After Rory McIlroy's win in the Open at Hoylake, British (and European) golf looks in good shape for the Ryder Cup in September.
With just the USPGA of the majors remaining Europeans have been looking good, filling 10 of the top 20 spots in the US Masters including second and fourth (and, amazingly, veteran Bernhard Langer in 8th), German Martin Kaymer winning the US Open and Henrik Stenson putting in another creditable performance in fourth. As well as McIlroy's triumph Europeans finished in second and nine further top 20 places at Hoylake suggesting a healthy competition for places in the squad.
Bjorn and Co.
With players of the calibre of Thomas Bjorn, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell to potentially add to the names already mentioned, the makings of a strong European team seem already in place. But we all know that the Ryder Cup is much more than having a good team on paper. Time and again the Europeans have bamboozled the Americans with what appeared much weaker squads due to teamwork, tactics and sheer determination. But is that the case now?
On paper at the moment the teams would look to be fairly evenly matched but with Europe playing on home soil and having won the last four tournaments held in Europe - and, dramatically, the 2012 competition in the US - they have been installed as bookies favourites to win this one.
While McIlroy, the undoubted darling of the Euro squad, is in imperious (if sometimes frustratingly inconsistent) form, the American talisman, Tiger Woods continues to struggle woefully. He finished 6 over in Hoylake in 69th place (a place higher than Martin Kaymer mind) in what was his first major appearance of the year.
Woods can only make the US team if he is picked as a wild card; he currently stands 72nd in the qualification rankings. Whether Tom Watson will go for his sheer experience and quality remains to be seen but, if psychology plays a part in the competition (and it certainly seems to) surely his omission sends positive signals to Europe. On the other hand, inclusion and a poor early showing hands Europe the initiative as well.
Remember how he capitulated right at the end against Francesco Molinari to give Europe the unlikely outright victory in Medinah? He failed to win a single match in the 2012 Cup returning with just a half from four appearances.
The US has some powerful and awe-inspiring players but Europe have won five of the last six Ryders. Do the Yanks have anything new in the bag to upset this? The bookies don't seem to think so. But maybe wily old captain Tom Watson could use their underdog status and the hostility of the crowds and circumstances to inspire his team to a Europe-like turnround. As usual, it should be fascinating to watch.
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