The United States launched their bid to reclaim the Ryder Cup from Europe as the action teed off at Whistling Straits on Friday.

Sergio Garcia, playing alongside Spanish compatriot Jon Rahm, had the honour of hitting the opening shot in the morning foursomes, with Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas providing the opposition.

A raucous crowd created a tremendous atmosphere on the first tee in Wisconsin, with some boos for Europe, for whom Garcia drove into a bunker before Thomas responded by finding the fairway.

Europe, then led by Thomas Bjorn, won by seven points last time out at Le Golf National in 2018 and new captain Padraig Harrington has gone for experience to kick off his team's campaign after a year's delay amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Paul Casey, 44, joins Viktor Hovland against Dustin Johnson and Open champion Collin Morikawa in the next match out, followed by the 48-year-old Lee Westwood and Matthew Fitzpatrick against Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger. 

The final clash of the opening session pits Ian Poulter, 45, and Rory McIlroy against the rookie American duo of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele. 

Europe have left Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Shane Lowry and Bernd Wiesberger on the sidelines for the opening matches, while Bryson DeChambeau, Harris English, Tony Finau and Scottie Scheffler miss out for the hosts.

The fourballs pairings will be confirmed later in the day.

Friday's foursomes

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth (USA) v Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia (EUR)
Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa (USA) v Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland (EUR)
Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger (USA) v Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick (EUR)
Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele (USA) v Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter (EUR)

Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter have a combined 46 Ryder Cup matches to their credit, while their opponents in Friday's foursomes, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, have none. 

That disparity is of no concern to the American rookies, who expressed confidence they will be able to get the job done at Whistling Straits in the final match of Friday's opening session. 

Considering their form lately, that makes sense. Cantlay enters his first Ryder Cup ranked fourth in the world, while Schauffele – who won Olympic gold this summer in Tokyo – is fifth. 

Cantlay won the final two events of the FedEx Cup playoffs, beating Bryson DeChambeau in a playoff at the BMW Championship and edging Jon Rahm by one stroke to take the Tour Championship. 

The duo also are comfortable playing together. They paired up for the foursomes and fourball at the 2019 Presidents Cup, winning both of their foursomes matches, and each also won his singles match in that event. 

"Xander and Patrick have had success in foursomes in The Presidents Cup, so we thought it was a natural fit for them to do foursomes here tomorrow morning," said USA captain Steve Stricker, an assistant captain with that 2019 team. 

As the final match on the course in the opening session, Cantlay and Schauffele also figure to have the full-throated support of what is expected to be an overwhelmingly pro-USA crowd. 

"It will be fantastic," Cantlay said. "The Wisconsin fans will be showing up and cheering us on all day. They have been great so far this week and those have just been practice rounds." 

Whatever their comfort level, the challenge they face is daunting, as McIlroy and Poulter have played together regularly for years and have exemplary records in Ryder Cup play.

"You always want to play against the best," Schauffele said. "Best way to challenge your game. Pat and I are looking forward to putting a point on the board and going from there."

Their European counterparts will of course have something to say about that. 

While McIlroy was complimentary of the young American pair Thursday, he did note that they will be stepping into an entirely different type of arena Friday. 

"Patrick has had a hell of a year and Xander is a great player," McIlroy said. "Probably doesn't quite compare to what a Ryder Cup is, so they will feel a little different on the first tee tomorrow."

Europe will look to their Ryder Cup veterans to set the tone when play begins at Whistling Straits on Friday. 

Captain Padraig Harrington's four oldest players, all in their 40s, will feature for Europe in the morning foursomes against a youthful USA group whose oldest player, Dustin Johnson, is 37. 

All-time Ryder Cup scoring leader Sergio Garcia, 41, will lead the charge with world number one Jon Rahm as the Spanish pair face Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth in the opening match in Wisconsin. 

"We would have been aware that JT and Jordan would have gone first, obviously, so we were going to lead ourselves with a strong partnership," Harrington told a news conference. "The whole world will be watching that one."

Teeing off next, Paul Casey (44) will team with rookie Viktor Hovland against Johnson and Open Championship winner Collin Morikawa, followed by Lee Westwood (48) and Matthew Fitzpatrick against Brooks Koepka and Danel Berger. 

The final matchup of the opening session will pit Ian Poulter (45) and Rory McIlroy against the rookie American duo of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele. 

"We've gone with an experienced setup, no doubt about it, but it was our strong setup," Harrington said. "It just happened to be experienced. I was happy with that, there's no doubt, when it came out like that and you're looking at it and you go, yeah, that's very experienced. That is a big bonus.

"But it didn't weaken our fourballs – that was very important. We still have a strong fourball setup and we haven't taken from the afternoon by going with a strong setup in the morning." 

Europe will leave Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Shane Lowry and Bernd Wiesberger on the sidelines for the opening matches, while the USA will do the same with Bryson DeChambeau, Harris English, Tony Finau and Scottie Scheffler. 

While the Europe captain said it was safe to assume his players who will sit out the morning will play in the afternoon fourballs, his US counterpart Steve Stricker declined to be drawn on that topic – though both captains said their foursome and fourball pairings were set and communicated to their teams early in the week.

Each also said he was focused on his own side as opposed to worrying about what the other team might be doing, though both put special emphasis on the first and fourth matches. 

