As a precursor to the press conference last week celebrating the fact that there’s a little under a year to go until the Ryder Cup will be held in Paris (or rather just outside it, at Golf National near Versailles), the fact that the chief photo opportunity for the two captains, Thomas Bjorn and Jim Furyk, involved them hitting golf balls from a platform on the Eiffel Tower was hardly a shock. It probably took the PR people all of ten seconds to come up with that wheeze. ‘Twelve Months To Go’ as well as ‘Vertigo’?
In the United States, fresh from a recent 19-11 pummelling of the International team in the Presidents Cup, and not forgetting the 17-11 beating of the Europeans at Hazeltine last autumn, at least one American golf writer has opined the Ryder Cup is all over before the shouting starts. “I fear a decade-plus of American blowouts,” he said.
Furyk was having none of that (perhaps as befits a man who has been on the losing side in seven of the nine Ryder Cups he’s played in ). “We will have a lot of young talent on my team and I’m anxious to see how they handle that challenge,” he said. “Europe has handled the away matches far better in the last 25 years than we have. I don’t want [my team] going in being over-confident that they are the greatest. I want them going in with a chip on their shoulder, that they have something to prove.” The last time the US won in Europe was 1993, since when Europe has won three times in the States.
Bjorn, for his part, was also not acceding to the fact of American superiority. “I looked at the world rankings this morning,” he said, “and there are 10 Europeans in the top-20. You tell me when that’s happened before. As much as I know the US team is extremely strong, I don’t think Europe has ever been stronger on paper.”
Of course, there are no teams as yet, and won’t be for many more months, but one can see how both men are excited at the emerging young talent potentially at their disposal, in Bjorn’s case including the likes of Jon Ram, Jordan Smith and Tyrrell Hatton. But it was no surprise when Furyk was asked about one of the American old guard.
“Tiger Woods is a great resource and would be a welcome addition to the team, as a player or as a vice-captain,” he declared. This was said as news emerged that, in contrast to his own downbeat assessment of little more than a fortnight previously when retirement seemed to be Tiger’s current career trajectory, Woods was now at home and capable of hitting ‘proper’ shots rather than just yipping and putting…sorry, chipping and putting. I can quite see that Tiger will be in France next year with his compatriots. But as of now, I really can’t see that he’ll be hitting a club in anger while he’s there.
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