Ryder Cup 2016: Team Europe Preview
On the back of three consecutive Ryder Cup victories, Europe enter the 2016 tournament with a stacked team of aggressive young golfers looking to secure a historic fourth straight triumph.
The European team goes into the 2016 Ryder Cup on a serious wave of momentum. They have won eight of the last ten contests including three on the bounce since 2010, highlighted by the historic ‘Miracle at Medinah’ victory last time we were on US soil in 2012.
Both the Masters and the Open championships went the way of European golfers this year, whilst recent successes included a FedEx Cup win for Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose’s gold medal in the first Olympic golf event since 1904.
That being said, six of the twelve members of the European side will be playing in their first ever Ryder Cup and there are question marks hanging over some of the veteran golfers. Can this team carry Europe to a historic fourth successive Ryder Cup victory?
Meet The Captain
Darren Clarke has long been touted as a future European captain at the Ryder Cup and now he gets his chance. He appeared in five successive Ryder Cups between 1997 and 2006, suffering defeat just once, and his perfect 3-0 record in County Kildare in 2006, just weeks after the death of his wife, will undoubtedly go down as one of the great Ryder Cup performances. Clarke served as vice-captain in the 2010 and 2012 tournaments and his vast Ryder Cup experience may prove crucial given the number of debutants he will skipper this year.
One To Watch
This European line-up has some big names throughout as well as some seriously in-form golfers, but I’m going with the ice-cold Swede. Henrik Stenson has appeared at three Ryder Cups previously, but usually as a member of the supporting cast: in 2016 he is a critical member of Team Europe’s backbone. His stunning 2016 Open victory set the tone for a wonderful summer of golf that concluded in a silver medal in Rio behind team-mate Justin Rose. His form is breath-taking, his temperament unmatched but he has been nursing a knee injury – a torn meniscus – for over a month. Clarke will want his ace fit and raring to go, and a healthy Stenson will be as potent a weapon as they come in the Sunday singles, but European fans will be holding their breath that his knee isn’t an issue.
Lee Westwood is Europe’s most successful ever Ryder cup golfer with seven successful European endeavours taking place with him in the team. He has appeared in every iteration of the tournament since 1997 and his bags of experience is undoubtedly the main reason Darren Clarke has selected him as one of the wildcard picks. One of the greatest golfers never to win a Major championship, Westwood has had a solid 2016 season that included a runners-up place at the Masters and whilst not as highly ranked as he was at his peak he can still swing one of the best sticks in the game. In comments last week, Westwood claimed that Tiger Woods could have an ‘adverse effect’ on the US team and the wily veteran may yet have some further jabs up his sleeve as he attempts to disrupt the youthful United States roster.
There's little doubt that Team Europe has the quality to win their fourth straight Ryder Cup, with talented and in-form golfers throughout the team. That being said, the sheer number of rookies on this year's roster will be cause for concern as nothing can quite prepare even the most talented of golfers for the most hyped tournament in world golf.
Whatever happens, this weekend's Ryder Cup tournament promises to be a captivating spectacle and if the previous iterations are any indication then the sparks are bound to fly - both on and off the course.
Catch all the action this weekend starting on Friday at 1pm, live exclusively on Sky Sports.
Be sure to check out Warren Muggleton's terrific preview of the United States team too!