It’s a long way off, I know, but the two European Tour events since the 42nd Ryder Cup have already shown that more Tommy Fleetwoods are ready to step up to the plate in the next instalment of the transatlantic tussle at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin in 2020.
Only time will tell if Le Golf National was a last hurrah in the event for the likes of Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter, though you get the feeling all three will have been suitably galvanised by being part of the team that recorded a resounding 17½-10½ win to believe they still have one more left in the tank in two years’ time.
Padraig Harrington, who seems a stick-on to succeed Thomas Bjorn as captain, will certainly be happy to know that the core of his side is likely to include Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Paul Casey and, of course, Francesco Molinari, the first European player to win five points out of five in the event.
The likes of Tyrrell Hatton, Thorbjorn Olesen and Alex Noren will also be determined to be involved again, of course, after they all enjoyed winning debuts this time around and all three had already started the process of becoming acclimatised to US-style courses and US-style fans before that recent appearance on home soil.
You’d feel quietly confident about Europe having a decent chance at Whistling Straits if they headed to Wisconsin with three-quarters of that team from Le Golf National, especially if the newcomers – and it’s a certainty there will be some rookies as that’s the whole point of having a qualification system rather than a captain picking his 12 players – are going to be players like Lucas Bjerregaard, Eddie Pepperell and Matt Wallace.
It was no surprise to hear Bjerregaard, speaking in the wake of his Alfred Dunhill Links Championship victory a week past Sunday, saying he’d been inspired by his trip to the Ryder Cup as a spectator. It was exactly the same with his compatriot, Olesen, when he’d been enlisted as a buggy driver by Bjorn, an assistant captain on that occasion before stepping up to become a brilliant winning captain in Paris, at Hazeltine in 2016.
Pepperell had also been invited along to Le Golf National to experience the event’s unique atmosphere but couldn’t attend due to being unwell. You can be assured, though, that the polished performance he produced at Walton Heath to become the British Masters champion on Sunday was also partly the result of sitting at home watching his European Tour peers be part of something really special in a team environment.
It’s way too early, of course, to even suggest that Bjerregaard and Pepperell will get into the mix for Whistling Straits, but it’s testament to the European Tour that it continues to produce a rich seam of talent, with Wallace, deemed unlucky by some not to have earned a wildcard for this Ryder Cup after winning three times on the circuit this season, another player who looks to have a big future ahead of him. Add in the likes of Rafa Cabrera Bello, Thomas Pieters and Matthew Fitzpatrick, all members of the 2016 team and hungry, no doubt, to get back on to one of the biggest stages in the game after missing out this time around, and Europe certainly have a group of players capable of continuing to defy the odds because, despite what happened in France, you just know how much the United States team is going to be built up for the next one in particular.
Pepperell, of course, joined some of the greats of European golf in being crowned as British Masters champion and what a pity if, as seems likely, the Walton Heath event marked the end of its short resuscitation, having only been restored to the schedule in 2015 after a six-year absence.
It was an inspired decision to get Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose to act as hosts at Woburn, The Grove, Close House and Walton Heath respectively with Sky Sports as the title sponsor and, at a time when English golf in particular is riding on the crest of wave, it would be a backward step to lose an event that has played a part in helping shape so many successful careers. Rose, for instance, recorded his second win as a professional in the 2002 event at Woburn and look at what he’s gone on to achieve.