happen. But probably not.

“But again, I ate dinner; they all showed up. We had a good conversation, good conversations. So I do not see it as a problem at all, and they are completely on board.”

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 earned automatic qualification based on world and European points lists.

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

“I’m really happy with my team,” Harrington said during the announcement. “It’s a good team for foursomes and fourball games, a lot of good ball attackers, and it’s a team going to Whistling Straits that’s well suited to the golf course. It’s a strong, rounded and very balanced team.”

Whistling Straits is a course that goes back to the British and Irish heritage of the Gulf.

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

Designed by legendary golf course designers Pete and Alice Dye, it offers “recall to Ireland’s raw freshness.”

In addition to the US Senior Open, the course has hosted the PGA Championship on three occasions over the past 17 years. On each occasion, it was won by a non-American: Fiji’s Vijay Singh (2004), Germany’s Martin Kaymer (2010) and Australia’s Jason Day (2015).

Could the challenges the course offers – with strong winds and unforgivably hard – be one that the European team is more used to facing and therefore more prepared to overcome?

Stricker himself called the pitch a “huge test” for his players, but he believes he has chosen the right ones for the job.

“You can get some big winds here or the breeze at Lake Michigan, and it’s going to be a challenge for all the guys, and there are birds to be made out there, but there’s also danger lurking around every corner. I think it’s going to be a great place to have this event. “

A view from the 17th hole of the Whistling Straits Golf Course.

Maybe not been here

For some, their golf careers might not have taken off if it were not for the Ryder Cup.

For World No. 1 Jon Rahm, the 1997 Ryder Cup, held in his native Spain, was the introduction to golf that his father had and as a power of attorney he had.

The European team was captured by the legendary Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros and retained the trophy at Valderrama Golf Club in the resort of Sotogrande in Spain.

Rahm’s father and his friends traveled to the pitch to see 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 sports, and when they got home, they said, ‘Oh, let’s try it,'” Rahm told CNN Sports’ Alex Thomas.

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Team Europe celebrates after winning the Ryder Cup 2018.

“And that’s how my dad came to golf. So I think because of the Ryder Cup and Seve and a lot of other people in Spain, that’s why my family plays, which is why I’m here.”

With his supreme big win under his belt and sitting on top of the golf rankings, Rahm aims for a more positive result than he recorded at the Ryder Cup 2018, winning just one of his three matches.

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

One thing is for sure: the European team must clear a bear pit of an atmosphere in Wisconsin if they are to hope to retain the famous trophy.

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