By Neil Leverett
- The 42nd Ryder Cup begins at Le Golf National in Paris begins on Friday
- Europe looking to regain trophy on home soil after USA won at Hazeltine in 2016
- Ian Poulter plays his fifth competition for the biggest prize in team golf, as one of the hosts’ big hopes
LE GOLF NATIONAL, PARIS – As the 42nd Ryder Cup begins on Friday, can Europe regain the famous trophy with the help of wildcard pick and poster boy for the competition Ian Poulter?
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Europe seek to regain trophy on fertile home soil
With Ryder Cup week well under way and with the opening ceremony taking place on Thursday, both European and American teams have gathered under the collective golfing umbrella of the world’s media, fans and players in Versailles for the 42nd battle for the famous gold Samuel Ryder trophy.
After relinquishing their recent vice-like grip on one of the biggest prizes in team sport two years ago in Hazeltine, Minnesota, Captain Thomas Bjorn is assigned in bringing the cup home this weekend, as Le Golf National in the shadow of Paris plays host.
The home side are going up against perhaps the strongest US team in history, with no less than eight major champions in their ranks. However, Jim Furyk’s side will know history is against them having lost in all five previous meetings on European soil – Valderrama, The Belfry, The K Club, Celtic Manor and four years ago at Gleneagles.
Indeed, the last time the US won in Europe was in 1993 – also at the Belfry in Warwickshire – when Tom Watson’s side edged out their hosts 15-13.
Poulter in twilight of career
With Europe lacking the experience in the field with no less than five debutants (Tyrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen) to the US’s three (Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau, Justin Thomas), the onus on the more experienced in the group is ever more important. That is no more true of Ian Poulter, who in the past has been blue team’s pin-up boy who bleeds his team’s colours.
In what will be his fifth Ryder Cup, the 42-year-old veteran comes into the competition with age not on his side, but form firmly with the Hitchin golfer, having had a storming last few months.
Poulter won the Houston Open back in April, claiming his third victory on the PGA Tour and first stroke play tournament win in the United States. after a sudden-death playoff. In his first win in six years, The Briton qualified for the US Masters after an uncertain time with injury and now leads his team into this weekend having been dubbed Europe’s ‘postman’ having delivered consistently for Team Blue.
‘Postman’ must rekindle Medinah flame and deliver for Bjorn
As one of Bjorn wildcard picks alongside Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia, Poulter is the experienced head of the team who will instill a large measure of pride and most importantly a shot of confidence, as a man who has won almost 75% of his Ryder Cup foursomes, four-balls and singles matches – winning 12 of his 18 contests.
Poulter was the driving force behind Europe’s remarkable comeback victory at Medinah Lake in 2012, when, with the US ahead 10-4 with just two four-balls left on the Illinois course on day two, Poulter – partnered by Rory McIlroy – came from two shots down with six to play to birdie five holes in a row to win a vital point on the final green as Europe ended the day 10-6 down, but believing that the most unlikely of golfing ripostes was on.
Winning his own point on the final day, Poulter inspired Europe to famous 14-and-a-half points win to snatch victory from the hosts in the Sunday’s singles for an emotional Jose Maria Olazabal, just weeks after the passing of his great friend Seve Ballesteros.
As the inspiration behind one of the biggest comebacks in sporting history, Poulter now stands as Bjorn’s go-to guy this weekend, but can the Englishman still deliver on the biggest occasion?
With the US team holding all but one player in the world’s top 20 compared to the host’s five – albeit with number one ranked Justin Rose – it could again come down to Poulter to be the driving force, and for his putter to once again to illuminate the suburbs of Paris this weekend.
The 42nd Ryder Cup takes place this weekend, with the opening ceremony on Thursday afternoon, as competition gets under way on Friday morning at Le Golf National in Paris.
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