Viewed as a dry run for The Ryder Cup in eight months’ time, Darren Clarke will have taken a great deal from his experience of captaining Europe to victory in last week’s EURASIA CUP presented by DRB-HICOM….not least the following:
SAS make a formidable partnership
One of only two pairings who remained in tandem for both the fourballs and foursomes, Shane Lowry and Andy Sullivan proved that their golf games complimented one another as well as their personalities. The happy go lucky pair were all smiles after seeing off Shingo Katayama and Wu Ashun on Friday, before dispatching Katayama and Prayad Marksaeng the following day. Should they both qualify for The Ryder Cup, expect to see Shane and “Sulli” – aka the SAS – repeat their comedy double act.
Stats will play a key role at the Ryder Cup
Last week provided Darren Clarke with his first real opportunity to run the rule over ‘15th Club’, the stats team charged with the task of plotting America’s downfall at Hazeltine National in September. Much of Clarke’s downtime over the festive period was spent poring over the 50-page document they had compiled for him ahead of the EURASIA CUP. According to Clarke, the dossier detailed “everything you could imagine: the golf course, pairings, performance under pressure, consistency, which order the players should tee-off in, who drives the odds, the evens, the best fourballs, the best foursomes…everything conceivable”. Given that Europe recorded a resounding 18½-5½ victory over their Asian counterparts, it’s fair to say that 15th Club passed their first test with flying colours.
Europe’s team spirit is second to none
It has often been cited for Europe’s recent dominance of the Ryder Cup, and that famed team spirit was again in evidence during the EURASIA CUP. The camaraderie in the team room was evident from the very start, with the players clearly enjoying one another’s company both on and off the course. Inevitably, Ian Poulter was invariably at the centre of it all, receiving a Tottenham Hotspur shirt – and the rather more welcome gift of a chocolate cake – as belated presents for his 40th birthday, which he spent in Las Vegas. And the way he celebrated with partner Shane Lowry after winning a game of table tennis was almost as emotional as his eye-bulging, fist-pumping displays at Medinah.
Poulter and Westwood are still a force to be reckoned with
But it was on the course where Poulter really came to the fore, leading from the front as befits a man who relishes the ‘Mano a Mano’, gladiatorial nature of match play golf. Whether it was fourballs, foursomes or singles, Postman Poulter always delivered. Indeed, such was his dominance that he never got to play the last two holes at Glenmarie, as all his matches had finished before then. Fellow Englishman Lee Westwood matched Poulter’s haul of three points from three matches, thereby fully justifying the faith Captain Clarke had shown by picking them as his two wildcards. Their influence was felt just as keenly off the course, as Søren Kjeldsen explained: “It’s been amazing to see the fire in their eyes whenever they’ve given us a team talk this week. We have all seen it on TV for The Ryder Cup and you wonder if it will mean the same for them in the EurAsia Cup, but you could really sense this week that it was massive for them as well, and I think that lifted all of us.”
The kids are alright
Whilst the likes of Poulter and Westwood are Ryder Cup stalwarts, at the other end of the spectrum Matt Fitzpatrick was playing in his first team event as a pro. As with every challenge the baby-faced Yorkshireman has faced in his fledgling career, he took it in his stride and looked every inch a superstar-in-waiting. Despite being just 21 years of age Fitzpatrick betrayed no signs of nerves, winning two points out of a possible three and impressing everyone with the maturity of his displays. Given his placid demeanour, it would be no surprise to see Fitzpatrick remain just as cool in the white-hot atmosphere of a Ryder Cup.
FIFA has overtaken table tennis as the game of choice in the team room
If Fitzpatrick’s performances on the golf course were impressive enough, it was nothing compared to his dexterity at FIFA16 on the PlayStation 4. Whether playing as his beloved Sheffield United or the slightly more glamorous Real Madrid, Fitzpatrick saw off all-comers. Given how popular the console proved, especially with the younger generation, it seems certain Clarke will be ordering one for his team room at Hazeltine.