Why Luke Donald can end Ryder Cup streak in New York

McIlroy is brave to be bullish, knowing he will be brutally targeted by US fans at Bethpage. He was abused so much at Hazeltine in 2016 that his zen state finally snapped and he got into a furious argument with an overzealous spectator; he left Whistling Straits in tears two years ago after a humiliating 19-9 defeat. In the midst of his joy in Rome, perhaps it was the champagne doing the talking.

Yet McIlroy is right to be optimistic: that home streak must end one day, and why not in New York?

For one thing, home advantage is not the powerful weapon it used to be, despite what recent scores might suggest. Control of course setup was once a major influencing factor, and the Ryder Cup has a long history of collusion between home captains and greenskeepers. The US chopped rough down to aid their big hitters, and the Europeans grew rough high to benefit their fairway finders, and the home team usually prevailed.

Over the past few years, though, the discrepancy in driving distance has become negligible. Most European players play in the same tournaments as the Americans. They live in the States and have come through the US college system. Almost every top player now has both distance and accuracy in their bag, and for the first time Europe’s 12 actually had a marginally longer average distance off the tee. So Europe should not fear Bethpage Black if it is set up for long hitting like Hazeltine and Whistling Straits before it.

What is still a tool for the home team is the partizan crowd. They created a hostile cauldron for the visiting players in Rome, and in a sport that is played in a serene bubble for most of the year, that was naturally disconcerting.

Luke Donald lifts the Ryder Cup after victory at Marco Simone Golf Club

But having great golfers is more important than where the tournament is played. In all the pre-event talk of USA being favourites, it was often overlooked that Europe held three of the best four players in the world in Jon Rahm, McIlroy and Viktor Hovland. The heavyweight trio played 14 matches in Rome (half of the total 28), earning 10½ points, and that laid the foundation for Europe’s win. Barring injury, they should all be back for New York.

Along with playing talent, leadership is another telling factor at the Ryder Cup. European players chanted “two more years!” at their captain Luke Donald during the trophy presentation and he hinted that he might buck the modern trend and continue in the captaincy role for a second Ryder Cup. “No one has asked me yet,” Donald said with a smile.

The winning captain is always heralded as an oracle of golf after the fact, but the players were authentic in their praise for Donald’s work, painting a picture of someone who created an impenetrable bubble of confidence in which his players thrived. In contrast to his counterpart Jonhson, Donald embraced the numbers game, using stats guru Edoardo Molinari in a data-led approach to selection and pairings. Europe are a step ahead in this area.


Europe celebrate winning the Ryder Cup

The USA’s leadership will change over the next two years. The entire golfing landscape will continue to evolve and it is hard to predict how each team will look. But if Europe do retain Donald and Molinari, and their heavyweight players arrive in form, then they might just have an edge. And if they can transfer that edge to the golf course in New York, even in a fierce atmosphere at a venue out of their control, then perhaps they can break the chain and retain the Ryder Cup too.

Source: Read Full Article