Danny Willett says 'tricky' Ryder Cup build up hit European hopes

Danny Willett believes a “tricky” build up for Europe to the 43rd Ryder Cup contributed to Padraig Harrington’s team being hit by a US juggernaut at Whistling Straits.

Danny Willett and caddie Jonathan Smart during a practice round for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at Kingsbarns Golf Links. Picture: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images.

The Englishman described his experience in the transatlantic tussle as “s***” when he was on a team that suffered a heavy defeat at Hazeltine in 2016.

“I was waiting for someone to repeat my assessment in the press conference,” said Willett as he offered his views on Europe’s record 19-9 defeat in the 43rd edition at Whistling Straits. “But no one did.”

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On the back of Sunday’s stunning victory in Wisconsin, some people have been predicting the Americans to dominante the biennial event for the next 20 years.

However, Willett reckons the Europeans can bounce back in Italy in 2023, just as they did after that Hazeltine defeat with a seven-point success at Le Golf National in France three years ago,

“I’m not sure you can predict 20 years of dominance from one match,” said Willett, speaking in St Andrews as he prepared to tee up in this week’s 20th Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. “You can have that opinion, but that is all it is.

“The Covid stuff has been so tricky for the European Tour. Trying to get the lads together had been tricky. So it’s been tough to get the same level of camaraderie.

“Some of them have been in America, in Europe, playing in different bubbles. It’s been a very different scenario for young European golfers as opposed to young Americans.

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“Hopefully we can get that back when things return to normal. Two years is a long time.

“The European Tour doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. It will help when the tour gets going again properly. A couple of team formats would be nice.”

Alex Noren, who played on the winning 2018 team in Paris and was close to securing a pick on this occasion, is hoping to play a part in the bid to win back the trophy in two years’ time.

“Going forward it is going to be the younger guys, like Robert MacIntyre and others, who will form the make-up on the European Team in the years to come,” said the Swede, also speaking in St Andrews.

“I thought Ian Poulter said it best, and I don’t know how many Ryder Cups he’s got left, when he said it’s not about age but more a question of everyone in Europe just has to get better in dealing with how they set up the courses in the US for the Ryder Cup.

“If the world ranking situation last week was reversed and it was Europe who had 12 players in the top-21 in the world, we would have beaten them.

“In the end, Europe just came up against a red-hot American side.”

“I didn’t enjoy watching it on TV,” he said of last week’s event. “I didn’t enjoy watching the lads get beat. I didn’t enjoy not being around it. I have two years to fix that.”

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