"We talked occasionally about maybe who they're going to put out, but it doesn't matter," Stricker said. "I mean, they're all such great players, they're all highly ranked players and we know that we're going to have to play our best to to beat them.

"We had an idea that Rory and Rahm would probably go one and four, and that's pretty much all we knew, or really thought about. We didn't know who their guys were going to be paired with but we kind of had that figured out, so we tried to act accordingly as well."

Asked whether any of his players had expressed disappointment in not being included in the morning pairings, Stricker immediately responded "not at all." 

"These guys have been incredible," he added. "I can't stress it enough, really, and it's about the communication that we've had, the captains and myself, and being upfront with them and just letting them know what we're thinking, so there's no curveballs.

"We've heard it multiple times from all the players: If you want to play me once, or all five, you know, that's up to you – meaning the captains – and just so we can try to win this Cup."

Friday's foursomes

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth (USA) v. Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia (EUR)
Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa (USA) v. Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland (EUR)
Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger (USA) v. Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick (EUR)
Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele (USA) v. Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter (EUR)

The time for talking is almost done as the coronavirus-delayed 43rd Ryder Cup gets under way at Whistling Straits on Friday.

Europe head into the much-anticipated showdown with the United States as defending champions after winning 17.5 - 10.5 at Le Golf National in 2018.

This year's edition in Wisconsin promises to be as competitive as ever, with USA hoping their team of rookies can prevail against their more experienced European opponents.

Here, Stats Perform picks out the best of the facts and figures ahead of the first tee off.

 

EUROPE'S RECENT DOMINANCE

– This year's Ryder Cup is the 43rd edition, with nearly half of those (21) having pitted Europe against USA. Due to the tournament being delayed by a year by the coronavirus pandemic, this is the first Ryder Cup to be held in an odd year since 1999.

Europe have the upper hand with 11 victories since 1979, compared to eight for USA. There was a tie in 1989, which saw Europe regain the cup having won the previous edition two years earlier.

Europe have won nine of the last 12 Ryder Cups, including half of the last eight played on US soil.

– Six of the last eight Ryder Cups have seen a final score gap of at least five points. The gap was never more than three points in each of the previous eight editions (1987 to 2002).

– This year's Ryder Cup is the first to be played in Wisconsin, making it the 19th US state to host the tournament, with only California, Massachusetts and Ohio having played host on more than one occasion.

– Since 1979, only four of the 20 Ryder Cups have seen a team overturn a deficit going into the singles (1993, 1995, 1999 and 2012).

– USA have won 12 of the 20 singles sessions against Europe since 1979 (60 per cent). However, since 2002, Europe have the upper hand in the Sunday format, winning it six times in nine attempts.

Only two of the 42 Ryder Cups have ended in a tie: 1969 (16-16) and 1989 (14-14).

WESTWOOD LEADS THE WAY FOR EXPERIENCED EUROPE

– With a combined total of 156 matches played at the Ryder Cup, this is the most experienced European team since the 1995 edition (196 matches). Three players are making their debut for Europe: Bernd Wiesberger, Viktor Hovland and Shane Lowry, half as many as the US team (six).

– Fifty per cent of the European team are made up of English players (six out of 12). Since the introduction of Team Europe in 1979, that ties the highest number of English players after 2016.

– In Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm, Spain have a playing representative at the Ryder Cup for the 21st consecutive edition. In fact, other than England, they are the only nation to have had at least one player at every Ryder Cup edition since the introduction of Team Europe in 1979.

– Rahm – world number one and Europe's most recent major winner (US Open 2021) – is playing in his second Ryder Cup. He won only one of his three matches in 2018, but that was the singles match against Tiger Woods, only the American's second ever loss in the singles format after 1997.

Garcia is the highest points scorer in the history of the Ryder Cup (25.5 points out of a possible 41). The Spaniard is taking part in his 10th Ryder Cup – that's every edition since 1999 except 2010. It is also only the third time he has been a captain's pick after 2002 and 2018.

– Rory McIlroy is making his sixth consecutive Ryder Cup appearance (all since 2010), the longest current run among European players. He has played every single session at the tournament since his debut in 2010.

– Viktor Hovland is the youngest player at this year's Ryder Cup – he will be aged 24 years and six days on the opening day of the tournament. He is also the first Norwegian to play in the tournament.

– This is Lee Westwood's 11th Ryder Cup, joining Nick Faldo as the European player with the most appearances in the biennial tournament. If he plays at least four matches, he will overtake Phil Mickelson for the most in the tournament's history. Westwood is also the oldest player at this year's tournament.

HISTORY ON USA'S SIDE

– USA have six Ryder Cup rookies at this year's tournament, the most since 2008. In fact, they have won both previous editions against Europe where at least 50 per cent of their team was made up of newcomers: 1979 (eight rookies) and 2008 (six rookies).

– Eight of the 12 American players at this year's Ryder Cup are aged under 30, which is twice as many as the European team (four out of 12).

– Collin Morikawa is the youngest US player at this year's Ryder Cup – he will be aged 24 years, seven months and 18 days on the opening day of the tournament.

– Tony Finau's first Top 10 at a major came in the 2015 US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. He won two of his three matches in his only previous Ryder Cup appearance in 2018, setting the second-best points ratio (66.7 per cent) in the US team after Justin Thomas (80 per cent, four points out of a possible five).

– This is Brooks Koepka's third – and consecutive – Ryder Cup appearance. He won three of his four matches the last time it was held in the United States (2016).

