Padraig Harrington leads Europe into battle.
Padraig Harrington is one of our favourite sons. He has won three majors and thrilled us in Ryder Cups as a player. A loss as captain would not take any shine off his amazing career but a win would be a lot more than the icing on the cake. It could be his greatest achievement.
Team US are better-ranked players, playing a course that suits them more and all this is happening on US shores in front of wildly partisan crowds. Make no mistakes, this is a tall order.
Ryder Cup wait almost over.
It won’t be long now until the first tee in Whistling Straits erupts with a boisterous early morning welcome for the first two pairings from Europe and the USA.
Multi-million dollar golfers who have won majors and big tournaments all over the world will wave to the crowd and then hope that their sweaty palmed hands and rapidly beating hearts will allow them get the ball on the tee peg without a fumble.
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It’s not just hype. Some of the game’s finest have struggled to hit that opening shot. In Dustin Johnson’s first appearance, all week long he had planned to hit a 3 wood off the first tee, but when the moment came he pulled the driver from the bag because he needed something bigger to ensure he wouldn’t miss.
There have been some peculiar opening shots including Tiger Woods’ opener at the K-Club which found water that really isn’t in play. Nerves play a massive part and that’s why we hope European experience could beat the odds and win.
Experience counts for Padraig Harrington.
It’s important to have rookies on a team but maybe not too many. USA have six and their other players don’t have a whole pile of caps either.
They are impressive rookies though with the likes of Colin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffle. Others like Daniel Berger should prove resilient and Scottie Scheffler should partner well.
Overall though, the day 1 nerves should be better handled by Europe. European veterans like Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter should partner well with Rory McIroy, Jon Rahm and Shane Lowry. Europe will hope for a day 1 lead.
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Six of the last seven cups have gone to the home side. The partisan crowds and the captain’s ability to set the course up to suit his team make it difficult for the away side.
This was evident in Paris where accuracy and course management were rewarded over length. Although described as a links-style course, Whistling Straits will suit the Americans more. The home crowd has to suit the US too but sometimes that expectation can turn into additional pressure. The Americans will shake off the day 1 nerves and day 2 will be a stern test for the Europeans.
Captain Stricker will quietly go about his business. He is a local hero in Wisconsin but he definitely has a trickier job than Harrington. Egos need to be left at the team room door and that’s something of a challenge for the US.
They have great individuals who don’t always pair well in a one-off team environment. On the plus side, the US team don’t have Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson among their twelve players.
Both players, particularly Woods, were difficult to pair with and neither had the Garcia, Seve, Monty talisman air about them when it came to team events.
Stricker has Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka to deal with but both should be able to park it for a week. Harrington will create the best environment for his players to thrive in. It’s easier for him as the Ryder means more to the European Tour and its players than it does to the PGA Tour players, plus Europe are underdogs.
Who will prevail in Ryder Cup?
For Shane and Padraig, the heart will over rule the head but many Irish betting slips may still have USA to win.
For all that experience in the European ranks there has been a changing of the guard in the US. Younger players like Jordan Speith and Justin Thomas are now talismen.
While inexperienced, they don’t have as much scar tissue as the former US predecessors. They have a really positive new group like Morikawa, Berger, Sheffler, Schauffle, Cantlay and Tony Finau.
They can all hit it long and have been in pressure positions before. Bottom line is that if Padraig Harrington flies back with that trophy next week it will be perhaps his greatest achievement.