The Hero Cup Preview
ON SEPTEMBER 29, vast crowds will surround the first tee at Marco Simone Golf Club near Rome as Europe attempt to regain the Ryder Cup. Luke Donald will captain the home side, who were hammered by the USA at Whistling Straits in 2021.
And Donald will be in Abu Dhabi this week as Tommy Fleetwood captains GB&I against a Continental Europe side led by Francesco Molinari in the inaugural Hero Cup. It is seen as a dress rehearsal for the Ryder Cup and while some of the 20 players in action this week will be in Rome, most of them will not.
There is no Rory McIlroy, no Jon Rahm, no Viktor Hovland and no Matthew Fitzpatrick - these are the four men who will surely form the backbone of the European team.
Fleetwood’s team consists of Ewen Ferguson, Tyrrell Hatton, Shane Lowry, Matt Wallace, Callum Shinkwin, Robert MacIntyre, Seamus Power, Jordan Smith and Richard Mansell.
Molinari's team consists of Thomas Detry, Adrian Meronk, Nicolai Hojgaard, Guido Migliozzi, Alex Noren, Victor Perez, Sepp Straka, Thomas Pieters and Antoine Rozner.
It is interesting to note that Adrian Otaegui, who currently holds one of the automatic qualifying spots for the Ryder Cup, has been left out of the Continental Europe line-up. This is because he played in four LIV Golf events and surely indicates that he will most definitely not be playing in Italy.
Fleetwood and Molinari, who formed a dream partnership during the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, will be playing captains this week. In Paris they played four times together and picked up maximum points. Since then, Molinari has struggled with both injuries and his form but there have been some signs recently that he is still capable of mounting a realistic challenge for one of the places in Donald’s team.
It would be easy to write off this event and, to be honest, that was my initial feeling but here’s the thing - a couple of decent performances is all it might take for any of the players above to make the team.
The Hero Cup cannot possibly generate the sort of pressure that will be experienced in Italy but it can and will engender team spirit and it may just give Donald some clues about possible fourball and foursomes pairings.
There will be much interest this week in the performance of Migliozzi. Of course there will be large crowds in attendance when the Ryder Cup gets going but imagine the passion if Italian fans could cheer on one of their own. At his best, Migliozzi is one of the most exciting young talents in Europe but he would be the first to admit that he has struggled for consistency.
When it comes to the Ryder Cup, there is no substitute for the real thing. Just ask Rory McIlroy, who described it as an exhibition event until he played in it for the first time.
So who is going to win this week? I reckon that Fleetwood’s men are going to struggle and it would be a surprise to me if Molinari’s side don’t cruise to a comfortable victory.
Abu Dhabi Golf Club is a par 72 measuring over 7,600 yards. It features plenty of sand, large greens and water hazards. Although it is a totally different test from that provided by Marco Simone Golf Club, it rewards accuracy.
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