Europe's big guns can call the shots

Paul Azinger will take his UnitedStates team to the Muhammad Ali Museum in Louisville on Monday night, and they will then be granted an audience with The Greatest. It can only be hoped that when Ali tells them about "rope-a-dope" they do not mishear it as "dopes inside the ropes". Otherwise Phil Mickelson and Co might believe he was referring to their previous two Ryder Cup performances.

A record fourth defeat in a row for the star-mangled banner and such cheap quips will be everywhere. Consider that before 1985 they had not been floored in 13 stagings of the biennial scrap. Of course, Europe's inclusion in 1979 has undoubtedly played a massive role in this staggering reversal of the fortunes, but even those pioneers of the early Eighties – Tony Jacklin, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and yes, Nick Faldo – could never have anticipated just what they were triggering. Some suggest their heroics may even have been the beginning of the end. Any more drubbings and there is a danger America will simply switch off.

They are two schools of thought on this subject, and Sam Torrance leads the way in the brigade that screech: "Absolute rubbish!", pointing out that until Europe started winning there was no live coverage Stateside of the Ryder Cup anyway. "The event is bigger than all that," says the 2002 captain. "It'll last forever."

Others are not so optimistic. Even Mickelson warns: "If the excitement of the Ryder Cup is to be maintained it is important the US starts winning."

Here it must be suggested that some of the excitement would return if the US were even to start competing. Azinger has been understandably loath to admit that it would be a success on his part if his side were to run Europe close. But that must be on the mind of the man who is fond of repeating "Hapless" Hal Sutton's observation – "It took a generation to get us in this mess, and it will take a generation to get us out of it" – when he scans down the respective line-ups. While the Yanks used to have most of the big names and the Euros most of the big characters, now the Euros have most of the big names and the Euros have most of the big characters. In the past, Tiger Woods has levelled up the contest on paper, but in his absence there is a huge minus column on the home half of the sheet whichever way you look at it.

For America to be in the hunt as the holes count down on Sunday evening, Azinger must rely on a few things. The first, most obvious, one will be his senior men turning around their recent Ryder form. Mickelson is the embodiment of dismal American failure, as his half-point out of five return at the K Club signified. He, Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink and even the returning Justin Leonard must go out strong and allow the rookies to pick up in their slipstream.

Boo Weekley, Anthony Kim and JB Holmes are certainly cap-able of doing so, and in the first-named Azinger has a quite marvellous personality who could bring a smile to their team room and a belly-roar to their crowd. Boo was born for the Ryder Cup, and if Azinger can find him a fun-loving partner (Hunter Mahan, anyone?) America could well have their inspiration. But that will be no easy task; none of Azinger's pairings will be. Some of Faldo's, meanwhile, fall offthe page (Westwood-Garcia,Stenson-Karlsson, Harrington-McDowell, Rose-Poulter).

Naturally, there is always home advantage to be considered, and Mickelson's provocative statement to Graeme McDowell recently – "These guys won't be golf fans, they will be Nascar fans. They're going to be drinking beer" – does suggest the Kentuckians might be imbued with a bit of the Brookline spirit. Azinger has no way of controlling that – if indeedhe wants to – but his decision to cut down the rough and widen the fairways met with a raise of the eyebrow from Padraig Harrington yesterday.

"That's the strangest thing of all," said the back-to-back major winner. "They have the longest hitter in Holmes, but we have the next four longest in Stenson, Karlsson, Westwood and Garcia.So for Azinger to make it a course for the big boys could backfire."

What surely will not backfire are the lightning-quick greens Azinger has demanded, and if Europe fall down anywhere it could be there. Or it could be the antics of Captain Faldo. Ian Poulter is adept enough to justify his "friend's" wild-card pick, though again Harrington was willing to stir the pot. "Darren Clarke will be missed both in the team room and on the course," he said.

Faldo cannot allow any resentment to fester. Or then, perhaps he should. The Ryder Cup needs fireworks from some direction, and it is unlikely to see many lit on the course. Europe by five.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project