Le Golf National in Paris is the stage for this year’s Ryder Cup and it promises to be cracker.
There’s a star-studded array of talent on both teams but the course provides an interesting contest with water featuring prominently on key holes.
Who remembers that epic battle between Rory McIlory and Patrick Reed at Hazeltine two years ago? Let’s hope for plenty more of that.
Friday morning is where it all begins – fourballs matches followed by foursomes in the afternoon – with captains Thomas Bjorn and Jim Furyk to announce their pairings at Thursday’s opening ceremony.
On that note, let’s quickly remind ourselves of the stars that will be on show this weekend for Europe and the USA.
For the Europeans there is: Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen, with Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson making up the four wildcard picks.
While the US team is made up of: Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson, with wildcard selections Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau.
Furyk‘s side will be looking to replicate what they did under Davis Love III in 2016 where they were victorious by 17 points to 11.
“There’s not a worry on my end of any overconfidence or complacency,” said the American captain.
“No one is putting the cart before the horse here.”
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Ryder Cup: Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn pose with the trophy
You don’t want to fall behind and see your whole plan that you’ve laid out falling apart in that first session
Ryder Cup European captain Thomas Bjorn
Bjorn, meanwhile, admitted he dreads a repeat of the opening session whitewash from two years ago which set the United States on their way to Ryder Cup glory in Minnesota.
Bjorn was serving as a vice-captain to Darren Clarke in 2016 as Europe suffered a 4-0 defeat in the Friday foursomes.
“I think you build your whole mind up about that first day, and how you see that evolving, and you obviously have a plan for Saturday, but that can change from where you are,” he said.
“You don’t want to fall behind and see your whole plan that you’ve laid out falling apart in that first session, and that’s what it did for Darren. It’s not easy as a captain.
“I would dread being 4-0 down after Friday morning’s session, but I think any captain would do that.
“You can’t do anything but second-guess yourself if you’re in that situation but in the end, players have to go out on the golf course and play their golf and do the things that they need to do on the golf course.
“That was an unfortunate start for us last time, and hopefully we’re not in that situation on Friday.”
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Ryder Cup course Le Golf National
Well, plenty of drama for a start. There’s no prize money on the line for the players so they’re playing for pride and bragging rights.
But like any major sporting event, fans are always on the lookout for a good bet.
So we’ve teamed up with Betfair to run you through some of the top picks for the 2018 Ryder Cup.
Betfair golf expert Joe Dyer said: “The USA are warm favourites to lift the 2018 Ryder Cup and break a 25 year stretch without a win on European shores.
“Jim Furyk’s team are 10/11 in Betfair’s Ryder Cup winner market, with Europe 11/8 and the tie a 12/1 shot.
Ryder Cup: Jordan Spieth practices ahead of Friday’s opening matches
“Those who want to take the tie out of the equation – a final score of 14-14 would see the Samuel Ryder trophy return with Furyk and co – can back USA to lift the trophy at 4/6.”
They may have a long-running drought on European soil, but American golfers have dominated the sport this season and come in to the Ryder Cup as justifiable favourites.
Dyer added: “Their team holds three of the current majors, thanks to Patrick Reed’s Masters win and Brooks Koepka’s victories in both the US Open and USPGA, and based on average world ranking this is the strongest USA team we have ever seen.
“But, on paper, USA almost always looks unbelievably strong and yet regularly struggle away from the familiarity of home.
“You have to rewind to The Belfry in 1993 for the last victory by a United States team on the road. And of course the score stands at Europe 8-3 USA since that victory for Tom Watson’s men.
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“Course experience is very much in Europe’s favour, too, with only Bubba Watson and Justin Thomas playing the Open de France in recent years.
“Flip it back, however, and the US are the reigning champs thanks to their trouncing of Europe last time out.
“A further positive comes from Tiger Woods’ Tour Championship victory on Sunday, his 80th on the PGA Tour. It’s a puzzle alright!”
Despite the USA looking well placed to retain their title, Dyer reckons a few European stars could steal the show this weekend.
“Betfair has a huge amount of markets to pick from this year, covering all sorts of eventualities,” said Dyer.
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Ryder Cup: Who are you backing?
“Those keen on backing at big prices should head to the top scorer markets as a couple of debutants catch the eye in the top European market.
“Tommy Fleetwood, available at 7/1 with three places paid at a fifth the odds, won the 2017 Open de France and his long, accurate driving will be a weapon across all the sessions for Thomas Bjorn.
“The 2016 tournament was lit up by Thomas Pieters and I wonder if Jon Rahm is going to do something similar.
“The massive-hitting Spaniard loves the course and is the type of character who could feed off the tournament’s energy. At 8/1 he looks worth an investment.”
Rahm, 23, finished fifth and 10th in two appearances at the Open de France.
For more betting previews on the Ryder Cup head to: https://betting.betfair.com/golf/
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Sky Sports will be broadcasting live coverage of the Ryder Cup in the UK.
Existing customers will also be able to stream the action via the Sky Go app, which can be downloaded across a host of iOS and Android devices.
If you don’t have a Sky Sports subscriptions but still wish to tune in, golf fans can purchase a Sky Sports pass through NOW TV.
Day passes, which give you access to Sky Sports channels for 24 hours, cost £7.99 a day, with a weekly pass priced at £12.99 and no locking into a contract.
The BBC will broadcast a highlights show on TV every evening.
On Friday and Saturday the highlights show will start at 8.30pm on BBC2, while Sunday’s show will air at 7.30pm on the same channel.
Read more here: Daily Express :: Sport Feedhappy wheels
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