Ryder Cup 2021: LOVE HATE: Team bonding at the Ryder Cup

By Linton Walsh  

Bryson DeChambeau. Photo by Golffile

The 43rd Ryder Cup is nearly upon us as Pádraig Harrington leads the best twelve European golfers over the last two years to Wisconsin to tackle Steve Stricker’s USA side at Whistling Straits.

While Europe has three rookies, the remaining nine players make up arguably the most experienced side the blue and yellow have ever assembled for the biennial contest.

In contrast, they will come up against a youthful American side that is without Ryder Cup veterans Phil Mickelson and Webb Simpson in what is the strongest Ryder Cup line up they have ever had on paper.

All twelve of Stricker’s charges are inside the top-21 of the Official World Golf Rankings while Europe boasts just four players in the top-20.

The experience gap cannot be overstated with the average age of the US team being a sprightly 28 years of age and with just the 12 starts throughout the whole team in the biennial matches, while Europe have a much more experienced side with an average age of 34 and a combined 38 starts.

Lee Westwood has almost as many starts (10) as the entire US side.

The absence of controversial figures like the aforementioned Mickelson, Patrick Reed and even a certain Tiger Woods who has always struggled to strike up a consistent partnership in the contest.

Stricker has gone for youth (including six rookies) over experience for sure while Harrington has doubled down on Europe’s much travelled veterans.

Interestingly, the 2008 winning USA side at Valhalla had six rookies so perhaps there is a method to the madness.

The Americans have all been playing well leading up to the competition but as always there are dressing room tensions to patch up for the week.

The Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau narrative will rumble in the background all week while Patrick Cantlay and Dustin Johnson do not have the necessary personalities to excel in a team environment.

Perhaps Stricker’s faith in youth will help to eradicate any locker room tensions given the lack of scar tissue and the fact the majority of the young players coming through have all been in college together and will have struck up bonds over the years.

As always the odds are stacked against the Europeans as they head across the Atlantic looking for a third win in the Americans back yard since the turn of the millennium.

One thing the blue and yellow have always had in abundance is passion and spirit, which was never more evident than Medinah in 2012.

Pádraig Harrington has been part of many Ryder Cup sides who have trounced their Stateside opponents by virtue of having a stronger sense of togetherness and playing for the badge.

With four over 40s in his side for the contest they all know what it’s like to win in this environment, nobody more than the Postman himself, Ian Poulter.

“Embrace every minute of it” was his advice to the three rookies boarding the plane to Wisconsin and that embodies everything Europe have been about throughout Ryder Cup history.

While we are usually outnumbered rankings wise, the Ryder Cup elevates the Europeans to another level and everyone plays for each other, which can’t be said for the Americans.

The Europeans all have an incredible bond and the term ‘friends for life’ is commonly used when a European rookie describes their week.

While there is a degree of animosity within the US camp, there is a sense of love inside the European team room and as well as playing some world class golf, Harrington’s charges will be leaning on team spirit and that never say die attitude that has served them so well over the years.

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