The Europeans have revenge on their minds, especially considering how the Americans trounced them in record fashion at the 2021 Ryder Cup.
The U.S., with its youngest team ever, won 19-to-9, marking the largest margin of victory in modern Ryder Cup history. By modern, we mean since 1979, when players from all of continental Europe were allowed to play in the Ryder Cup for the first time. Before that, only those from the British Isles could compete.
Irishman Padraig Harrington knows all about that landslide victory, considering he captained the European side in 2021.
So almost two years later, while speaking to the media ahead of this week’s Horizon Irish Open, Harrington sent a startling message to the Americans about the team the Europeans will roll out in Rome.
“I think Europe is very strong this year. I think we’re back,” Harrington said. “I believe we’re back to the 1980s, where our top players are actually the best players in the world. So I think the team is very strong. I think they’re very much in form.”
From 1985 to 1989, the Europeans dominated.
They won in 1985 and 1987 and retained the cup in 1989 after both sides tied at The Belfry in England. Their victory in 1987 marked Europe’s first victory on American soil, which was at Jack’s place—Muirfield Village in Ohio.
During that span, Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, Englishman Nick Faldo, and German Bernhard Langer were regarded as the three best players in the world. Others such as Sam Torrance, Sandy Lyle, and Ian Woosnam helped Europe overpower those competitions too.
But nearly four decades later, similar sentiments can be said about Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, and Viktor Hovland, who will lead the European charge in Italy later this month.
“I think we just caught it on our turndown, their upturn,” Harrington said of the 2021 Ryder Cup, which marked Hovland’s debut in the competition.
“That one extra year of COVID, our team went from peaking to slightly off and never could come back. I said in numerous interviews, that many of these players are going to go on to play their best golf going forward, and they have. You look at Tommy Fleetwood’s playing, you look at Matt [Fitzpatrick] won a major, you look at Tyrrell Hatton playing great, Viktor Hovland.”
Indeed, Fleetwood and Hatton have had masterful years, and Fitzpatrick won the 2022 U.S. Open by a stroke over Will Zalatoris.
McIlroy and Rahm obviously have six combined majors.
And then there is Hovland, the hottest player on the planet after his performances in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
“Europe has gotten a lot stronger in these last two years,” Harrington added. “As for the U.S. — I don’t want to say that they’re weakening in any shape or form, but certainly there’s a number of players that were at their peak at that moment.”
In an interesting twist of fate, Harrington made these remarks at The K Club, the site of the 2006 Ryder Cup.
The Europeans dominated the Americans that week, 18.5-to-9.5, which marked a third straight victory for Europe. The 2004 Ryder Cup, held at Oakland Hills in Michigan, had that same final score.
Harrington remembers those times vividly, and he feels that Europe can get back there with the young and talented players that they have.
And since he made these comments on hallowed ground for the Europeans, perhaps his prophecy will prove true, which will spell trouble for the red, white, and blue for years to come.