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Brennan's brief Why European golf needs some new blood or we will never catch up with the U.S. in the Ryder Cup

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Pondering what might have been: Europe Ryder Cup captain Pádraig Harrington, right, and Paul Casey after USA's victory at Whistling Straits. Photo: PA Wire

Pondering what might have been: Europe Ryder Cup captain Pádraig Harrington, right, and Paul Casey after USA's victory at Whistling Straits. Photo: PA Wire

Pondering what might have been: Europe Ryder Cup captain Pádraig Harrington, right, and Paul Casey after USA's victory at Whistling Straits. Photo: PA Wire

So Europe lost the Ryder Cup last weekend. No surprise there, the away team has lost seven of the last eight Ryder Cups – and the outlier, when Europe won outside Chicago in 2012, is known as the ‘Miracle at Medinah’.

What was surprising was the margin, 19-9, a record thrashing for Padraig Harrington’s European team who ran into a perfect storm that turned what most golf writers thought before the event would be an honourable European loss, say something like 15.5 to 12.5, into a thrashing.

Some of the storm, Harrington might have avoided, like using Shane Lowry in the foursomes, or insisting on more Captains Picks, to try and get the best possible European team into the fray.

But that is only tinkering around the edges, the things Harrington could have done would only have changed the scoreline to something a little more respectable.

What he couldn’t change was running into an American side that, without the two alpha males of US golf for the last two decades in Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson lording it over the team room, suddenly gelled and truly became a team. A team that played magnificent golf, sinking putts all over the place.

The Irish skipper was not responsible either for the fact that the English backbone of so many recent European triumphs, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey, all now 40-somethings, would finally snap. Westwood and Poulter did win their Sunday singles, but on Saturday night the trio had put nothing, not a point, on to the scoreboard for Europe.

You could not hold Harrington accountable for the fact too that Rory McIlroy, in the middle of swing changes, would choose last Friday and Saturday to play dreadful golf, that saw him fail to make a single birdie in two four-ball matches.

And Harrington cannot be blamed for the fact that Europe’s 30-year-olds, already with Ryder Cup experience, have gone missing for the last two years. Think Francesco Molinari, who won five points in the 2018 competition. Where was the big-hitting Belgian Thomas Pieters, the star of the 2016 side, or Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello either. None of them gave Harrington even the slightest excuse to make them a pick – such was their bad form of the last two seasons.

Yes, Europe will be competitive in Rome in two years’ time, partly because the captain, most likely Westwood, will set the course up to suit his team with narrow fairways at 320yards, just where Bryson de Chambeau and Dustin Johnson will land their booming drives. There will be thick rough around the greens too, demanding imagination from players to get out of trouble. Step forward Lowry and Jon Rahm, masters of the art.

But unless the next few years bring forth a few more European talents such as 23-year-0ld Viktor Hovland, we are in for more of these thrashings from the USA in the USA. Just look at the talent this year’s captain Steve Stricker left out of the his team, Patrick Reed, a major champion, Billy Horschel, this year’s matchplay winner, young birdie machines in Sam Burns and Will Zalatoris, a two-time winner on the USPGA Tour this year in Max Homa and the ever-reliable Kevin Na.

In other words, American golf knows it has serious playing resources, a ‘golden generation’. European golf can only hope some new heroes emerge from the shadows in the next few years.

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