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Ryder Cup Countdown Begins in Earnest

By: | Thu 19 Oct 2017 | Comments

THE next Ryder Cup match doesn't get under way until September 28, 2018, but the build-up to the encounter at Le Golf National, near Paris, has already begun, with American captain Jim Furyk saying that his team have 25 years of scars to overcome if they are to retain the trophy they won is such spectacular fashion at Hazeltine in 2016.

It is 1993 since the Americans last won on European soil, and the low point came when they were thrashed at Gleneagles in 2014, after which they set up a task force to ensure there would never again be a repeat of the events that unfolded in Scotland. Furyk was part of that task force.

American golfers currently hold the Ryder Cup, Walker Cup and Solheim Cup - but all of them were won on home soil. Furyk knows that the team he will take to France is likely to be the strongest to represent America since the 1980s, but he does not underestimate the size of the task he faces.

"We have 25 years of scars to overcome," Furyk said. "That being said, I will have a lot of young talent on my team and I'm anxious to see how they handle that challenge. Europe has handled those away matches far better in the last 25 years than we have. We might have to take a page from their book and try to figure it out. Hopefully the young guys will react a little better than we have in the past. They are a tight-knit group and it's been fun that they've sparked some energy, not only on the golf course but in the team room.”

Furyk welcomed the news that Tiger Woods has been cleared to step up his rehabilitation from back surgery, although whether he is able to rediscover the form that would earn him a place on the team remains to be seen. It is more likely that he will be in Paris as a vice-captain. Woods has not played since withdrawing from the Dubai Desert Classic at the start of February and in April underwent a fourth back operation in three years, and said at the Presidents Cup that he may not play competitive golf again. But he has now tweeted video showing him hitting drivers and his agent, Mark Steinberg, has revealed that Woods has been given the go ahead to prepare for a return to action.

"It's great news," Furyk added. "The swing that I saw on that video looked a lot like Tiger Woods. It probably still needed a little speed, a little golf strength maybe. We don't know when he'll be healthy and return to competitive golf but I will say that Tiger Woods is a great resource and would be welcome in the team, whether as a player or back as vice-captain. He's been a great person to have in that team room so hopefully will be part of that team.”

Furyk will be able to call on Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, winners of the 2017 US Open, Open Championship and US PGA Championship respectively, as well as world number one Dustin Johnson. When you throw the likes of Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, Xander Shauffelle, Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner, Matt Kuchar and the seemingly ageless Phil Mickelson to the mix, you get a sense of the size of the task that Bjorn's team will face.

Bjorn has promised to do “everything in his power” to help regain the trophy having experienced his first loss at Hazeltine after three wins as a player and three as vice-captain. "Those Sunday nights when we've won Ryder Cups are some of the moments I will treasure the most in my life," Bjorn said. “It motivates you but just winning motivates you. I will do everything in my power to deliver a team that can win the Ryder Cup.”

And before we start quaking in our boots at the quality of the American team, it is worth noting that 10 of the top 20 golfers in the world rankings on Monday, October 16, 2017, were European - Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari are those men. And that is without considering the likes of Rafa Cabrera Bello, Jordan Smith, Ross Fisher, Thomas Pieters, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood. It is a travesty that Casey, the world's 14th-ranked golfer is currently not a member of the European Tour and, as such, is not eligible to be picked. But Bjorn can manage with or without him.

Do you think that Furyk wouldn't give his right arm to have McIlroy, Rahm, Rose and Peters in his team? Furyk will point to the inspirational qualities of Reed. Bjorn has Hatton up his sleeve - one of the toughest, feistiest competitors in professional golf, Hatton will be a sensation in the Ryder Cup.

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