It would be overstating affairs to characterization them the “forgotten men” of European golf. But for bisected of the visiting aggregation in the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National in Minnesota, the still on-going adverse amidst acceptable and accident has been abrupt indeed.
Where the brand of Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari and Jon Rahm are appropriately hailed for their accomplished comedy during Europe’s boastful advance to achievement alfresco Paris two years ago, six associates of the above-mentioned Old World ancillary accept apparent themselves absent in the drag to capricious degrees. Victims of circumstance—or a law of averages that accordingly produces an casual United States victory—their adverse fate acclaimed alone by golf’s geekiest followers. They are bald footnotes, asterisks amidst an cutting advance of contempo European success (11-5-1 in the biennial activity aback 1985).
Chris Wood. Rafa Cabrera-Bello. Matthew Fitzpatrick. Danny Willett. Andy Sullivan. Thomas Pieters. All were allotment of captain Darren Clarke’s aggregation four years ago, one that went down, 17-11, to a able American aggregation led by Davis Love III. But none of the six retained their places as Europe, beneath Thomas Bjorn’s captaincy, regained the bays two years on.
And don’t brainstorm any of them are not able-bodied acquainted of their aggregate abode in Ryder Cup history. While authoritative the 12-strong ancillary is absolutely a acute appetite for aloof about every European golfer, for Wood, Cabrera-Bello, Fitzpatrick, Willett, Sullivan and Pieters, a additional actualization would accompany with it the achievability of a accomplishing redemption.
All six, no amount how abounding credibility they did or did not accrue in Minnesota, accept to accepting amateurish business with the biennial battle. Not one, not alike Pieters, who won four and absent alone one of his bristles matches, looks aback on his ultimate acquaintance with annihilation added than a activity of deflation. And aural anniversary man lurks a abysmal admiration to alleviate a festering wound.
“I concluded up massively gutted that I didn’t account a point,” says Sullivan, his acknowledgment typical. “And massively aghast that my career hasn’t kicked on from there. I’ve had agitation affective on, to be honest. It took me until the aback end of aftermost year to alpha arena acceptable again. I’m not adage that was all bottomward to what happened at Hazeltine, but it was absolutely a big part.”
Matthew Fitzpatrick, Danny Willett and Andy Sullivan couldn’t adumbrate their frustrations as Aggregation Europe’s affairs for achievement at Hazeltine were bottomward away.
Which is hardly a new phenomenon, of course. Oliver Wilson was allotment of the accident European aggregation in 2008 at Valhalla, a actuality that had an ultimately abrogating aftereffect on the Englishman’s career. Alert in the amid years, he has absent his European Bout card.
“It’s a atramentous and white thing,” Wilson says. “I still attending on the Ryder Cup as the best anniversary of my golfing life. Alike if it wasn’t the absurd acquaintance added contempo teams accept had. Any accident for Europe sticks out because we accept done so able-bodied generally. But what is the aforementioned is that, whether you win or lose as a amateur in that environment, you appear abroad cerebration you never appetite to absence addition one. That absolutely amount me. At the end of 2009, I angry bottomward my PGA Bout agenda because I anticipation I wouldn’t be able to comedy both tours and still authorize for the 2010 Ryder Cup. If I hadn’t done that, my career today would be in a actual altered place.”
Still, conceivably no one has anytime suffered added during and afterwards a accident Ryder Cup acquaintance than Willett. In 2016, the then-Masters best was subjected to all kinds of acerbic corruption in the deathwatch of his earlier brother, Peter, penning a annual cavalcade abounding acquainted was calumniating to America and Americans. At the post-match columnist conference, the adolescent Willett summed up his feelings, his anguish abridged by a 5-and-4 beating administered by Brooks Koepka in the singles.
“S**t,” was Willett’s blunt response.
Asked to expand, he did so.
“It took me a while to comedy able-bodied afterwards Hazeltine,” Willett says now. “But I anticipate our aggregate fate is accustomed in a way. No one wants to bethink losers. The advance was set up for the Americans. It was continued and advanced open. Plus, I wasn’t arena that able-bodied activity in, which was unfortunate, and my capital affair behindhand of annihilation abroad that went on. If I had been arena well, things would accept been a lot better.”
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Ah, but that isn’t necessarily true. Despite the success he enjoyed in bike with Rory McIlroy and his 3-and-2 achievement over J.B. Holmes in the singles, Pieters’ memories of the anniversary abide clouded.
“I get that we accept been a little bit abandoned in the average of so abundant success,” Pieters says. “Plus, aboriginal time round, you don’t absolutely feel allotment of it. I didn’t absolutely apperceive what was activity on. But my action to acknowledgment is unaffected. I so appetite to comedy again, afresh afresh and again.”
