Will Europe defy rankings and retain Ryder Cup in America?
Last Updated: 01/01/20 10:02am
The 2020 Ryder Cup will be one of the sporting highlights of the year, and David Livingstone is paying little attention to the rankings as Europe bid to retain the trophy at Whistling Straits ...
There's nothing like a Ryder Cup year and, a little over nine months ahead of the 2020 edition at Whistling Straits, the American team is again shaping up to be incredibly strong … on paper!
If Steve Stricker was to pick his team now, based on the top 12 American players in the world rankings, Rickie Fowler would be the lowest-ranked player in the team. Rickie is currently the world No 23!
However, we've seen countless times over the last 35 years or so that a united Team Europe can defy the apparent discrepancy in the world rankings, with the supposed underdogs in almost every contest winning the Ryder Cup on 12 occasions since 1985.
Get the best prices and book a round at one of 1,700 courses across the UK & Ireland
One difference this time around is the relevancy of the Presidents Cup. Having watched an excellent event at Royal Melbourne in December, there is no doubt in my mind that the Presidents Cup will contribute to Ryder Cup preparation and planning for the American team.
That has rarely been the case in the past, but the International team proved in Australia that you can be massively outranked and still put up a fight to the wire.
The Ryder Cups of recent years have favoured the home team, but I'm not sure that will be as much of a factor in Wisconsin. It's not exactly a golf course that favours the Americans, and it's definitely not a layout that can be manipulated to suit the home players in the way we saw at Hazeltine in 2016.
That levels the playing field to a certain extent, and Padraig Harrington has been involved in enough Ryder Cups to know that the world rankings heading into the contest mean precious little.
I was impressed with how Tiger Woods handled his first taste of captaincy, particularly the team spirit and unity he encouraged throughout the squad, and I'd expect to see more of that in September.
If the Ryder Cup was won on world rankings, the Americans would win it every two years. But Europe have proved time and again that team spirit is a stronger force, and Steve Stricker will surely embrace that in the autumn.
Harrington will be a fantastic captain for Europe. He is a very popular figure worldwide and will be an inspiration to many. He was an underdog throughout most of his playing career, and all the success he had was down to sheer hard work.
He concedes he was not as naturally talented as many of his rivals and had to compensate by putting in extra time on the practice ground. Padraig will relate to the underdog status in the team and use that to inspire them.