Phil Mickelson once said that July was too early to be thinking about the Ryder Cup. Jordan Spieth, for one, believes otherwise. It’s only January, yet the world No 1 already has his sights set on September’s match in Minnesota.
At long last, the Americans, especially the new wave of younger players spearheaded by Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Patrick Rodgers and Brooks Koepka, are adopting the right attitude to a contest they’ve only managed to win twice in the last ten clashes. That could make life difficult for Europe at Hazeltine.
“We are tired of hearing about the past. We are tired of hearing about changes that need to be made. We are ready to believe in a younger, more hungry team going forward,” said Spieth, speaking in Abu Dhabi, as he revealed that a Ryder Cup win this year would top either adding to his brace of major victories last season or claiming a gold medal in the first golf event to be staged at the Olympics since 1904.
“To get that win as a team is a huge goal this year – at the very top of the list,” added the 22-year-old, who made his debut in the Transatlantic tussle on a losing side at Gleneagles in 2014 but has wiped that from his memory and believes his team-mates later this year will also be paying no heed whatsoever to the event’s recent history when they go into battle for the home captain, Davis Love.
“We are going to go into this Ryder Cup believing it’s a completely clean slate – that will be our strategy,” insisted Spieth. “When we get there this year, it is going to be the inaugural event in our minds. We are going to listen to our captain, listen to our assistants – and they are going to listen to us. It is going to be an effort that all of us have put a lot of thought into ahead of time on how we want to prepare, so that when we get there we don’t have to figure out pairings at the last minute.
“It looks like it’s going to be a team with a younger age average than we’ve had and I think that will make a difference in the sense there will be less scar tissue there. We’ve got young guys like Rickie, Brooks, Justin and Patrick who are fiery and have had good success in different team environments going back to their amateur and junior days. If we can all continue what we’ve been doing over this past year, we’re going to get in that team room and be pretty excited about who is next to us.
“The Ryder Cup is a different animal for us this time, I honestly believe that. There’s still a long way to go until Hazeltine, but we have a lot of momentum right now and we are ready to start a new trend.”
In winning his opening event of 2016 – an eight-shot success, no less, in the PGA Tour’s Tournament of Champions in Hawaii less than a fortnight ago – the Texan continued an old one from last season. Now Spieth is relishing the prospect of literally going head-to-head with Fowler and Rory McIlroy, at least for the first two days as the trio are in the same group, when the European Tour’s Desert Swing gets underway today at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
“We very rarely get a group like this and very rarely will going forward,” he said. “It’s tremendous for all three of us and we will be trying to feed off each other as we all want to beat each other pretty bad.
“I don’t think 30-under [Spieth’s winning score at Kapalua] is possible on this golf course, but, if I can drive the ball as well as I did in Hawaii and keep it in the short grass here, then I feel very confident about my chances. I actually feel better about the way I am striking my irons coming into this week that I did going into Hawaii. I just need to maintain my putting and my short-game statistics from there.”