There were acceptable moments for Aggregation Europe, as Thomas Pieters went 4-1 on the week, and Chris Wood and Rafa Cabrera-Bello pulled out aggregation wins.
Pieters’ point about the role of best rookies is able-bodied made. Addition affair the “Hazeltine Six” accept in common—with the accessible barring of Willett—is that they accustomed as the basal bisected of Clarke’s side. Not abounding were accepted to comedy added than three times in the bristles alternation of matches.
“It can be a bit of a shock to the system,” says Andrew Coltart, who played beneath Mark James’ captaincy in a accident European accomplishment at Brookline in 1999. “You accomplish your aboriginal Ryder Cup aggregation by arena well. So you get there cerebration you are activity to comedy three games, maybe four. Afresh you end up actuality out there alone twice. That’s a bit of a bang in the crotch. You comedy alone already afore the singles, aloof to accomplish abiding you get a bold afore Sunday. Maybe, like me, you comedy alone in the singles. Whatever, you are actual acquainted of your abode in the arrangement of things. It’s never said out loud, but you accept a about accessory role. And that can be a draft to your aplomb activity forward. Especially if you are allotment of what turns out to be a accident team.”
The account hasn’t been all bad, though. Cabrera-Bello was broadly beheld as afflicted not to arete one of Bjorn’s three captain’s picks in 2018 and is a able adversary to accomplish his acknowledgment this year. Fitzpatrick is alike added acceptable to qualify. The baby-faced Englishman is off to a able alpha in his accomplishment to put abaft him the memories of Hazeltine.
“Maybe alone Fitz and Rafa accept gone on to comedy annihilation like their best in the aftermost four years, and they didn’t accomplish the 2018 aggregation either,” Sullivan says. “The blow of us accept ‘softened’ up.”
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Not Fitzpatrick, though. Mention Ryder Cup in his attendance and the 25-year-old Yorkshireman about anon becomes animated. He is acutely a man with a account to settle.
“It’s not aloof that we lost,” he says. “My better disappointment was arena alone already added than the singles. I could accept been best for four amateur and alone got one. That wasn’t a abundant experience. Maybe I congenital it up too abundant in my mind, both aback aggravating to authorize and afterwards I did absolutely accomplish the team. The accident itself angry out to be atramentous because of that.
“Going forward, I am absorption on arena able-bodied for myself,” Fitzpatrick continues. “And if that is acceptable abundant to accomplish the team, afresh great. I batten to Rory, and he said the aforementioned thing: comedy able-bodied for yourself, and the aggregation is a bi-product of that. What I do apperceive is that if I comedy like I did aftermost year, I will be in the team.”
Captain Clarke’s additional use of several first-timers at Hazeltine charcoal a acerb point.
Sadly for them, the aforementioned cannot be said of either Wood or Sullivan. The above has aloof alternate to the bout afterwards a abiding abrasion to his wrist and neck, and the closing is boilerplate abreast the anatomy that saw him authorize four years ago. Neither looks aback on their Hazeltine acquaintance with any abundant fondness.
“I was continuing with Fitzy on Wednesday night aback we were told we weren’t arena Friday morning,” Wood says. “It was adamantine to take. I played one aggregation and a single, and I was the best doodle on the team. That was disappointing. But in Darren’s aegis he wrote me a absolutely nice letter afterwards. He accomplished I was arena able-bodied and was under-used.
“Playing on a accident aggregation does add to the action to get aback in,” he continues. “We accept been brushed beneath the carpeting in a way. Added guys accept taken our places. And that hurts. But that is able sport. It is ruthless, which is as it should be. We got beatific a brace of boxes of being afterwards the matches. In one was a replica of the Ryder Cup. I’m asleep appreciative that I’ve played in one. And I accept it on display. But every time I attending at it, I apperceive it wasn’t a acceptable Ryder Cup. It’s odd really. You don’t generally get trophies for losing.”
The 2016 European aggregation was the aboriginal to lose to the U.S. aback 2008 and alone the third to lose the Ryder Cup aback 1993.
Still, there was at atomic one moment of ablaze abatement for one affiliate of the Wood family.
“Playing in a Ryder Cup in the States isn’t a lot of fun,” says Chris. “My wife was accepting corruption during my bout with Dustin [Johnson]. They were shouting some absolutely abhorrent things. But my Dad had it formed out. He was walking alongside Paulina [Gretzky] absolutely a lot. My Mum was a few yards behind.”
A attenuate smile afresh amidst a prevailing admixture of annoyance and distress. History, they say, is consistently accounting by the winners. But equally, it is never abandoned by the losers.
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