Why Ryder Cup can still be very much alive and kicking in LIV Golf era
Well, maybe everyone should offer a fresh assessment based on the Presidents Cup, which, and let’s be honest here, wouldn’t normally be of too much interest on this side of the Atlantic but was on this occasion.
Some of us wanted to see if the US side that romped to victory in last year’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits was, in fact, the ‘real deal’ in terms of being able to leave egos at home and perform as a team.
The answer to that would have to be an emphatic ‘yes’ and there’s no doubt that Zach Johnson, the captain, is going to have a much easier job when it comes to pairings for next year’s Ryder Cup in Rome than lots of his predecessors.
Having won four points out of four at Quail Hollow, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, for example, cemented a tried-and-trusted partnership, with Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay also looking comfortable and effective together once again.
Another reason, of course, that this Presidents Cup attracted attention was the fact the International team had been decimated due to LIV Golf players being deemed ineligible by the PGA Tour, which runs this particular contest.
That meant Trevor Immelman having to send a side into the trenches without Open champion and world No 3 Cameron Smith, as well as the likes of Joacquin Niemann, Abraham Ancer, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Anirban Lahiri.
On paper, it should have been a slaughter and, with the US leading 8-2 after the opening two sessions, that certainly looked a distinct possibility.
Yes, the Americans eventually ran out 17.5-12.5 winners, but what a fantastic effort from Immelman’s side to get within four points heading into the singles and, boy, did home captain Davis Love and his players sweat in that concluding session.
On the back of what was a sixth US success in the last seven international men’s team events, “Bring on Rome” has already been the cry from across the pond and that, in fairness, is understandable.
Johnson is going to have a hugely-talented team at his disposal and one that will be strong favourites, but let’s not forget that was probably also the case when the US lost the last six Ryder Cups on European soil!
Only time will tell, of course, if LIV Golf players like Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer will have any part to play in the event’s latest chapter at Marco Simone and, giving credit where credit is due, they have all earned the right to go down in the history books as Ryder Cup legends.
But, even before Greg Norman came along and started splashing his Saudi cash, it was abundantly clear that Europe had to embark on a new era and that opportunity is unfolding in front of us.
Yes, we’re only three events in as far as the qualifying race is concerned, but Luke Donald has already watched Bob MacIntyre and Guido Migliozzi deliver impressive DP World Tour wins in Italy and France respectively, as well as Rasmus Hojgaard displaying his huge talent.
You can bet your bottom dollar that MacIntyre, Migliozzi and Hojgaard watched Sunday’s singles in the Presidents Cup and took massive inspiration from Si Woo Kim taking down Thomas, Sebastian Munoz beating world No 1 Scottie Scheffler and Tom Kim making Max Homa dig deep to get his point.
Those writing off the Ryder Cup going forward are also surely forgetting that the European team will have a solid spine for not only the match in Rome but the 2025 contest at Bethpage Black, the 2027 match at Adare Manor in Ireland and the 2029 return to Hazeltine.
Unless something both unexpected and dramatic happens, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland, Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood can all be key figures going forward and there’s an excitement in the air as far as they are concerned rather than a feeling of fear.
No, the Ryder Cup is neither “ruined” or “dead”. In fact, it’s still very much alive and kicking and long may that continue to be the case.
The first professional golfer I wrote about was Craig Maltman, one of Eyemouth’s best-known sporting sons who provided lots of copy for the Berwickshire News & East Lothian Advertiser.
In many ways, I’ve probably got him to thank for the fact I now cover golf on a full-time basis and also for the countless good people I’ve been fortunate to have met as a direct result of the game being such a big part of my life.
Eyemouth and Dunoon are on opposite sides of Scotland, separated by 133 miles, including a ferry hop across the Firth of Clyde, but, thanks to golf, I had the good fortune, for example, of coming across Russell Weir.
I’d moved on to the David Begg Sports Agency by the time the Cowal professional was the dominant force on the Tartan Tour, where he was dubbed its chieftain by the late Alister Nicol of the Daily Record.
At a time when the Scottish circuit boasted a highly-competitive schedule of 72-hole events, Weir was always the man to beat and was simply wonderful to watch.
In particular, I remember being in awe of how he dismantled Dunbar on three separate occasions and also being at The Belfry one year as joined forces with Maltman and either John Chillas or Kevin Stables to record a runaway win for a Scotland side in the Hi-Tec Masters.
Impressive as he was with a golf club in his hands, Weir was an even better human being, hence why his passing last week has been met with a feeling of sadness in his beloved Dunoon in particular but also throughout Scotland.
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