In the aftermath of a record-breaking loss to the United States, European players were no doubt delighted that there are two years to go before another Ryder Cup. The flip side is that this is a short time to implement a changing of the guard. Steve Stricker’s side, who beat Europe 19-9, had an average age of 26. Europe, at 35, looked geriatric by comparison.
The unwritten rule of Europe and the Ryder Cups tells us that Pádraig Harrington will bow out after just one stint as captain. Lee Westwood is the clear favorite to lead Europe to Rome in 2023, which would make his singles victory over Harris English his final act of play in this event. Westwood, now 48, remains wary of what his future holds.
“I guess I’ll have three or four months to think about it, but people keep coming back and saying, ‘Are you going to be the captain in Rome?’ I’d rather play but Father Time isn’t nice, is he? he said. “Believe me, it’s better to play than to watch.
“Being the captain of the Ryder Cup is a huge honor and something I would like to do. Why not you ? I’m sure Pádraig enjoyed it, although it didn’t go well for him. It must be some time in my future but I don’t want to let go yet. I still feel competitive.
In the cold light of the day, one has to assume that the captain’s job will make a lot more sense for Westwood than trying to qualify. The Englishman is also smart enough to envision the likely outcomes. The weekend showed that Europe needs young talent – like the remarkable Norwegian Viktor Hovland – to complement Jon Rahm, Sergio García, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Shane Lowry. The two best players in the order of merit of the European Tour are Americans.
“The United States had theirs,” Ian Poulter said of the personnel reviews, pointing out that Tiger Woods was absent while Phil Mickelson was only present as a vice-captain. “You know they’ve passed the baton,” he said.
“In the team room on Saturday there were a few emotional speakers and you just wish you were 20 again.
“It’s hard, when you’ve played so many [and been] part of so many successful teams; difficult when you get older and know that so many better days are behind you.
“We have a great crop of young players. Our young players can grow over the next few years, just like the Americans did. “
Poulter rightly referred to twins Højgaard, Nicolai and Rasmus, who at 20 are already European Tour winners. Predicting future Ryder Cup teams is a wild ride – just ask Matteo Manassero – but this pair seems destined for the top. Italian Guido Migliozzi, tied for fourth at the US Open, continues to make his way to the top 50 in the world. Robert MacIntyre’s major performances have been remarkable.
“The future is bright for European golfers,” said Westwood. “It’s easy to say Jon Rahm is world class because he’s the No. 1 in the world, but watching him and Sergio is like watching Seve and Olly.
“It keeps rocking, doesn’t it?” We prepared the course for us, narrow the fairways, have a thick rough. They prepared it for them, they cut all the ground and the home advantage is huge. It was even bigger this time with no crowds [backing Europe].
“You don’t expect a lot of support but other than a handful there was none this week. Not that this is an excuse. We have just been dominated and overwhelmed.
If Westwood takes over as captain, there will be no repeat of the messy conclusion to the qualifying campaign that eclipsed the PGA Championship at Wentworth. Westwood would also prefer to increase the generic choices from three to four. “But that’s the right thing, different captains have different ideas,” he said.
Westwood and Poulter praised Harrington. “Paddy has done some amazing things this week,” Poulter said. “I hope I don’t read the papers on Tuesday and see things that will upset me.
“Paddy and [his wife] Caroline gave herself body and soul for three years. They made us all feel comfortable. You just have to take your hat off to the American team.
And find out how to stop them.