Fri. Oct 22nd, 2021


Butch Harmon

Golf Columnist

Team Europe arrive as defending champions after their 17.5-10.5 victory at Le Golf National in 2018: Watch the opening day’s action at the Ryder Cup live on Sky Sports Ryder Cup from 1pm on Friday

Last Updated: 24/09/21 6:43am

Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington are both trying to guide their teams to Ryder Cup victory

Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington are both trying to guide their teams to Ryder Cup victory

Could this year’s Ryder Cup be one of the closest in recent history? Butch Harmon looks ahead to what could be a week to remember at Whistling Straits.

It has to be said, I like the look of both teams and this has the possibility of being one of the most exciting Ryder Cups we’ve had in a long time. The European team is a strong side and I think the fact they have made the Americans such a big favourite is kind of wrong.

I think they are actually evenly matched. The thing I like, looking at both teams, is the fact that you could pair anybody with anybody on each team and you have a good pairing. That’s how strong both teams are.

Team Europe produced an inspirational video to remind its players about the select company they're in by competing at a Ryder Cup.

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Team Europe produced an inspirational video to remind its players about the select company they’re in by competing at a Ryder Cup.

Team Europe produced an inspirational video to remind its players about the select company they’re in by competing at a Ryder Cup.

Europe’s never a real underdog in this thing. They have won nine of the last 12 so how can you call them an underdog? When I look at the European team, I think it’s one of the strongest teams they’ve ever put out there. I just don’t see a weakness in Padraig Harrington’s team.

Yeah, there’s a couple of rookies, but that’s no big deal. One of them has won The Open and I think the rookie word is an overused one. The other thing I like is that you can play anybody with anybody in foursomes or fourballs, it doesn’t matter and that’s a sign of how good the team is.

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The only little bit of a disadvantage the Europeans have is that they won’t have as many of the great fans there that they usually do. I love how they get into it and I love their songs on the first tee, so they will be missed. The Americans are going to have to use the home support in their favour.

For Europe, they are going to have to recognise the very pro-American crowd and the fact they don’t have the support like they normally would, and then use it to try and quieten the crowd right away. Put your strongest players first, go out strongly, because the one way to stop all the noise is to start winning holes.

Paul McGinley and Nick Dougherty take a closer look at the challenge facing the players at Whistling Straits and look at the numbers to suggest how the venue could suit the European team.

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Paul McGinley and Nick Dougherty take a closer look at the challenge facing the players at Whistling Straits and look at the numbers to suggest how the venue could suit the European team.

Paul McGinley and Nick Dougherty take a closer look at the challenge facing the players at Whistling Straits and look at the numbers to suggest how the venue could suit the European team.

The atmosphere the Europeans created at Whistling Straits over the practice days was fantastic. It was brilliant, being in Wisconsin, to come out with the cheese hats on. I just wish the Americans had thought of it, because it was a hell of an idea!

Along with the boisterous crowd, the big advantage for Team USA is the shift in the players they have in their team. There’s six rookies in the team that don’t have the experience of losing a Ryder Cup, unlike the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and many of the other ‘old guard’. They’re also all really good players, so the new blood on the team is certainly a good thing.

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The weather could play a big part in this contest, with the European team a lot more comfortable playing in the type of windy weather that Whistling Straits offers. If weather ends up being as expected, then it tends to favour Europe.

There’s a lot of risk and rewards out there, which I think are going to be interesting with the American team being the longer hitters off the tee. The course has been set up for that – wider fairways, the rough’s down, and the greens are going to be fast. Once again you still have to play, you still have to hit good shots, but I think the course sets up well for both squads.

Who will win the 43rd Ryder Cup? Watch throughout the week live on Sky Sports’ dedicated Ryder Cup channel. Live coverage of the Foursomes begins on Friday from 1pm on Sky Sports Ryder Cup.





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