– This is Jordan Spieth's fourth consecutive Ryder Cup appearance. He has collected eight points from a possible 11 in fourballs/foursomes, a 73 per cent scoring rate. Only Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have a better ratio among US players in the team format.

– At 37, Dustin Johnson is the oldest member of this year's US Ryder Cup team. This is his fifth appearance in the showpiece event, winning only one of his previous four (2016). He is the US player with the most matches played in the history of the tournament without a single half point (W7 L9).

– Bryson DeChambeau lost all three of his matches in his only previous Ryder Cup appearance in 2018. He was the only US player to remain scoreless alongside Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, whom he both partnered in 5 and 4 losses.

After three long years, the wait for another Ryder Cup ends this week as the United States and Europe take to the fairways and greens of Whistling Straits. 

Europe are the holders but the USA start as favourites for many observers, with home advantage and a formidable-looking team. 

There will be shocks along the way and there will be some expected stars of the show who end up taking a back seat as unlikely heroes emerge. 

Captains Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington will have their own ideas of who might be best placed to make a telling impression. 

Here, Stats Perform looks at four players who could make a huge impact across the weekend in Wisconsin. 

UNITED STATES: Super Spieth ready to show his teeth

Jordan Spieth has been a resurgent force this year, finishing second at the Open Championship and in a tie for third at the Masters, while at the other two majors he finished a respectable 19th and 30th. 

The American also ended a four-year wait for a victory on the PGA Tour with a sweet win in his home state at the Texas Open in April and is primed to cap a fine year with a strong Ryder Cup. 

Spieth has mentioned in the build-up that he loves the course set-up at Whistling Straits, which he feels provides scoring opportunities on almost every hole. 

The 28-year-old also referenced his previous Ryder Cup success. He has collected eight points from a possible 11 in fourballs/foursomes, a 73 per cent scoring rate. Only Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have a better ratio among USA players in the team format. 

UNITED STATES: Nice guy Finau just the man for Stricker's superstars

American teams in the past have been accused of…well…not exactly getting along. Having the ultimate good guy in the team is sure to boost morale and Tony Finau certainly fits that mould. 

But make no mistake, Finau is a guy with real pedigree – even if sometimes he hasn't quite been able to convert that into wins (his triumph at the Northern Trust last month was only his second PGA Tour title and first in five years). 

On his Ryder Cup debut, he was one of few bright notes for Team USA, with Finau winning two of his three matches – including a singles win over the otherwise unflappable Tommy Fleetwood, setting the second-best points ratio (66.7 per cent) in the American team after Justin Thomas (80 per cent, four points out of a possible five). 

Moreover, at the 2015 US PGA Championship, Finau finished 10th having shot four sub-par rounds at Whistling Straits. Finau is the sort of character who can really flourish at a Ryder Cup, particularly with home support behind him. 

 

EUROPE: Europe eye trophy Rahm raid

Jon Rahm is the man for the big occasion. He is the only player to have secured a top-10 finish at all four majors this year, while he is also Europe's most recent victor at one of the leading events, having won the U.S. Open. 

The world number one's Ryder Cup debut did not go entirely to plan in 2018, as he won only one of his three matches, but that triumph was in a singles match-up with Tiger Woods – only Tiger's second loss in the format. 

Now established at the forefront of the sport, Rahm will expect to be the man to lead Europe to glory with an improved all-round showing, justifying his status as the bookmakers' favourite to be the leading points scorer at Whistling Straits. 

EUROPE: Viktor sounds like a winner

Belgium's Thomas Pieters was the top points scorer five years ago at Hazeltine, scoring four points but ending on the losing side. With Norway's Viktor Hovland relishing his debut on the team, could there be another surprise leader on the points board? 

Hovland played college golf for Oklahoma State and has been a familiar figure on the PGA Tour, so playing in America is second nature. He was low amateur at the Masters and U.S. Open in 2019, won the U.S. Amateur, and has come of age since, jumping to a career-high world ranking of number 10 in August. 

Eight top-10 finishes and just one missed cut since the turn of the year show what he brings, and that level of consistent play is bound to appeal to captain Harrington. 

"I'd like to think I have some fans out there that maybe won't necessarily boo against us," Hovland said this week. "But if they do end up doing that, that's what they're going to do. We're still going to play golf, and if they do end up doing that, that means we're doing something good." 

The 43rd Ryder Cup begins at Whistling Straits on Friday a year later than planned, with Europe seeking to retain the trophy after hammering the United States in Paris three years ago.

Delayed by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, golf's most famous team competition makes its long-awaited return after Europe's 17.5 – 10.5 victory at Le Golf National in 2019.

Ahead of the action, Stats Perform explains the format of the contest.

 

HOW THE POINTS ARE SCORED

A total of 28 matchplay contests will be played across three days, with each contest worth one point.

If a match is level after 18 holes, Europe and the United States simply take half a point each.

As holders, Europe need only 14 points to retain the trophy, while their opponents must reach 14.5 to regain the Ryder Cup.

FOURBALLS AND FOURSOMES

The first two days are all about teamwork.

On Friday and Saturday, the morning sessions will involve fourball matches, each team fielding eight players in four pairings.

The fourball format is often known as better-ball as each duo takes their best individual score on each hole. So, for example, if Rory McIlroy makes a three and Jon Rahm a four, it is McIlroy's score that counts.

