Former Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam has singled out Jon Rahm as Team Europe’s key man as they prepare to take on Team USA this weekend. Woosnam, 63, played in eight Ryder Cups before famously captaining Europe in 2006, leading them to a record equalling 18.5-9.5 victory at the K Club in Dublin.
This time around however, the odds are against the Europeans. Travel regulations due to Covid-19 mean the visitors will enjoy just a fraction of their usual support at Whistling Straits, a course which appears to favour the big-hitting of the Americans.
However, speaking to bettingexpert.com, Woosnam said he felt Rahm, the current world number one who this season captured his first Major title by winning the US Open in June, is the man best equipped to take things to the home side.
“You’ve got to look at Jon Rahm – he’s their (Europe’s) danger man,” he said.
“Who really stands out as a fantastic match player and who’s aggressive? I’m looking at Poulter and Rahm.”
JUST IN: Ian Poulter gives his Ryder Cup verdict on Europe’s chances against the US
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Woosnam also touched on the potential of Bryson DeChambeau to be a destructive force for Team USA, although thinks the weather conditions could work against the 28-year-old.
DeChambeau has notoriously added muscle mass in order to increase his swing speed and hit the ball farther, and Woosnam said: “If he’s on form, and bashing that ball 350 yards, it could be demoralising for us. I don’t think you’re going to get away with doing that at that golf course. It’s a golf course, you’ve got to get in the right position, it’s windy.”
The Americans have been made clear favourites with the bookies, but whilst Woosnam acknowledges them as favourites, he says the friction in Steve Stricker’s team could well hinder them.
“Team USA is so much stronger on paper, but that doesn’t matter. Look at the years we’ve gone to America and been the weaker team on paper, but what we’ve done is perform better as a team,” said Woosnam, who played when Europe regained the Ryder Cup on American soil at Oak Hill in 1995.
“Even already, you’ve got (tension between) Brooks Koepka and DeChambeau. For me, you’re going to do a lot of press before the match starts and the press could play a lot into this.”
Last week, another former Team Europe captain in Paul McGinley warned against Padraig Harrinton’s team “throwing a grenade” into the American dressing-room by trying to hype up the spat between Koepka and DeChambeau, but Woosnam hinted he thinks it’s worth playing on.
“They could wind them up a little bit! It’ll be interesting to see how Stricker deals with it all and how they get on as a team.”
Europe are going in off the back of regaining the trophy in Paris three years ago, but since that triumph at Oak Hill 26 years ago, have won just twice in America – in 2004 under Bernhard Langer and then in 2012 in Medinah – after an incredible final day fightback where Jose María Olazabal’s side came from 10-6 down to prevail 14.5-13.5.
The tournament gets underway today at 1:05pm BST, and it’s Rahm to will be first up with fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who are paired against Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
Harrington has also paired Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter together, who face American rookies Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele.
England’s Paul Casey and Norwegian Viktor Hovland, who at 24 is the youngest player in the European side, face Open champion Collin Morikawa and world number two Dustin Johnson while Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick take on Koepka and Daniel Berger.
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