Welcome to the Virgin Media Midweek Kick-off! With the Ryder Cup teeing off this week, we ask sports writers Stuart Hood and Rob McGarr if Europe can make it four wins in a row…
YES! Victory is ours
“Time after time America arrive as the team to beat, and time after time they bottle it” – Stuart Hood, sports writer, Virgin Media
Team USA crumbles under pressure
Some teams handle the pressure of being favourites well, and some teams don’t. America’s Ryder Cup side is most definitely in the latter camp. Time after time they arrive as the team to beat, and time after time they bottle it and get their backsides handed to them on a platter. Given their run of six losses in the last seven Ryder Cups, you’d think American captain Davis Love III would be going all out to ease the pressure on his charges, but he’s actually done the opposite, calling them “The best golf team, maybe, ever assembled”. “No pressure there then lads!” European team member Lee Westwood cheekily tweeted in response.
Success breeds success
Forget major wins. Ignore world rankings. Blank out money in the bank. The only stat you really need to know this week is… Team Europe’s six non-rookies have won 22 Ryder Cups between them, whereas Team USA’s ten non-rookies have won just three. “There is no doubt that success breeds success and failure breeds failure,” says sports psychologist Robin Sieger. “Recent results tell the European players that their team knows how to win and the American players that their team doesn’t. Mentally, this gives Europe a big advantage.”
Our rookies aren’t an issue
Much is being made of the fact that Europe’s 12-man team features six players who have never played in the Ryder Cup before, while America’s 12-man team contains just two first-timers. This isn’t a big deal, for three reasons. First, Europe won the 2010 Ryder Cup with a team that contained six rookies. Second, Europe secured a record 18.5-9.5 away victory at Oakland Hills in 2004 with five rookies in their side. Third, two of the stars of Europe’s 2014 win at Gleneagles were rookies, with France’s Victor Dubuisson chalking up 2.5 points and Wales’ Jamie Donaldson hitting the winning shot.
Europe’s stars love the course
Those who reckon the 2016 Ryder Cup venue, Hazeltine National in Minnesota, is going to suit Team USA far more than Team Europe might want to do a bit of a historical research. I recommend this, because it turns out that Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Martin Kaymer all finished in the top six when the 2009 US PGA was played over the layout. “I liked the greens and felt comfortable on the course right away,” reveals McIlroy. In contrast, just two members of the American team made the top 70 that week.
Rory’s on fire
We asked 100 golf fans to name the hottest golfer on the planet right now and 100 per cent said… Team Europe’s talisman Rory McIlroy. OK, OK, so we didn’t do a survey. But if we did, it would be clean sweep for the 27-year-old Northern Irishman, who has won two PGA Tour events, the FedEx Cup and over $13 million in the last four weeks. “I’ve never gone into a Ryder Cup with this much excitement, so hopefully it’ll help to galvanise the team,” smiled the World No.3 on Sunday night. Judging by the video of Rory’s teammates raucously celebrating his success at the airport it has done just that. So, come on Europe. It’s time to ride Rory’s coat-tails to a fourth win in a row.
NO! It’s Team USA’s time
“America have the better players, which is always useful when trying to win a golf match” – Rob McGarr, ScratchGolf.co.uk
Home advantage is huge
If Europe’s recent dominance has got you thinking that home advantage counts for nothing, think again. In actual fact the home side has won seven of the last nine Ryder Cups. It’s not just a partisan and vocal crowd that makes playing at home easier, you can also set the course up to suit your team. Past captains have been known to go as far as speeding up the greens and having fairways widened at the driving distance of their key players.
The course will suit America’s big hitters
At 7,628 yards, Hazeltine National is one of the longest courses on the professional circuit. Three of the four par-5s are over 600 yards, and five of the par-4s measure 442 yards or more – not to mention the 248-yard par-3 13th hole. This means the course is tailor-made for power players, and while Europe have only two players who average over 300 yards off the tee (Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose), America can boast five, with the PGA Tour’s two biggest hitters JB Holmes and Dustin Johnson joined by fellow bombers Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka and Jimmy Walker.
Europe haven’t been that dominant
It’s easy to look at the fact Europe have won the last three Ryder Cups and assume that they’ve been smashing America off the course. But that’s simply not the case. Two of those contests were decided by a single point, and with several individual matches decided by just a single shot, we’re talking America being inches away from winning both the 2010 and 2012 Ryder Cups. If Lady Luck shines on the home side a touch more this year, the cup will not make the journey back across the Atlantic.
Team USA have the better players
We all know that the Ryder Cup is won on fairways and greens rather than spreadsheets and paper, but, in the plainest terms, America have the better golfers. And when you’re trying to win a golf match, that’s generally considered a good thing. Ten of the American squad are in the world’s top 25, compared to five Europeans. The lowest ranked American player is last-minute pick Ryan Moore – and at 31st in the world, he’s still higher than more than half of Team Europe. If world rankings aren’t your thing, perhaps the fact that Team USA has more major victories (11 to Europe’s nine) will convince you that, man for man, the boys in stars and stripes are the stronger team.
America’s stars really care this time
Anyone who believes that America are less committed to the Ryder Cup than Europe needs to wake up and smell Uncle Sam’s hungry new generation. “I’m ready to bleed red, white and blue,” insists 26-year-old Patrick Reed, while 23-year-old Jordan Spieth recently said he’d rather win the Ryder Cup than the FedEx Cup (quite a claim, given the winner of the FedEx Cup gets a $10million bonus and the winners of the Ryder Cup earn nothing). Add in the boost they’ll receive from having Tiger Woods as a vice-captain, and the motivation they’ll have to win it for golfing legend Arnold Palmer (who passed away last Sunday), and it’s impossible to see a fired up Team USA letting this Ryder Cup slip through their grasp.
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