After the morning fourball sessions, things get interesting in the afternoons as eight more players from each side combine for foursomes action.

In this format, the two men on each team share one ball and take alternate shots, which can lead to some apologetic words between colleagues if a poor shot is played.

SUNDAY SINGLES

A whopping 12 points are up for grabs on the final day of the competition as all 24 competitors go head-to-head in singles matches.

While the captain determines who features on Friday and Saturday, with some players heavily involved and others lightly used or even left out altogether, every single team member is involved on Sunday.

From the Miracle at Medinah to the Battle of Brookline and the War on the Shore at Kiawah Island, there is something uniquely special about the Ryder Cup on American soil.

The hoopla and the hollering, the fanfare and the ferocity. At times it felt like the cries of "U-S-A, U-S-A" were interrupted only at Hazeltine five years ago by the "I believe that we will win" chant, a nadir for the sporting songbook.

Let's go round again, then, this time at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, where the show gets under way on Friday, three days of sporting theatre set to play out in front of a global audience.

Postponed from last year, there will be crowds lining the course in a full-blown face-off between the United States and Europe, led off by the foursomes and fourballs before Sunday's singles provide a tantalising climax.

It is hard not to love the Ryder Cup, whether a year-round golf fan or not, and here are five reasons we have taken it to our hearts.


1. THE AGGRO

Team golf changes the sport from top to bottom. This individual pursuit, the every-man-for-himself nature of tour golf, goes out of the window as players compete for the collective good. Players streamed in and out of news conferences on Tuesday, each declaring their commitment to fight for their locker-room chums. Many of the world's elite have assembled this week, but there will be no champion golfer, only a team triumph come Sunday evening.

Golf crowds might irritate players at times during the regular season, but by and large they are a respectful bunch. Yet at the Ryder Cup, frenzies break out as team allegiances change the perspective of spectators. The partisanship reflects that of a football game, boorishness breaks out and is frowned on, and then it breaks out again, and again, until it is part of the fabric of a Ryder Cup weekend. Telling a Ryder Cup crowd to dial down the aggro and the noise would likely only serve to ramp it up. The crowd feels a part of the event, players can be inspired and some will cower, and of course this happens on each side of the Atlantic. Don't expect anything different this weekend, besides the fact the crowd will be overwhelmingly American, given travel limitations.

"I think that the Ryder Cup epitomises everything that's great in the game of golf," Europe's Rory McIlroy said this week. "It's competitive, but there's also a lot of sportsmanship shown. And obviously there's partisan crowds and all of that, but that's part of being in a team environment. You're going to have a majority of the crowd rooting for one team or the other.

"I think the most animated I've been in my career has been at Ryder Cups. It just brings something out of you that you don't get playing individually. There's something more there when you're playing as part of a team, and everything you do doesn't just affect yourself but affects the other 11 players, the captain, the vice captains, all the support team."


2. THERE'S A STAR MAN

Although this is a team game, somebody has to be the hero. Three years ago, Italian Francesco Molinari won all five of his matches, the first European to ever do so, and in previous editions there have been unforeseen defining performances from the likes of Boo Weekley and Christy O'Connor Jnr.

There was a certain romance about the all-Spanish partnership between Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal, master and apprentice, who won 12 points from their 15 matches together, and latterly their compatriot Sergio Garcia has gone on to amass the most points in a Ryder Cup career: 25.5 and counting.

The beauty is that the star man rarely happens to be the leading man. Tiger Woods, now a 15-time major champion, was 0-4 at the last Ryder Cup and has won just 13 of his 37 matches in the event.

This is a competition where Colin Montgomerie and Ian Poulter at least match, and arguably outrank Jack Nicklaus, despite neither European having a major to their name.


3. TENSION OFF THE COURSE

Nick Faldo was a wonderful Ryder Cup player but flopped as a captain at Valhalla in 2008, delivering a string of pairing puzzlers and a clanging confection of press-room and team-room missteps. Three years later, Graeme McDowell said: "What was missing for us? We didn't have that extra spark in the team room, didn't have that X-factor in terms of someone to get up and rally the troops. Jose Maria [Olazabal] gave a great speech on the Saturday evening when the singles line-up came out. But that was the first really emotional speech we'd had all week."

Captains know victory is everything, and their selection calls can define Ryder Cups as much as the players on the course perform. Find the right combinations and a captain can sit back and reap the benefits.

Few expect Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau to partner each other at this Ryder Cup, amid a spat most assume is ongoing. DeChambeau looked to calm the chatter about his relationship with Koepka on Tuesday, saying much of the talk had been "driven by a lot of external factors, not necessarily us two".

"We had some great conversations in Tour Championship week when we had dinner, and then this week, as well," DeChambeau said. "I sat down and had dinner with him last night, and it was fine."

Steve Stricker, you suspect, would be wise to keep them apart in competition, but eliminating any sense of rivalry or enmity within a team can go a long way towards bringing success.


4. THE KITS CAN BE BAD

This year's outfits have a touch of class about them, understated elegance on both teams, which is always disappointing.

The Ryder Cup has delivered some shockers over the years, with a prime example being the USA's waterproofs that let in water during the 2010 match at Celtic Manor, forcing team chiefs to splash out on more reliable kit from on-site merch suppliers. Already garish, with large-lettered player names on the back of the shellsuit-like jackets, they were also considered not fit for purpose by several players as the rain came down in Wales.

