The year might have only just begun, but Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, Padraig Harrington, already has more than half an eye on September and the 2020 Ryder Cup. The 48 year old from Dublin spoke at length about the tournament, as well as the current state of the professional game, in an interview with BBC radio. Perhaps the most telling thing he had to say, however, concerned the talismanic Tiger Woods. Harrington sees the rejuvenated star as the biggest obstacle to Europe retaining the trophy that they secured when France hosted the tournament in 2018.
More of a Team Man
Harrington commented that in past Ryder Cups, the high profile of the event and the expectations on Woods’ shoulders have made it difficult for California’s favorite son to settle into a rhythm. This year, however, he predicts that the new, relaxed attitude that Woods has shown in returning to the top of the game will make him more dangerous than ever before. He said that today, Woods seems to be enjoying every minute that he’s playing and he is “more of a team man.”
Woods will certainly bring the added momentum of huge levels of local support when the Ryder Cup tees off at Whistling Straits for the first time in the tournament’s 93-year history. Arguably, it is his x-factor that has made the USA slight favorites for victory across the various bookmakers reviewed at Gambling Hero (www.gamblinghero.com) and among the media pundits. However, Harrington has already visited the Wisconsin course, and he feels it plays more to Europe’s advantage.
He said that if the tournament was being played at Valhalla or Hazeltine, he would have been “devastated.” Whistling Straits, however, is a links-style golf course that could serve to neutralize what should be some of USA’s natural advantages. The changeable weather conditions are certainly more reminiscent of a European Tour venue, so Harrington’s men will feel right at home.
People Power Could Give USA the Edge
This will be the 21st Ryder Cup in the “modern era” of USA vs Europe. Over those 40 years, Europe has won 12 to the USA’s eight. However, USA has only won two of the nine tournaments to take place since the turn of the millennium.
Whatever Harrington might say, playing in front of a home crowd is certain to make a difference. The Ryder Cup is a tournament that captures the public imagination in the same way that the Super Bowl or Kentucky Derby attract those who are not usually into football or horse racing. In past tournaments, emotions have run high, as we saw at Hazeltine in 2016. On that occasion, one drink too many caused the fan to overstep the mark, but the European fans also showed a willingness to get behind their men in 2018 and to greet any mistake by the visitors with plenty of noise.
It’s part of the unique atmosphere the Ryder Cup brings and might give USA the edge they need – September can’t come soon enough!