Europe’s defence of the Ryder Cup begins on Friday at Hazeltine National Golf Club and I have tipped the level-headed Justin Rose to be the catalyst for an unlikely European victory.
Europe are not supposed to win the Ryder Cup. They have six rookies lining up to face the USA in the USA. A number of the European players are far from the lofty form that got them onto the team in the first place.
Furthermore, a brief look at the Official World Golf Rankings will tell you that the USA are simply a better group of golfers than their European counterparts. The average world ranking of the USA’s team is 16, while Europe’s average world ranking is 28.
In spite of all this and against the odds, Darren Clarke’s group will still get it done… because they have Rose and this will be his Ryder Cup. I take a look why.
Rose revels in playing for a greater cause
Rose went to the Summer Olympics in Rio while some of the world’s best players opted not to. He won gold.
Throughout, not only his four rounds at the Olympic course, but his entire stay in Brazil, it was clear that Rose was there to contribute to and be apart of something bigger than himself – an opportunity golfers are rarely afforded and one which he relished.
Spotted supporting at a number of other events where Team GB participants were competing, Rose took energy from being part of a collective group of athletes and channelled that into his efforts on the course.
He said as much in the moments after rolling in that birdie putt on 18 that clinched the event for him and it was not just rhetoric.
On numerous occasions he was seen beating the Team GB crest after draining a putt. His entire demeanour was different that week, he cut a more emotional figure than the ice-cool golfer we are used to in regular Tour events.
Being a team-man is one part of being a great Ryder Cup player, being a SUCCESSFUL team-man is another part altogether. Rose is both.
Rose’s Ryder Cup record
Rose’s numbers at Ryder Cups are mightily impressive.
He made his debut in 2008 and has only missed the 2010 edition of the tournament since.
In total, he has played in 14 matches, winning nine, halving two and losing just three. That success has come across all three formats – foursomes, four-balls and singles.
Rose’s overall win percentage (71.4 %) is bettered only by the charismatic Ian Poulter (72.2%) in the history of the competition for Europe. Poulter will not play this year.
Rose will fill that void, in a very different style for sure, but with the same efficacy.
Henrik Stenson will be there… so will Phil Mickelson
At the 2014 Ryder Cup, Rose paired-up with Sweden’s Stenson to devastating effect. The duo competed alongside each other in three matches and went three from three.
They work soundly together and it makes sense. Off the course they are close friends. Consequently, on the course there is no need for any forced showing of camaraderie between them. Both men are ultra-focussed and stay out of each other’s way. When required, they are more than happy to discuss options.
Ranked fifth in the world and now a major winner, Stenson will be at Hazeltine. Both him and Rose are better players than they were two years ago, and they will continue their dominance.
Rose will also be quietly delighted by the presence of Mickelson for the USA. He has come up against the experienced American left-hander twice in Ryder Cup singles matches and beaten him on both occasions.
Hazeltine will suit Rose
While many players on Tour prefer to hit either big cuts or hooping sling-shots, Rose is renown for hitting a straight-ball.
And that will hold him in good stead at Hazeltine where the fairways are narrow and the greens are small.
The course plays tough. When Y.E. Yang won the 2009 PGA Championship that was staged at Hazeltine, the winning score was eight-under for the four rounds.
Rose prefers the faster, tighter and more challenging tracks than he does the softer, shorter and easier ones. His only major victory did of course come at the US Open at Merion where his winning score was over par.
The harder Hazeltine plays, the more Rose will fancy it.
In both 2012 and 2014 Rose featured in all five sessions at the Ryder Cup. He is the ultimate professional and is mentally and physically fit enough to do the same in 2016.
I foresee him and Stenson reeking havoc again in the foursomes and four-balls in the first two days, winning three out of the four matches they play in.
Rose will then deliver the goods again on Sunday in the singles as Europe will take the Ryder Cup 15-13. You heard it here first.
Article by Zac Elkin
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