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Ryder Cup: How do Europe bounce back from such a hammering against the United States?


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How do Europe bounce back from such a hammering when the Ryder Cup is next staged in Rome in 2023?

This feels like the start of a period of American domination following their record breaking 19-9 triumph over Padraig Harrington's vanquished team at Whistling Straits last Sunday.

The reasons behind such an emphatic US triumph will be pored over in the coming weeks and months but there is one overriding factor; the Americans, player for player, are substantially better golfers at the moment.

Jon Rahm is the exception. The Spaniard is the best golfer in the world and showed it over the first two days at Whistling Straits by picking up three-and-a-half points.

But Europe need more than a lone star.

Throughout the build up we were told the world rankings mean nothing in a Ryder Cup setting but they did - from start to finish.

The Europeans had only three players - Rahm, Viktor Hovland and Rory McIlroy - higher in the standings than the lowest ranked American player, the number 21 Scottie Scheffler.

Europe had no one to cheer their rare moments of success; it was draining for them in a cacophony of American triumphalism.

'US will be formidable for the next years' - McIlroy

From feud to bromance? DeChambeau and Koepka hug after win

Ryder Cup final scoreboard and player stats

In golfing terms the links-like Whistling Straits did not offer huge home advantage, indeed Europe could not have asked for a more neutral venue. But the atmosphere was overwhelming and the home players rode it with relentless excellence.

On occasion they took it too far. Justin Thomas chugging a celebratory beer on only the second afternoon was classless as was Brooks Koepka's foul mouthed tirade after not being given the benefit of a ruling.

Bryson DeChambeau's antics of laying down his putter to show he was miffed at not being conceded a putt was another low and a tiny minority of fans were guilty of shouting at inappropriate times when Europe were playing shots.

But the overall atmosphere was boisterous, celebratory, and the right side of the line - just as it has been during so many of Europe's successes in the period that brought seven wins from nine matches leading up to this one.

Europe were always going to be up against it and there were self-inflicted factors that made their task even more difficult.

American skipper Steve Stricker exerted his influence by insisting on six wildcard picks. He knew he would be choosing from the top layer of golf's selection box and could mix personalities to generate a forceful team spirit.

Factions? Bryson and Brooksie? Americans not properly getting the Ryder Cup?

Stricker laid to rest all of those concerns with shrewd picks that harnessed a team ethos worthy of the great European sides in their pomp.

The continent's team spirit remains intact but Harrington hamstrung himself with only three wildcards and a wonky qualifying system. These were issues of his own making and he did not react to the Covid hiatus as shrewdly as his opposite number.

Qualifying came to a crescendo at the BMW PGA at Wentworth, just over a week before the team flew to Wisconsin. As it panned out, the absurdity of taking four players from the European points list and five from the world rankings became obvious.

Shane Lowry beat Bernd Wiesberger at Wentworth but was knocked out of the team... by Wiesberger. Nonsensical. Harrington wanted Lowry and now had to pick him.

Having already signalled that Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia would be selected, the skipper had nowhere to go and nor did a stalwart such as Justin Rose who was left at home.

Rose probably would not have altered the overall outcome, but he would have brought a ton of experience and fight to the team room and golf course. Despite a poor season he remains one of Europe's top dozen golfers and he should have been in the team.

People will second guess Harrington's partnerships but there are many factors at play when they are selected. For foursomes you need players comfortable with the ball they are playing.

This might explain Tommy Fleetwood's curious absence from the alternate shot format. On the Saturday afternoon Poulter showed himself better suited to the better ball format as he carried McIlroy albeit to convincing defeat.

Matt Fitzpatrick might have been used in the more forgiving fourballs, especially given his unhappy debut at Hazeltine five years ago.

But what cannot be disputed is that Harrington fostered an excellent team spirit. I spoke individually to all 12 Europeans before the match and have never encountered such a relaxed and happy bunch.

It did not translate to the golf course and this may prove the Ryder Cup that said farewell to greats such as Lee Westwood and Poulter. They both admit that, at 48 and 45 respectively, time is running out and at least they signed off with singles wins.

Europe must now build around Rahm, Hovland and McIlroy - who needs to emerge from doldrums that have seen him overtaken by younger dynamic stars, most of whom happen to be American.

Never have I seen him play as poorly as he did in the first two days of this Ryder Cup. It hurt - we saw that in his emotional interview after winning his singles, a result that offered a modicum of consolation.

People get him wrong all the time. McIlroy cares, works hard and when he lets his natural energies flow can still be a devastating golfer.

Despite being fit and strong, sadly he is a long way from that figure at the moment, lying comfortably and justifiably outside the world's top 10. Few would have foreseen such a malaise at the still tender age of 32.

Westwood is the most likely figure to succeed the shattered Harrington as skipper.

The Englishman did not like the way the qualifying system climaxed at Wentworth and rightly believes the captain should have four picks along with four qualifiers from both lists.

Whoever leads in Italy will try to make home advantage count. Why wouldn't they, especially after this result?

However it is a concern that the last four Ryder Cups have been won very one-sidedly by the home team. Close matches are the lifeblood of this event, regardless of who prevails.

For now, though, America celebrates.

The bleary eyed Dustin Johnson can bask in the glory of five wins from five knowing that, at 37, all of his teammates are younger and brimful of potential. They also possess the drive to succeed in these biennial matches.

The likes of Collin Morikawa, Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay are only going to improve and they are characters who will harness the spirit generated by this epic victory.

Make no mistake, Europe will again be up against it when they defend a 30-year unbeaten home record and try to win back the trophy in two years time

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