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.

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
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

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam