This is where it all starts this Friday, as the Ryder Cup gets underway at Le Golf National, Paris, France. Generally regarded as one of the most nerve-wracking moments in a golfers career, it has been taken up another notch when you consider this grandstand holds 6,500 fans. To put this in context, the grandstand at the first tee in the K Club held just 1200 fans!
Throw in a daunting tee shot, and I wish Justin Rose well as I expect him to lead off for Team Europe. Not a big stretch here as I feel he is Europe’s best player at this time and I can see him being paired with someone like the big-hitting, Spaniard, Jon Rahm, in the opening four-ball matches.
In 1967, Ben Hogan introduced his Ryder Cup team as the “finest golfers in the world” and they duly obliged on home soil but these days this is a much tougher contest to call. Europe, for their part, has won 6 of the last eight Ryder Cups and the USA haven’t won away from home in 25 years. So, it has to be Team Europe?
Well, ok, but let’s consider the actual players? On paper, the USA has by far the better team, according to the world rankings, and more importantly for me, being an analytical type of person, a PGA Tour category called “strokes gained total.” This is one of the first categories I visit when trying to decipher a golf puzzle and it shows quite clearly that the USA is miles ahead, with seven of the top eleven players listed being American!
Justin Rose, at number two, is the only European player ranked in the top five! So even though team Europe are on home soil, team USA brings incredible strength in depth to Paris. So, it has to be Team USA for the Cup!
Well before you run out and spend your hard earned shekels on either team, consider this, in 2004, the world yearned for the unbeatable pairing of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and team Captain, Hal Sutton, duly obliged, with Tiger and Phil leading the American team out on day one, match one. To say it wasn’t pretty would be kind, they didn’t gel and never looked like winning, finally succumbing to my brother Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie.
You could argue that the upshot of this opening salvo for team morale (on both sides) was that the European team went on to win the competition by a margin of 18½ to 9½ points, away from home in Oakland Hills! That victory margin was the largest by any European team in the history of the event, and the largest by either side since 1981, It was also the largest margin of defeat for the USA since the competition started in 1927. Yikes!
The moral of the story is, it’s tough to go on face value when it comes to the Ryder Cup. An example being, my brother Fergal shared a lift with Justin Rose on Tuesday night and, as you do, asked him how he gets himself back up for this weeks event after his heroics at the FedEx Cup (remember it was ten million dollars he won!) Rose replied, “when you put on that Ryder Cup sweater, you are not playing for yourself; you are playing for the team.”
This was very poignant in an age of sporting stars that seem devoid of passion for the cause once they hit the big money stakes. He will be a tough cookie to beat this week!
With two brothers working at the event, (Fergal has that all-important job of driving the buggy for Vice Captain, Padraig, you can follow his exploits here https://www.facebook.com/teameuropebuggyman/) – I have some interesting tidbits from the field and a few pointers if you feel like having a small wager!
Frankie Molinari has been described as Trackman with arms and legs, he is unerringly accurate, Tommy Fleetwood has a bit of a gunslinger look about him but backs it up with stellar play, I like his strut, and he will be a match for whoever he plays.
Justin Rose is, in my opinion, our best player at this moment. For Team USA, the three young guns, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, and Rickie Fowler are all super dangerous, and I would oppose them at your peril. It is tough to know how Tiger will play after last weeks astonishing win, so a watching brief is advised here.
With three rookies on Team USA and five on Team Europe, the water is muddied further so stick with individual matches until you get a sense of where the momentum is, how the players are gelling, it, more than the players themselves will determine the result. I see Captain Rose and Captain Reed playing a big part this week but as ever someone will emerge from the pack to play inspiring golf and this is the problem with having total confidence in either side.
Could it be that long-haired street fighter from Southport, England that delivers the fatal blow? Who knows but for any golf fan, this is a week to savor, so many imponderables and so much excitement!
Talk to you again on Tuesday when all those imponderables will be answered,
Enjoy, and thanks for your company!
About The Author
Tadhg Harrington is a full time, professional golf instructor, and owner of the Harrington Golf Academy, based in Dublin, Ireland. He is a graduate of the Titleist Performance Institute and Setanta College. He is the eldest brother of three-time time Major Champion, Padraig Harrington.
He succeeds, employing empathy, passion and exceptional customer service, teaching above the noise, the quick tips, and the latest fads and is truly unique in the Irish golf industry.
The Harrington Golf Academy provides long term coaching programs designed to bring sensory processing to motor learning skills. Tadhg teaches the long game at Drynam Park Golf Centre and short game at Roganstown GC. His business partner, Ex European Tour Player, Rebecca Codd, also teaches full time at Drynam Park Golf Centre.