In 1999, the USA committed a fashion faux pas with a shirt that featured scores of framed photographs of Ryder Cups gone by. It belonged on the bargain rails, but turned out to be the outfit in which the Americans sealed their win at Brookline, the images of their triumph enshrined in folklore, but surely never to feature on the shirts of any future cup team.

Europe have typically been more demure about their outfit selections, perhaps wary of being frowned on in the clubhouse or by history.


5. THE COMEBACKS

This is a sporting contest par excellence, and Europe's 17.5-10.5 annihilation of Tiger Woods and co three years ago in France means the hosts are craving delicious revenge.

USA wildcard Jordan Spieth is likely to be a major factor, given his strong season, and the three-time major winner describes the feeling of competing as like being in the thick of a title chase at a major championship.

"Maybe it takes two or three years if you're playing really well to have four or five times you're in contention in a major, but you get to do it three, four, five times this week," Spieth said.

On the final day, that sense is amplified, and a team's overnight lead is far from any guarantee of success. At Medinah in 2012, the US team led 10-4 at one stage on the Saturday, before Europe won the final two matches to narrow the gap, Poulter pulling out all the stops with a string of birdies as he and McIlroy took down Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner.

Still, Europe were up against it going into Sunday, but Justin Rose provided a highlight amid a rush of blue on the scoreboard as he scored a stunning win over Phil Mickelson in the singles, with the likes of Lee Westwood and Garcia also coming good before Martin Kaymer ensured Europe would retain the trophy and Molinari halved his clash with Woods to win the cup outfight by a 14.5-13.5 margin.

The USA roared back from 10-6 at Brookline to also win 14.5 to 13.5, with near riotous scenes at the end as players and spectators overstepped the mark by invading the green, interrupting Olazabal's mission to keep Europe in it.

Whether Whistling Straits sees a comparable comeback, one team waltzing away to win, or a close-fought battle, remains to be seen. Samuel Ryder's notion, back in the 1920s, that a team golf event between teams from either side of the Atlantic should make for a sporting spectacle, has proven to be one of sports great prophecies.

World number three Justin Thomas has played down the United States' favouritism at the upcoming Ryder Cup despite boasting eight of the current top 10 players in the world.

The US are seeking to re-claim the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits starting on Friday, with Europe having won seven of the past nine events. Europe has also won four of the past five Ryder Cups.

The hosts boast an excellent team, including 2021 Open Championship winner Collin Morikawa, last year's Masters' winner Dustin Johnson, last year's U.S. Open winner Bryson DeChambeau, Tokyo Olympics gold medalist Xander Schauffele and recently crowned PGA Tour Player of the Year Patrick Cantlay.

Europe only has one player currently ranked inside the top 10, being 2021 U.S. Open champion and world number one Jon Rahm.

"You can dive as deep as you want into the pairings, into who's sitting, who's playing, but at the end of the day whatever team plays the best is going to win," Thomas said.

"We have 12 unbelievable players, they have 12 unbelievable players, and it's really just who's going to go out there and get it and who's going to go out and execute the best.

"I've watched many Ryder Cups on TV, and it's who makes the putts, who flips those matches, who grinds out the halves and who gets it done. I'd go to war with these 11 other guys and our captains like I'm going to do this week, and I have all the faith in the world in all the rookies. I think their experience proves that they are beyond rookies.

"It's going to be a fun week. It was a fun week for me in France just in terms of the atmosphere and experience and all, and I'm sure the fact that it's on U.S. soil will help those nerves a little bit."

Thomas revealed he had spoken to 15-time major winner Tiger Woods, who will not join the team in Wisconsin as he continues his rehabilitation from multiple leg injuries sustained in a car crash in February.

Woods has previously been involved in the past four team events for the US in some capacity, including as captain at the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia.

"I got together with him a couple times last week," Thomas said. "More so just going over to see how he's doing as a friend, more than as a vice captain."

"He's so into it. He obviously wants the best for our team. He wants the best for all of us. It means a lot to him.

"I think people would be surprised -- obviously you all saw in Australia how much it meant to him, but just the amount of work and the amount of hours he's willing to spend to make sure that he feels like the team is prepared and as ready to go as possible is pretty cool.

"At the end of the day he also understands that we're 12 of the best players in the world, and we know how to play golf. Sometimes less is more, so I think he's great at balancing that out."

The United States are favourites to make home advantage count and regain the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits this weekend.

An emphatic 17.5-10.5 victory at Le Golf National in September 2018 saw Europe regain the trophy under Thomas Bjorn, as the likes of Francesco Molinari, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter played starring roles.

Yet while Europe have won six successive home Ryder Cups, their recent record on American soil has been mixed.

We take a look at the last five editions of the event in the USA.

 

2016 - Hazeltine

Result: United States 17 - 11 Europe

Europe had won three Ryder Cups in a row ahead of the 2016 event, but they were in for a shock at Hazeltine.

Darren Clarke's hopes of masterminding victory suffered a hammer blow on the first morning as the United States, captained by Davis Love III, pulled off a clean sweep of the Friday foursomes.

Rookies Thomas Pieters and Rafael Cabrera-Bello impressed as Europe narrowed their deficit, but the USA regained control in the second fourball session and went on to triumph by a six-point margin, the talismanic Patrick Reed defeating Rory McIlroy in a dramatic opening singles match to set the tone for the hosts.

