23 September 2021: In a world of dog eat dog daily competition, the Ryder Cup is an aberration. A very welcome aberration for some, a week of adaptation for some others. After training to find your best irrespective of the blades of grass beneath your feet, it isn’t always easy to play for an idea beyond the self. But that is exactly the demand this week as some of the finest golf professionals from either side of the Atlantic gang together in a bid for supremacy over the Whistling Straits course at Kohler, Wisconsin.
The Americans are home and eager to snatch the golden chalice from the Europeans, who have been the better team over the past two decades. Even though the hosts enjoy a thoroughly comprehensive 26-14-2 advantage, Europe has collected nine of those 14 wins in the last dozen editions of the biennial affair.
Even on this team, the Americans outweigh the Europeans by a fat margin – while the average rank of the home team is less than nine, the Europeans weigh in at a shade over 30. So the visitors will hope that they can depend on an invisible chemistry to drive them home in an alien setting. Adding to the challenge is the partisan crowd support. Travel restrictions leave barely any European supporters in the stands this week.
Padraig Harrington and his men are trying their best to win some space in the hearts of the Wisconsin natives. They strode out in green and gold on Wednesday, wearing cheese hats, in an apparent acknowledgment of the Green Bay Packers.
The guessing game is over. The two teams have lined up their warriors for the opening salvo on Friday.
Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm take on Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas at 1705hrs IST.
Paul Casey/Viktor Hovland v Dustin Johnson/Collin Morikawa 1721hrs IST
Lee Westwood/Matthew Fitzpatrick v Daniel Berger/Brooks Koepka 1737hrs IST
Rory McIlroy/Ian Poulter v Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele 1753hrs IST
The home team has won each of the Ryder Cups since 2006, except the miraculous run of the Europeans at Medinah. And the Americans will seek to continue that trend of home successes with a handy victory on Sunday. On paper they outmatch the Europeans by pedigree, but the Ryder Cup isn’t your regular season event. It takes a good game and then some to play for the team.
“It’s a huge advantage to play in front of your home crowd, and it’s also what makes this event so special,” said Justin Thomas. “I think they did the right thing in pushing it back a year to make sure that not only us players, but everybody could experience this for what it’s worth.”
“Every team event I’ve played in, it’s been outside the States,” added Bryson DeChambeau. “It’s going to be fun to see what we can do to rile up the crowd in the right way and get them behind our backs and moving us in the direction we all want to be in, which is taking home that Cup.”
Poulter was in the mix at Medinah. Experience is going to be the key for Europe. They will bank on Westwood and Poulter to provide the necessary inspiration and energy to drive through a decisively red forest.
“Even if we have a thousand, two, three, four thousand, yes, we are going to be outnumbered. But it’s about using that energy,” Poulter said. “They are going to be loud. They are going to be wanting to help the U.S. Team get over the line. So it’s how we go about using that energy to fuel us at the right time. Use that for momentum, and hopefully we’ll be bringing this back home.”
“Most of the focus coming in is the fact that it is going to be 90/10, 80/20 (in favor of the U.S.),” added European Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington. “As I’ve said all along, Europe would rather play in front of 40,000 Americans than zero fans. But maybe when we got here it has changed a little bit. You can see that there’s expectation and pressure from the fans going the other way.”
“I think winning any Ryder Cup is huge, and it’s a monumental achievement for all that are involved, but I think over the years winning a Ryder Cup on the road has just become more meaningful for some reason,” said Rory McIlroy. “We experienced it in 2012, which from a European perspective is probably one of the best days in the Ryder Cup that we’ve ever had in history. I’d certainly love to have that feeling again.”
But it isn’t going to be easy. And the crowd will not let it be. The Americans haven’t won in Europe since 1993. So they will want to protect home turf with ferocity, particularly when the odds are stacked in their favour.
“I expect good, rowdy fans,” warned Steve Stricker, the American captain. “It’s going to be rowdy. It’s going to be loud, especially on the first tee, and pro-USA, obviously. So we’re looking forward to that. We need that. We need that backing. It is our home turf.”