THE Ryder Cup just gets bigger and better with every match.
Anticipation is huge for the event in Paris and another classic awaits. The Americans begin as favourites so it’s time for Europe to summon their underdog spirit and get ready to fight to bring that cup home.
Here’s my take on the issues.
ADVICE TO THOMAS BJORN
The Europe captain must make his players practise foursomes before the match begins. It will hold the balance of power.
At Gleneagles, Europe won six and halved two of the eight foursomes. That was the backbone of our victory.
Two years ago, the USA secured a 4-0 whitewash in the foursomes on the opening morning at Hazeltine and never looked back. Europe were always fighting a losing battle.
Playing alternate-shot golf requires different skills. You need to always think of your partner.
When practising, don’t hit a second ball if you hit a bad shot. It’s not about making birdies, but avoiding bogeys.
I would practise foursomes on Thursday before the Opening Ceremony, so it’s fresh in everyone’s mind.
Playing the match at the French Open venue should be a big advantage as the Europeans know the course.
That was a crucial factor at The Belfry, The K Club and, most of all, at Valderrama in 1997.
But Le Golf National is a quintessential US-style course rather than a classic European venue. It’s a stadium-type venue like we see on the PGA Tour, ideal for hosting big crowds.
I’m just wary of trying to trick the course up to suit us or unsettle the Americans. That can backfire. Let’s have it exactly how the French Open is staged and back Europe to play well.
I am disappointed there is no Frenchman in our team. At one stage, Alex Levy looked like he could make it, but he didn’t perform over the summer.
I also think Thomas Bjorn has missed a trick by not having a French guy like Thomas Levet or Jean Van de Velde as one of his vice-captains.
That would have been good PR and it would have helped the people on the ground in Paris feel like it’s their team.
Obviously Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy need to inspire Europe with their golf.
But one player I expect to rise to the occasion is Tyrrell Hatton. He is feisty and aggressive, and he will enjoy the heat of competition.
He is not scared to hole putts and he has the type of game that can rise to the Ryder Cup. He could be our version of Patrick Reed.
As for America, they all look strong, but I’m a big fan of Justin Thomas.
He has a game with no weaknesses, is long and straight and a really good putter.
He is making his Ryder Cup debut, but don’t class him as a rookie. Not when he has won a Major and been World No.1.
This match offers Tiger Woods a chance of redemption.
He has never thrown himself into the Ryder Cup before, and he has intimidated his own team more than the opposition.
I remember at The Belfry in 2002 when he practised on his own early one morning to avoid the crowds and the spotlight. That sent out all the wrong signals.
But his period away has stoked his fire again. He was a vice-captain last time, but now he is back as a player.
Bryson DeChambeau looks to be a potential partner, so we will see how that pans out.
WHO WILL TRIUMPH?
My head says America will win, but my heart is with Europe.
If we summon the pride in battle of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, there is no reason we cannot win back the Cup.
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