Formidable test

Sports | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 24 Sep 2021

An American squad featuring nine of the top 11 golfers in the world will try to reclaim the Ryder Cup from Europe this weekend, aided by 40,000 loud supporters and a home course edge.

The European side, however, has won nine of the past 12 editions of the biennial team matches, including three of the past six on US soil. Captain Padraig Harrington also brings an experienced lineup to face a US team with six rookies on its 12-man roster.

"Everything is stacked against us," said Europe's Ian Poulter, who has never lost a singles match. "When you can go in as underdogs, when you can turn the tide and actually come out victorious, it means a little bit more.

"If we can come out on top Sunday night, it'll be a pretty special one."

Four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy says a win "would be massive" and rival Europe's rally from 10-6 down on Sunday to win the 2012 "Miracle at Medinah."

"I'd certainly love to have that feeling again," McIlroy said. "It would be a huge achievement."

Brisk winds at Whistling Straits along the Lake Michigan shoreline promise to make the layout formidable for everyone when play starts today.

"We like a bit of wind, but we're not asking for everybody to be blown off the course," Harrington said.

"Nobody wants it too windy. That's not conducive to a good, fair battle, but a bit of wind is a true test of golf."

Flag-stiffening winds will switch to southerly today, unlike anything seen on practice days.

"Wind has proved to be a challenge," US captain Steve Stricker said. "We're going to see something totally different come Friday."

US players "had a good time with the wind," Stricker said. "They thought it was fun. They embraced it."

It doesn't hurt that the hosts have 2020 Masters winner Dustin Johnson, Tokyo Olympic champion Xander Schauffele, British Open champion Collin Morikawa and US PGA Tour playoff winner Patrick Cantlay all ranked in the top five, even if the last three are Ryder Cup newcomers.

"We come with a lot of enthusiasm and energy, young guys willing and ready to learn," Stricker said.

The first two days feature morning foursomes and afternoon four-ball matches ahead of Sunday's 12 final singles matches.

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