Joy of Golf: USA have the perfect blend to dethrone Europe

Joy Chakravarty 03:39 01/09/2016
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Captain fantastic: Davis Love.

The more I look at it, the more I am convinced that this American Ryder Cup team will finally be able to redeem itself.

Davis Love’s team is not complete as yet, while Darren Clarke has gone past the worst part of being a captain – naming his picks and informing those who haven’t made it to Hazeltine.

This year’s majors have been divided between the two teams – Danny Willett and Henrik Stenson at the Masters and The Open, and Dustin Johnson and Jimmy Walker at the US Open and the PGA Championship. But that’s where the similarity ends.

As of now, with only eight Americans confirmed for the team, they have the two highest ranked players in the field – world No. 2 Johnson and No. 3 Jordan Spieth.

Europe have the next two highest ranked stars – No. 4 Stenson and No. 5 Rory McIlroy. But in No. 41 Thomas Pieters, No. 42 Andy Sullivan, No. 46 Lee Westwood, No. 48 Matthew Fitzpatrick and No. 50 Martin Kaymer, they also have the five lowest ranked players in the 20 who are assured of a place in Hazeltine.

Even more worrisome is the fact that McIlroy is struggling with his putter, while Stenson has injury concerns with his right knee flaring up again at the most inappropriate moment for Clarke.

But, of course, we all know from past experience that reputations and rankings don’t matter much in the Ryder Cup.

On the other hand, good pairings do make a huge difference.

And while Europe will feature six experienced stars with six rookies – which is a good mix – Americans seem to have players who complement each others’ game.

If we go with the widely held belief that Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and JB Holmes will get the nod from Love, then there are six players – Dustin, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Watson and Holmes – who are renowned for their power game, coupled with six of the most consistent and straight hitters in today’s game – Spieth, Walker, Zach Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, Fowler and Kuchar.

The Americans really are a great mix of skills and experience right now. They are massively hungry and they do not want to disappoint their home fans.

Miracles like Medinah are always possible in Ryder Cup, but I am going to go for 16-12 in Team USA’s favour this year.

Made in Denmark is special

The tournament is just three years old and at €1.8 million, it offers one of the lowest purses among the Tour events in continental Europe, but Made in Denmark is fast becoming a must-play event on the schedule of many players.

There were 78,000 good reasons last week why this tournament has become so popular so quickly. That’s the number of spectators who turned up for the event this year, and each one of them contributed in a very special way.

The par-three 16th hole at Himmerland Golf Resort is fast becoming as famous as the 17th at TPC Sawgrass or the 16th at TPC Scottsdale. The thousands of fans on ‘Himmerland Hill’ provided the most unforgettable moment of the year when they all held up European flags as Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke approached the green on day two.

But even otherwise, they appreciated good shots, and unlike Scottsdale, did not boo bad shots. Birdies and eagles were greeted with squeaking noise of the ‘Birdie Duck’, a rubber toy that could be purchased for 50 Krone (appx Dh27), with proceeds from sales of the ducks going to various charities.

The organisers not only got the fans engaged with golf, but also provided a lot of off-course, and post-round activities to keep them happy.

The tournament, given its proximity to PGA Championship and FedEx Cup, is not very well scheduled to attract the big stars who ply their trade on the PGA Tour, but if they continue to get such good word-of-mouth publicity from the players, I won’t be surprised if the European Tour is forced to change it to a more favourable time of the year.

Player of the Week

Japan’s ‘Bashful Prince’, Ryo Ishikawa returned to competitive golf in style when he won the Rizap KBC Augusta on the JGTO Tour.

Ishikawa has struggled with his lower back and hasn’t played any tournament since making the cut at February’s Phoenix Open. KBC Augusta was his second outing after making his comeback in July in Japanese PGA Championship, where he missed the cut.

The victory improved him to No. 140 in the world rankings.

Quotes of the Week

“The fact that it put a kink in our schedule this year irritates me. To mess with the four tournaments that matter most because you’re at the Olympics, I’ve got a strong, strong disdain for that.” – Two-time major champion Zach Johnson doesn’t hide his displeasure for Olympics golf.

“Today, you have become the daughter of the Korean people.” – On the other side of the world, an emotional grandfather told Inbee Park as she arrived in Incheon with her Olympics gold.

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