15th September 2018
Ryder Cup preview: Can Europe regain golf’s greatest prize?
By Neil Silver, Head of Employability & Enrichment at UCFB
Team Europe go into this month’s Ryder Cup as underdogs, but one “player” can help swing the balance back in their favour.
That “player” isn’t called Rose, McIlroy, Garcia or Poulter. Instead, it will be the partisan crowd which turns up at Le Golf National in Paris that could make all the difference as Europe’s 13th man.
Golf is a sport which is all about current form and confidence, and if you compare the European team with Team USA, then our friends from across the pond have the edge.
We may have the likes of battle-hardened pros Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson, but the reality is that new world number one Rose is the only member of that quintet who is showing any real form.
Contrast that with the American team, and we have every reason to feel a little bit afraid. Just look at the recent form and confidence of Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, and even the resurgent Tiger Woods. As the Americans would say: Awesome!
Therefore, our main hopes are that the Americans don’t travel well, and traditionally they don’t bond as well as the Europeans, although their victory in the last competition at Hazeltine two years ago went some way to changing that habit.
So this is where the home crowd comes in. Golf is a nerve-wracking sport. Trust me; when I was a national newspaper sports reporter I carried out my duties under the highest of pressures, at World Cups and the Olympic Games for example, and I hardly batted an eyelid. But put me on the first tee with a group of mates watching me hit my first shot and for some reason my legs turn to jelly.
It’s not just me. Hugely experienced golfers who have tasted the pressure of the Ryder Cup have admitted that they have never been so scared in their life as when they stood up to hit that first tee shot. Perhaps it is the fact that golf is an individual sport, and they are not used to playing for the team, but whatever it is you can bet that it turns superhuman sportsmen into mere mortals.
I love Americans and I don’t want the crowd in Paris to employ dirty tactics, but I want the spectators to make as much noise as possible to unsettle the Yanks and make them feel unwelcome. Imagine taking a penalty for the opposition in front of the Kop, or the Stretford End – that’s the kind of nervousness we need the American players to feel in order to level the playing field.
The Ryder Cup is my favourite sporting event on the calendar. I had the privilege of covering the 2002 contest at The Belfry for The Press Association, and I was sitting on the edge of the 18th green when Paul McGinley holed the winning putt. The memory still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
I am sure that next week’s contest will be another fantastic advert for professional sport. My head says USA and my heart says Europe. I’m going with my heart.