2012 - Medinah

Result: United States 13.5 - 14.5 Europe

Is it really nine years since the 'Miracle of Medinah'?

In the first Ryder Cup since the death of European icon Seve Ballesteros, the Spaniard's close friend Jose Maria Olazabal oversaw the most remarkable of comebacks to ensure Europe retained the trophy they had claimed at Celtic Manor two years earlier.

The USA were 10-4 up on Saturday afternoon, having won five of the day's first six contests.

However, Europe crucially won the last two fourball contests, with Poulter the architect of an astonishing turnaround in the anchor match.

Poulter and his team-mates then overhauled a four-point deficit in the singles, something that had only happened once before in Ryder Cup history, with Martin Kaymer sinking the winning putt to spark emotional scenes of celebration from the visiting team.

2008 - Valhalla

Result: United States 16.5 - 11.5 Europe

No European golfer in the professional era has claimed more major titles than Nick Faldo's six and the Englishman was also the most prolific points scorer in Ryder Cup history before Garcia moved past his tally of 25 at Le Golf National.

However, Faldo was nowhere near as successful in a miserable stint as Europe's captain, which yielded a heavy defeat to Paul Azinger's United States team at Valhalla.

The infamous 'sandwich-gate' incident - in which Faldo was photographed holding an apparent list of pairings only to then claim, somewhat unfeasibly, it was a list of lunch requests - was not the only gaffe made by the former world number one before the event had even begun.

Europe were then handsomely beaten when the action did get under way, trailing throughout on their way to a 16.5-11.5 loss.

Hunter Mahan was the leading points-scorer for the USA, who prevailed in seven of the 12 Sunday singles contests, but the likes of Anthony Kim, Boo Weekley, Justin Leonard and J.B. Holmes were among others to play starring roles.

 

2004 - Oakland Hills

Result: United States 9.5 - 18.5 Europe

In contrast to Faldo, the meticulous Bernhard Langer did not put a foot wrong in 2004 as Europe stormed to victory by a record margin at Oakland Hills.

Every member of Langer's team contributed at least a point, with wildcard selections Colin Montgomerie and Luke Donald among those to excel in a stunningly one-sided match.

In contrast, a USA team led by Hal Sutton and featuring three of the world's top 10 failed to deliver, with Chris DiMarco the only player to score more than two points for the hosts.

Montgomerie, in his penultimate Ryder Cup appearance as a player, famously holed the winning putt and went on to say: "That singles win over David Toms, in fact that whole week, rejuvenated me and my career."

 

1999 - Brookline

Result: United States 14.5 - 13.5 Europe

Prior to Europe's fightback at Medinah in 2012, the only previous instance of a team coming from four points behind in the singles came at Brookline, in distinctly fractious circumstances.

Mark James was Europe's skipper for an event sadly overshadowed by boorish abuse of visiting players by a partisan crowd and raucous scenes on the 17th hole on Sunday.

A mammoth putt from Leonard prompted an invasion of the green from the US team, even though Olazabal still had a putt of his own to come.

Ben Crenshaw's USA ultimately triumphed 14.5-13.5, but the 'Battle of Brookline' would be remembered for the wrong reasons.

In a subsequent autobiography, Sam Torrance - a vice-captain for Europe that week - described the final day of the 1999 event as: "the most disgraceful and disgusting day in the history of professional golf."

As Europe and the United States go through the motions, the ceremonies and the practice rounds that precede the serious business at Whistling Straits, spare a thought for those Ryder Cup heroes that might have been.

This will be officially the 2020 Ryder Cup, but the pandemic impact has not been merely to delay the showpiece by 12 months. The teams have taken a hefty shake-up too, since last season was so unexpectedly interrupted.

There are players that looked destined to play a big part on the Straits Course last year that will instead be far from Wisconsin, their hopes of starring having been scotched by the postponement.

Qualifying criteria were necessarily changed, to ensure it will be in-form players who line up for each team, and both the US and European teams would likely have looked radically different in September 2020.

Here is a look at some of the winners and losers of the team-picking puzzle from each side of the Atlantic.

EUROPE

Winners: Englishman Paul Casey had made a sketchy start to his bid to qualify for the team, with little to shout about before the COVID-19 crisis struck. He had time to make up ground, certainly, but Casey needed results quickly. He has since had them in abundance, with a tied-second finish at the US PGA Championship last year a reminder to Padraig Harrington that he wanted in on the action. Ten top-10 performances in 2021 catapulted the 44-year-old to automatic selection and a fifth appearance on the team.

Norway's Viktor Hovland was not in the conversation 18 months ago, when the tours ground to a mid-season halt, although a win at the Puerto Rico Open in February 2020 saw him leap from 100th to number 60 on the world rankings. The Oklahoma State University alum's form since golf resumed has been nothing short of spectacular, with 24-year-old Hovland climbing to a career-high ranking of 10th in August. Since the turn of the year, he has had seven top-five finishes, including a win at the BMW International Open, and his hot form could mean the heavy metal fan cranks up the dial for Europe.

Losers: Danny Willett and Victor Perez were firmly in the picture when the tours halted in March 2020, but neither will be making an appearance. Englishman Willett, the former Masters champion, has slumped from inside the world's top 40 golfers to outside the leading 150 on the rankings after a wretched run of results that meant he stood no hope of a wildcard.

