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Ryder Cup 2020 talking points: Which team will Whistling Straits course suit? Will USA rookies be crucial?

The 43rd edition of the Ryder Cup starts on Friday with an experienced Team Europe looking to retain the trophy against Team USA, who have six rookies in their line-up; watch live on Sky Sports, with the Day 1 Foursomes beginning at 1pm on Friday

Team Europe captain Padraig Harrington talks to Team Europe's Shane Lowry during a practice day at the Ryder Cup at the Whistling Straits Golf Course Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, in Sheboygan, Wis. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Image: Team Europe captain Padraig Harrington talks to Shane Lowry during a practice day

Will Bryson DeChambeau play with Brooks Koepka? Will Europe's extra experience count for anything? Will the home advantage be significant?

The Ryder Cup is set to start on Friday, live on Sky Sports, with Team Europe aiming to retain the trophy after victory in France last time out in 2018.

We look at some of the major talking points ahead of the 43rd edition of the event at Whistling Straits…

Will DeChambeau partner Koepka?

After two years of public spats, rolled eyes and under-the-breath comments, is this really how the feud between Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka ends? With them playing together on home soil at the Ryder Cup?

The pair have exchanged verbals about slow play, abs - or lack of - and have sparred several times on social media. But there's always been a hint that it might not be entirely what it seems.

Koepka said earlier this summer that they "banter back and forth in good fun" while DeChambeau's coach Mike Schy has suggested they are both doing it to "maximise their global profile".

None of which makes it any easier for Team USA captain Steve Stricker this week when picking his pairings. Should they be kept apart? Or is there a chance that they could bring out the best in each other if they play together? It's a tricky decision for Stricker, but it will be fascinating to see how they interact with each other, particularly after DeChambeau's tease that "something fun" was coming up.

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There's also the added complication for Team USA that both have had injury scares ahead of the event, which may have implications over how much they play.

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Bryson DeChambeau insists that he is fully focused on the Ryder Cup and believes he can use his practice for the Long Drive World Championship to his advantage at Whistling Straits

DeChambeau said he "wrecked" his hand preparing for a long drive contest that starts soon after the Ryder Cup, while Koepka withdrew from the Tour Championship earlier this month with a wrist injury. Both have said they are good to go, but how will they hold up after three days of play?

How important will home advantage be?

Ryder Cup crowds are always pretty partisan, but that might be the case this year more than most with tight travel restrictions due to the pandemic Covid-19. The one-year delay could also make fans even more excitable as they finally get a chance to get out on the course.

How the atmosphere will impact each individual player remains to be seen. Some may relish the loudness, some may get distracted, and even those on Team USA - particularly the six rookies - may find it a challenge to deal with.

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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

Rory McIlroy has not been afraid to interact with the crowd on his previous away Ryder Cups, but says he plans to tone it down this year as Europe aim to improve on their last trip across the Atlantic when they were waxed 17-11.

"I certainly will try to not be as animated and I'll try to conserve some energy," he said. "It's a long week. Whether I play all five again, we'll see, but it's a lot of golf. It's a lot of energy just playing, then trying to beat who you're playing against. If you try to beat the crowd, as well, it seems like a bit of an impossible task."

Will all of the European team follow McIlroy's lead or will others try to take on the crowd and perhaps expend some much-needed energy in doing so?

Will rookies sink or swim for Team USA?

For six members of Team USA, this will be their first taste of the Ryder Cup, but three of them appear to be rookies only by name, rather than nature.

The trio that stand out as least likely to be overawed by the occasion are two-time major champion Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay, the PGA 2021 Player of the Year and recent winner of the BMW Championship and Tour Championship, and Olympic gold medallist Xander Schauffele.

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Who will Padraig Harrington pair together for the opening session of the Ryder Cup? Andrew Coltart and Nick Dougherty predict who will feature in Friday's foursomes

There are more question marks over Daniel Berger, Harris English and Scottie Scheffler, especially considering this will be the very first experience of donning the red, white and blue for the latter two in any competition.

But that doesn't mean they will not rise to the occasion.

Plenty of rookies have performed admirably on their Ryder Cup debut and Berger, English and Scheffler have all been in decent form lately. There's also the possible positive that they won't carry any baggage from previous Ryder Cup experiences when things haven't gone well for USA.

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Europe captain Padraig Harrington admits it remains unclear what would happen if more than one player tested positive for Covid-19 at the Ryder Cup

Jordan Spieth has said he sees "youth and fire" in the USA team room, but how will that fare against a very experienced European side? Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia have not only got stacks of Ryder Cup experience, but they have also enjoyed plenty of success in the event. That has to count for something, particularly when it comes to crunch time over the weekend.

Who does the course suit best?

"It's an American links, isn't it?" was Jordan Spieth's summation of the Whistling Straits course this week.

With plenty of sand, strong winds coming in from Lake Michigan, autumnal weather, and trimmed rough, it's difficult to know who is going to enjoy the conditions most over the next few days.

Former Ryder Cup Paul McGinley, who finished in the top six at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in 2004, thinks the visitors should be happy with the course.

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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

"It definitely suits the Europeans more. This is a links-style golf course. Maybe not a true links like home, but we are more experienced on this style of course and also in these conditions with 20-30mph winds, which are rarely seen on the PGA Tour. So I think both of those factors will work in the favour of the Europeans."

But there's a reason that only one of the past seven Ryder Cups has been won on foreign soil, and the course plays into that.

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Whistling Straits will be the longest Ryder Cup course in history, which should help the Americans considering eight of their team are in the top 50 for driving distance stats on the PGA Tour this year. Only three Europeans are. It's also expected that the rough will be shortened in a bid to help low scoring.

It's a course that seems to suit Dustin Johnson, even if the former world No 1 doesn't come into the Ryder Cup in the best of form. But how much does form matter at this event?

Garcia suggested this week that for him it wasn't really a factor. "I've come into them playing really well and I've done well, and then there's Ryder Cups where I've come maybe not feeling quite as well and I seem to hit a switch when I get here."

But not everyone is able to hit the switch like Garcia, the all-time leading points scorer at the Ryder Cup. For some players form matters, which is another factor for the captains to consider.

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