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The Ryder Cup gets underway at Le Golf National, Paris on Friday, and with two brothers involved (one as a vice-captain, and the other driving the buggy), Tadhg Harrington shares his thoughts.
Generally regarded as one of the most nerve-wracking moments in a golfer’s career, the first tee has been taken up another notch this year with the construction of a 6,500 seater grandstand. To put this into context, the grandstand at the first tee in the K Club held just 1200 fans for the 206 Ryder Cup!
Throw in a daunting tee shot, a vociferous crowd baying for action, and I wish Justin Rose the very best of luck, as I expect him to lead it off for Team Europe on Friday.
This would not be a big surprise as I feel he is Europe’s best player at this time and 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. Team Europe have won six of the last eight Ryder Cups, while the USA have not won away from home in 25 years. With that in mind, it has to be Team Europe, doesn’t it?
Well, let’s consider the players. On paper, the USA have by far the better team, according to the world rankings, and more importantly for me, being an analytical 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 are miles ahead, with seven of the top eleven players in the world.
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 bring incredible strength in depth to Paris.
Before you run out and spend your hard earned shekels on either team, consider that 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 Americans out on day one, to say it wasn’t pretty would be kind. The duo just didn’t gel and never looked like winning, finally succumbing to my brother Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie.
One 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. The 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 that it’s tough to go on face value when it comes to the Ryder Cup. For example, my brother Fergal shared a lift with Justin Rose on Tuesday night and asked him how he gets himself back up for this week’s 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) – 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 our best player at this moment.
– For Team USA, the three young guns, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler are all super dangerous. Oppose them at your peril.
– It is difficult to know how Tiger will play after last week’s 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 and how the players are gelling. It is more than the players themselves that will determine the result.
– Rose and Patrick Reed will play 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?
For all golf fans, this is a week to savour with so many imponderables and much excitement. Team Europe for the win!
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Tadhg Harrington is a professional golf coach who graduated from the Titleist Performance Institute. He
succeeds in employing empathy, passion and exceptional customer service. The Harrington Golf Academy provides long-term coaching programs designed to bring sensory processing to motor learning skills. We teach above the noise, the quick tips and the latest fads and are truly unique in the Irish golf industry.
Tadhg’s brother is three-time Major winner and Ryder Cup vice-captain, Padraig Harrington.