Perez's form dipped at an inopportune moment, after he previously stayed firmly in the mix. Across his last five tournaments, Perez has endured five missed cuts – at The Memorial and all four of the majors – and no top-10 finishes, meaning the Frenchman could also not realistically be thought of as deserving of a call from Harrington.

Perez wrote on Twitter: "I am, of course, disappointed to not be selected to the team. However, this is an opportunity for me to evaluate, become stronger and apply new lessons to all parts of my career, and for that I am grateful."

UNITED STATES

Winners : The US were planning on picking four wildcards but switched that to six amid the COVID-19 uncertainty, meaning the automatic selections also shrank from eight to six, and their line-up for Whistling Straits looks markedly different to how it surely would have turned out a year ago.

On the fringes of the world's top 50 and emerging as a bright talent, in March 2020 Collin Morikawa still needed to get a move on to come into captain Steve Stricker's thinking. The 24-year-old is now a two-time major winner, ranked the number three best golfer on the planet, and he led the final US points list, reflecting his dramatic surge. Bryson DeChambeau would likely have found the results to make the team, given he was coming into form after a rocky spell; now he is a U.S. Open champion and has the big personality to take the Ryder Cup by storm. Patrick Cantlay also eventually qualified by right, winning the Tour Championship and consequently the $15million FedEx Cup, earning a debut.

Losers : All-time great Tiger Woods was still in the picture when global sport called a hiatus, yet the last time the 15-time major winner was seen in public he was struggling by on crutches after the February car crash that police said he was lucky to survive. Three-time Ryder Cup man Patrick Reed – 'Captain America' – was in the frame for an automatic pick, too, along with Gary Woodland and Webb Simpson, until the world changed.

Eighteen months down the line and those four have been usurped, with Stricker taking the players ranked seven to 10 on the points list (Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Jordan Spieth, Harris English) as wildcard picks but deciding against choosing 11th-placed Reed or 13th-placed Simpson. He also selected the players in 12th and 14th (Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler).

Reed, having been troubled by pneumonia and an ankle injury lately, took his omission "like a true champion", Stricker said. Six rookies feature for the US, Stricker looking to the future but backing his team to succeed in the present.

US Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker says the bubbling feud between top 10 pair Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka will be a "non-issue" at this weekend's team play event at Whistling Straits.

DeChambeau and Koepka have a history of trading public blows, having never hidden their dislike for one another.

Koepka called out DeChambeau for slow play in 2019, while the 2020 U.S. Open champion poked fun at the four-time major winner's physique in January last year.

DeChambeau's coach Mike Schy said this week that the 28-year-old wants to end the dispute, with that sentiment reiterated by Stricker prior to the Ryder Cup which starts on Friday as the US seeks to reclaim the trophy from Europe.

"It’s a non-issue, really, for me and the team," Stricker said. "We got together a few weeks ago and I’ve had conversations with them both.

"They have assured me it’s not going to be an issue. I have no worries whatsoever."

The US Ryder Cup team features 2021 Open Championship winner Collin Morikawa, 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay along with DeChambeau and Koepka.

Stricker unsurprisingly admitted that the latter two would likely not be paired together for the team play event.

"Will we pair them together? I don’t think so at this point but things could change," Stricker said.

"Could always happen but probably not. Again, I had a dinner; they all showed up. We had great conversation, great talks.

"I’m not seeing it as an issue at all and they are completely on board."

Stricker also revealed that 15-time major winner Tiger Woods will not attend the Ryder Cup this weekend as he continues his rehabilitation from his February car accident.

Woods, 45, sustained multiple leg injuries in the single vehicle collision accident.

"I think it’s just not a good time for him to be here physically because of where he’s at in his rehabilitation," Stricker said.

"It’s a tough course to walk. Everybody is going to see it, from tee-to-green, it’s difficult."

Woods has taken up roles at the past four international competitions with the US, including playing captain at the 2019 Presidents Cup and is passionate about team play.

"He's been obviously in my ear a lot and I call him pretty regularly," Stricker said. "He's part of our Ryder Cup team. He's part of what we do."

Stricker added: "He’s getting better and his focus and mine is on making a comeback to play again. We don’t want to get in the way of that because we would all love to see him come back and play."

Bryson DeChambeau wants to end his feud with Ryder Cup team-mate Brooks Koepka, according to the former's coach Mike Schy.

DeChambeau and Koepka have made their dislike for one another known since 2019, when the latter called out last year's U.S. Open champion for slow play.

World number seven DeChambeau duly responded by poking fun at Koepka's physique, with a leaked Golf Channel interview providing further fuel as the four-time major winner rolled his eyes as his rival walked behind the camera.

However, after Europe captain Padraig Harrington warned the pair could be a dangerous duo and the United States captain Steve Stricker tried to broker peace, coach Schy revealed his player's desire to end the hostility.

"Whether or not they are both doing it to maximise their global profile, Bryson [DeChambeau] wants it over," Schy told the Times on Monday.

"Move on. The bottom line is two big egos."

DeChambeau is set for his second Ryder Cup appearance at Whistling Straits on Friday, while Koepka will take part in his third as they look to stop Europe from retaining the famous trophy.

Schy says DeChambeau is desperate to succeed in the 43rd edition of the Ryder Cup after missing out on the Tokyo Olympics due to a positive COVID-19 test.

