Henrik Stenson braced for 'shift in generations' but also aware of 'hungry veterans'
But, at the same time, the Swede fully expects some members of the “old guard” to be pushing hard to be involved in trying to win the trophy back.
Stenson’s side at Marco Simone Golf Club is almost certain to be spearheaded by Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland.
They could well be joined again by the likes of Tyrrell Hatton, Shane Lowry, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Tommy Fleetwood.
But, for others such as Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, last year’s heavy defeat at Whistling Straits could have been the end of the road in their distinguished Ryder Cup careers.
The quartet will be giving it their all over the next 18 months to try and make the 2016 Open champion’s team, as will Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari after they both missed out last year.
But, on the back of a record 19-9 defeat in Wisconsin, it seems time for Europe to be looking to a new generation of Ryder Cup players.
Belgian Thomas Pieters, who picked up four points out of five on his debut in 2016, is back in the world’s top 50 after winning the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship earlier this year.
He’ll be determined to make a Ryder Cup return in Rome, where Stenson’ side could also include the newly-turned 21-year-old Hojgaard twins - Nicolai and Rasmus.
Guido Migliozzi, of course, has the added incentive of trying to play in a Ryder Cup on home soil, with our own Bob MacIntyre, Spaniard Adri Arnaus and Ireland’s Seamus Power others who could be pushing hard on this occasion.
“It's going to be an interesting 18 months,” admitted Stenson. “Time will tell exactly how the team will formalise. But we have got the old guard. We have got the experience, the players who played a lot of Ryder Cups.
“We also have the new talent on the DP World Tour that are up-and-coming and have shown some great signs and want to continue to do that.
“And I'm sure they are hungry as ever to get one of the spots on this team to get there in Rome. Then we have some Europeans playing mainly on the PGA Tour. Exciting times, and the door is open for anyone with a European passport.”
According to Stenson, the average age of the European team at Whistling Straits was around 35 whereas the Americans, in comparison, had an average age of just 26.
“At some point, there will be a shift in the generations, and I can definitely see that happening this time around,” he added. “But I can also see a few hungry veterans wanting to keep their jerseys.
“I know from my own experience; that when you play in a Ryder Cup, you don't want to hand that jersey to someone else. You are going to fight dearly to keep it another time.
“And that's exciting for me as a captain to follow all these players and how they are going to want to qualify and how hard they will work to make sure they are.”
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