THE Ryder Cup makes its first visit to France,at Paris National, for the three day competition from 28th-30th September.
It is 25 years since Europe were defeated at home but this time round they are underdogs against an extremely strong USA side with not just the ability of individual players but a team spirit which has been forged by recent captains and it helps some players are friends from their college days.
Captain Jim Furyk named Tony Finau as his final wild-card pick and he is ranked 15th in the world. Furyk earlier chose Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau – the three players in ninth, 10th and 11th on the standings.
The top eight to qualify were Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth.
Simpson and the inconsistent but incredibly talented Watson are the only possible weaknesses. The others are some of the toughest competitors with Fowler the only one lacking a Major.
Thomas Bjorn’s side are boosted by the fact Justin Rose is the new world No.1. Rose qualified automatically alongside Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Alex Noren, Thorbjorn Olesen and Jon Rahm, Bjorn went for experience ahead of form and added Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey as his wild cards.
This is a steady looking team but not as explosive looking as the American team and obvious weakenesses are Olesen and Garcia who has been struggling recently. There are eight rookies in the line-ups – five for Europe and three for the USA.
USA won 17-11 at Hazeltine last time. Of course in Europe’s favour is that this is not the tree lined “pitch and putt” type course of the USPGA Tour and should be a quirky test of shot making. However in the renowned match-players Reed and Speith amongst others they have shot makers with a huge competitive spirit
I’m backing the USA to win at around 8/11 with William Hill, with Europe available at 6/4.
Joh Rahm is 11-5 favourite at Betfred to be Europe’s top debutant but the Spaniard’s temperament is questionable and I’d rather be on England’s Tommy Fleetwood at 11-5 with bet365 as he’s a class act who’s enjoyed another good year.
Former world No.1 Justin Thomas is 4-5 favourite to be best first-time performer for the Americans and interestingly he was the only team member to play the course in this year’s French Open finishing eighth on four under – three shots behind Noren.
That course experience should be invaluable to Thomas although many players including Phil Mickelson went on a fact-finding trip with Furyk when they were over for The Open in July.
Thomas is expected to play at least four games while fellow rookies Finua and DeChambeau may get just three so he looks a solid favourite in this market.
Rose will be one of Bjorn’s go-to guys and almost certain to play all five matches. The Englishman is 5-2 with William Hill to be Europe’s top points scorer ahead of McIlroy (11-4).