"He loves team play," Schy continued. "At times, when he’s struggling, it can look a little selfish, but the reality is he is doing his best to contribute."

The 43rd edition of the Ryder Cup is almost upon us. A year later than initially planned, the finest golfers Europe and the United States have to offer will do battle at Whistling Straits.

Padraig Harrington's team will be looking to defend the title Europe clinched in Paris three years ago, while Steve Stricker's men will hope to make home advantage count as the USA look to win the tournament for only the third time since the turn of the century.

Ahead of the action in Wisconsin, Stats Perform looks back at some of the most memorable moments from tournaments gone by.

 

Miracle at Medinah, 2012

Where else to start other than a moment that is widely considered to be one of sport's greatest ever fightbacks. The "Miracle at Medinah" took place in Illinois nine years ago, with the Chicago crowd witnessing a remarkable European recovery, inspired by Ian Poulter – who will be playing again this weekend.

Europe were 4-10 down heading into the final day, with the USA needing just 4.5 points to win. Yet Poulter, who won all of his matches, got the ball rolling for the visiting team, who took 8.5 points from a possible 12 on the Sunday. Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner offered the hosts hope, but Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer won their matches to leave Tiger Woods needing to beat Francesco Molinari to secure a tie. The round was halved, ane Europe triumphed 14.5 to 13.5.

 

Battle of Brookline, 1999

Thirteen years prior to the Miracle at Medinah, the USA forged an incredible comeback of their own at Brookline, Massachusetts. Europe held a 10-6 lead heading into the final round, yet were pegged back as the USA, buoyed on by a vociferous crowd that riled some of the European players, with Colin Montgomerie coming in for particularly strong treatment, won the first six matches of Sunday's play.

Yet the decisive moment came when Jose Maria Olazabal – who would go on to lead Europe to victory at Medinah - lost three successive holes to Justin Leonard when he had been four up with seven to play. The match was tied on the 15th when the American holed a 40-foot putt, and on the 17th, Leonard struck a brilliant birdie, with the US team and fans storming onto the green in celebration as the half-point required to complete the comeback was secured. Olazabal still had a 25-foot putt to make to send the match to the 18th, only for the Spaniard's effort to trickle wide.

Torrance ends US dominance, 1985

The Belfry is entrenched in Ryder Cup history and, in 1985, Europe earned their first win in what was the fourth attempt since the team had spread to include the continent and not just players from Great Britain and Ireland.

Seve Ballesteros was in exceptional form, but it was left to captain Sam Torrance to sink a 22-foot putt, inflicting the United States' first defeat since 1957.

Clarke leads emotional European victory, 2006

Having taken a three-month break from golf following the loss of his wife, Heather, to cancer, Darren Clarke was named as a wildcard pick by Europe captain Ian Woosnam for the 2006 Ryder Cup, hosted in Clarke's native Northern Ireland at the K Club.

Clarke produced a performance for the ages, winning both of his pairs matches and going on to defeat Zach Johnson in his singles game. "I doubt there was a dry eye in the house," said Clarke afterwards, as Europe went on to secure an 18.5-9.5 win.

 

Langer fluffs his lines, 1991

Possibly the tightest Ryder Cup contest in history came at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, with the US taking a slim lead into the final day. However, by the time the final match rolled around, they needed half a point to reclaim the title.

It came down to the final hole, too. Bernard Langer required to hole a six-foot putt to tie his match with Hale Irwin, and Europe would keep their hands on the trophy. Yet he failed to do so, the ball rolling off the lip and away, with the US triumphing for the first time since 1983.

The concession, 1969

The Ryder Cup had been dominated by the United States from the end of World War II, with Great Britain (as the team was then) winning only one, in 1957.

However, the first tie in the Ryder Cup was recorded at Royal Birkdale in 1969, when American great Jack Nicklaus conceded a three-foot putt to Tony Jacklin at the 18th hole – the moment going down as one of the most famous gestures of sportsmanship. 

Kristoffer Broberg won the Dutch Open by three shots to end his long wait for a second title on the European Tour. 

The Swede, who had previously triumphed at the BMW Masters back in November 2015, went round for a level-par 72 at Cromvoirt on Sunday to get over the line. 

Broberg had gone into the fourth round with an eight-shot lead, yet a birdie and a bogey by the time he reached the turn meant Matthias Schmid and Alejandro Canizares gained ground. 

A second birdie extended Broberg's lead to five shots, though wobbles on the 12th and 14th suggested nerves had taken hold. 

However, the 35-year-old regained his composure to save par from a bunker on the 15th and, after heading into the final two holes with a two-stroke lead, he holed a 13-foot birdie putt before rounding off his tournament with a par, leaving him well clear on 23 under. 

"It means a lot. Six years of hell," an extremely emotional Broberg said, cutting his post-round interview short. 

Prior to shedding a few tears, Broberg conceded his performance on the day was not up to standard.

"Happy right now but the game wasn't there today, I was struggling all day, I didn't feel comfortable over the ball," he explained.

"I did a great up-and-down on 15 so I'm happy with that, pulled my tee shot on 17 but made the putt for birdie, so I'm happy with that."

Schmid went round in an impressive 66 to finish second on 20 under par, while Canizares was in third on 18 under, having carded a 68 that included a double-bogey finish at the last.

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