Europe will attempt to retain the Ryder Cup when they take on the United States at Whistling Straits from September 24th to 26th.
Here, we look at five talking points ahead of the biennial contest, which was postponed in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Will home advantage prove crucial once more?
"I think that 40, 50 years down the road, when the Ryder Cup is still going along, it will probably be best to have a neutral set-up where there is no setting up a golf course." Padraig Harrington wants an end to home advantage
— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) October 1, 2019
Six of the last seven contests have been won by the home side, the exception being the “Miracle at Medinah” in 2012 where Europe recovered from 10-4 down to pull off a remarkable victory. US captain Steve Stricker may have limited options when it comes to tweaking the course to his side’s advantage, but the crowd will be even more one-sided than usual due to travel restrictions limiting the number of European fans in attendance. As the victorious European Solheim Cup team discovered however, the crowd can turn very quiet when their side are being outplayed.
Can America’s rookies overcome Europe’s old guard?
Some clear differences in composition of Ryder Cup rosters...
Euro average age: 34.58 (6 above, 6 below)
US average age: 29.08 (DJ only guy older than 32)
US OWGR: 9 of top 11, none below 21
Euro OWGR: 1 of top 12 (Rahm), 6 ranked between 34-61
— Will Gray (@WillGrayGC) September 13, 2021
Stricker has six rookies in his side after picking four – Daniel Berger, Harris English, Olympic champion Xander Schauffele and Scottie Scheffler – among his six wild cards to add to automatic qualifiers Collin Morikawa and Patrick Cantlay, winners of the the Open Championship and FedEx Cup respectively. The last time the US had six rookies worked out well at Valhalla in 2008, when Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington combined for just 2.5 points in a heavy defeat. Harrington will be hoping for much more from his veterans this time, especially after having to pick Garcia and Ian Poulter.
How will Bryson v Brooks impact on US team morale?
The feud between Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka has been “put to bed” according to Stricker, who spoke to them recently to ensure their unseemly spat would not carry over into the team room at Whistling Straits. That may be true to an extent as they were never going to be paired together, while Koepka’s place could even be in jeopardy through injury, but it will be a major topic of conversation throughout the week and Europe will hope to exploit any signs of division in the opposition camp.
Can Harrington risk resting Rory?
McIlroy has played in every session for which he has been eligible since making his debut at Celtic Manor in 2010, where the rejigged schedule caused by bad weather meant he could only play four times. Leaving the four-time major winner and former world number one out of a session would be a big call, but McIlroy admits he ran out of steam during his epic singles clash with Patrick Reed at Hazeltine in 2016 and also lost to Justin Thomas in Paris. Sitting out a foursomes match to be fresher for Sunday could be worth the risk.
Has Stricker learned a crucial lesson?
A little Whistling warm up?
Love that for us 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/mWprDM1uW3
— Ryder Cup USA (@RyderCupUSA) September 13, 2021
Former captain and 2018 vice-captain Davis Love is in no doubt about the reason behind Europe’s comfortable win in 2018. “They had us over a barrel in Paris because we did not have enough practice rounds. It’s important we gather local knowledge.” Stricker has taken those words to heart and vowed to “out-prepare” the European team by gathering his players at Whistling Straits a fortnight before the contest. “Let’s get in as much practice as we can (and) maybe take a little of the stress of Ryder Cup week off our plates,” Stricker said.