Europe out to regain title and other talking points ahead of the Ryder Cup

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Europe take on United States in the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National in Paris on Thursday, bidding to regain the trophy lost at Hazeltine in 2016.

Here, we look at five talking points ahead of the biennial contest.

Can Europe overcome a dominant American side?

The American team has been utterly dominant in recent years, winning Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup, Presidents Cup, Walker Cup and Curtis Cup.

Americans have won six out of the last eight majors and are brimming with talent heading to the French capital this weekend. But Europe have superstars of their own in Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy, and are desperate for revenge after a crushing defeat at Hazeltine two years ago.

Europe lost the opening foursomes 4-0 and were eventually beaten 17-11 in a disappointing weekend. Only four members of that team will compete in Paris, and Thomas Bjorn will need these experienced players to step up against a strong American team containing just three rookies, one of whom is a major winner and a former World No1 in Justin Thomas.

Will home advantage help?

America have not won on European soil since 1993 but come into this edition of the tournament with possibly one of their strongest ever teams.

However, the course Le Golf National, which has hosted the French Open since 1991, could prove central to the home side’s chances.

Remarkably, Tyrrell Hatton is the only European player without a top-10 finish in the event, although he finished 12th in 2015.

Alex Noren and Tommy Fleetwood are the last two winners of the French Open, while Ian Poulter has never missed the cut in 13 appearances. In contrast, Thomas is the only American player to compete at Le Golf National, finishing a tie for eighth in June.

How will the European rookies fare?

It was a mixed showing for the six rookies two years ago at Hazeltine where Thomas Pieter and Rafa Carbera Bello shone, but Matt Fitzpatrick, Chris Wood, Danny Willett and Andy Sullivan managed to win just one point between them.

With five rookies in his team this year, Thomas Bjorn will be hoping for more promise and consistency than the 2016 edition, especially with European No1 Tommy Fleetwood and World No7 Jon Rahm in fine fettle of late.

Alex Noren, Thorbjorn Olesen and Tyrell Hatton are three seriously talented players on their day, but the pressure of Ryder Cup golf is like no other, and success and class on an individual level is no guarantee in a high pressure team environment.

Did both captains get their selections correct?

Furyk undoubtedly got his selections spot on, but there was much scrutiny over Bjorn’s wildcard choices.

His inclusion of Sergio Garcia raised many eyebrows, with the Spaniard missing all four cuts in this year’s majors and no top-10 finishes since the French Open three months ago.

Although the 38-year-old has the experience of competing in eight Ryder Cups, his loss of form may prove costly, given the talent of players like Matt Wallace, Cabrera-Bello and Pieters who did more than enough in recent months to warrant a wildcard.

Experience over form is a huge gamble, one that could hinder Europe’s chances of winning the title.

How much of an impact can Tiger Woods have?

The American is returning to the Ryder Cup after a six-year absence and is sure to dominate the headlines for the weekend.

The 42-year-old has been in influential form this season, with his first PGA Tour win in over five years at East Lake on Sunday and five top-six finishes, including second place at the Open Championship last month.

But as the biggest individual draw in sport, Woods’ presence, on field persona, experience and sheer magic around the greens is sure to inspire Jim Furyk’s side as they go in search of back-to-back titles.

Should Woods perform well in a victorious American team this weekend, all the focus will shift to the Masters next April where he will attempt to secure a 15th major title.

The only question mark is his feeble 49 per cent success record at Ryder Cups, which includes 17 defeats in 33 matches.

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