DEREK LAWRENSON: Europe's Ryder Cup team will be oldest of all time
DEREK LAWRENSON: The oldest swingers in town… Europe’s Ryder Cup is set to be packed with 40-somethings, with Lee Westwood, Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia in fine form – and Ian Poulter once again showcasing his matchplay brilliance
- Europe’s older golfers could form a major part of the Ryder Cup team this year
- Lee Westwood, 47, and Ian Poulter, 45, are in the form of their careers at present
- Paul Casey, 44, and Sergio Garcia, 41, are also in contention for a Europe spot
- The ‘Women’s Masters’ begins this week which can produce influential moments
When Europe won the Ryder Cup for the first time on American soil in 1987, the oldest player in the team was Eamonn Darcy, who had just turned 35. When they won by a record margin at Oakland Hills, Detroit, in 2004, only Colin Montgomerie and Miguel Angel Jimenez had tip-toed over the age of 40.
What a difference this time. It might be five months before this year’s teams are finalised but it’s shaping up for Europe to field their oldest Ryder Cup side of all time.
Following a fabulous three months for those of a grey-flecked persuasion, as many as six of the team could be in their forties. There will certainly be a vivid contrast with the American line-up.
Lee Westwood, 47, could be part of a very experienced Ryder Cup team for Europe this year
Colin Montgomerie (middle) was just over 40 when he led Europe to Ryder Cup glory in 2004
With Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson gone, the oldest player in the top 15 in the US automatic standings is world No 1 Dustin Johnson, at the ripe old age of 36.
Of the rest of the top nine, seven are aged 30 or younger while Tony Finau is 31. It’s quite feasible this American team will have an average age that’s six or seven years younger than their opponents.
We thought this Ryder Cup would see a similar evolution for Europe but, right now, the old boys are earning the right to play on.
Three of the European veterans are playing so well that they look stitched on already for a place in the team. There’s Lee Westwood, who’s showing his best form for a decade or so on the cusp of his 48th birthday.
He will surely be joined by Paul Casey, who will be 44, and Sergio Garcia, 41, Europe’s record points scorer who still looked the best ball-striker in the field at the World Match Play last week.
As he showed in Texas, Ian Poulter is still one of Europe’s best despite being 45 years of age
There’s Ian Poulter, now 45 but, as he showed in Austin, still one of Europe’s top dozen when it comes to the wiles and strategy of 18 holes of matchplay.
That’s before we come to the Ryder Cup partnership that has been a rock for Europe. Can we really envisage skipper Padraig Harrington not picking Justin Rose, once he overcomes his back injury and if he starts showing some form over the summer? Then there’s Henrik Stenson, struggling to keep the ball on the planet right now, admittedly, but he’s been wild before and put it behind him.
It’s not a massive stretch to imagine them all making the team, is it? Well, five of them anyway. Helping their cause is the fact that the rest of the team will provide a necessary counter-balance.
The oldest is likely to be Rory McIlroy, who will be 32 by September, with two debutants in Viktor Hovland from Norway and Victor Perez from France. Add Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick, and you’ve got a side with an intriguing blend.
It’s also one that, at 34 years and eight months, would have an average age higher than the age of 11 members of Tony Jacklin’s team at Muirfield Village in 1987.
Back then they danced on tables with the fans and partied all night. Triumph this time, and they might be asking the fans to keep the noise down.
Is it really true that when I step on to the first tee for the first time in over three months on Tuesday, there will be just a gentle breeze and unbroken warm sunshine?
I’ve been lucky enough to play my home course, a gem of a links, on hundreds of occasions. But I can’t remember ever being quite as excited as this. Golf is back!
‘WOMEN’S MASTERS’ IS SET TO INSPIRE
The majors season begins this week with the women’s equivalent of the Masters, the 50th edition of the tournament sponsored by All Nippon Airways going by the lovely name of the ANA Inspiration.
It’s an event that has certainly produced some inspirational moments over the years. Few were better than Amy Alcott’s euphoric celebration in 1988, when she took one look at her caddie before they both jumped into the adjacent Poppie’s Pond to start a tradition that somehow I don’t see being copied any time soon at Augusta.
The ‘Women’s Masters’ begins this week with Nelly Korda (above) one of the major contenders
This was the event dominated for a few years by the mighty Swede Annika Sorenstam, as she forged her reputation as perhaps the best woman golfer of all time, winning it on three occasions and finishing runner-up on three more.
Now, there’s plenty of intrigue. While their brother Sebastian has been underlining his promise at the Miami Open tennis, what price a first major for one of the gifted Korda sisters, Jess and Nelly?
Alongside the plethora of winners from the host nation, there have been champions hailing from six other countries but none so far from these isles, although Charley Hull finished tied second in 2016. Imagine winning the 50th?
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