Europe won’t be provoked into any knee-jerk reactions to the record Ryder Cup defeat, says one of the men who will pick the captain for Rome in 2023.
David Howell was a member of the winning and record-setting European Ryder Cup teams of 2004 and 2006. He now has a senior role on Tour as chair of the powerful Tournament Players Committee, which sets the qualifying process for the European team.
As part of his – elected – role, he will shortly join with the three most recent captains – Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn and Padraig Harrington – to select the next one.
He believes that Europe were just beaten by a better team at Whistling Straits.
‘They just outplayed us’
“The long and short of it was they were strong on paper and they were strong on grass,” he said. “I think it was more to do with the brilliance of their performance rather than anything our team did wrong. They just outplayed us.
“They were a college team, weren’t they? They just looked like a college team without any fear, worry or stress. No scar tissue. They are all surging towards the top of the world rankings, they are making gazillions each year.
“They feel like they are the best players in the world. They are youngsters. They are major winners. It’s the team you would want and they performed exactly as you thought they might.”
That said, Europe can still be confident going to Rome in two years, he thinks.
‘We’ve done it to them twice’
“It’s a cycle, isn’t it?” he continued. “We’ve done it to them twice and we’ve done it away from home once in ‘04.
“There were a lot of top players that weren’t there. (Franceso) Molinari, (Martin) Kaymer, who won at Whistling Straits, (Henrik) Stenson, (Justin) Rose, all not in the side. Big, big players and big characters that any side is going to miss collectively.
“(The US) are going to be very strong the next time round, we know that. But we’ve had Viktor Hovland come from nowhere the last two years.
“He’ll be there and there might be some kid we’ve never heard of or someone who is just breaking onto the tour who might make it. We’ve also got some class players who missed out on this team.
“It’s almost like a two-stage journey for European a golfer. Unless you do a Viktor and go straight onto the PGA Tour. But that’s a rarity.
“It’s not quite so easy on this side of the pond to suddenly make it there unless you are absolutely the best in the world at an early age. There are one or two steps before making it to a Ryder Cup team.”
‘You can’t legislate for that’
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) September 26, 2021
The European team certainly care deeply about the event, he added, witnessed by Rory McIlroy’s reaction after his game on Sunday.
“You saw the emotion coming out of Rory, who had such a tough week,” continued That was a wonderful interview, really, as it showed just what it means.
“The watching public are always sceptical, asking, ‘does it mean anything?’ Yeah, it really does and that was good to see.
“Yeah, for him to get beaten up like that on the first two days, you can’t legislate for that. Even if he’s not on top form, you think he is going to play potentially better than he is.
“Jon Rahm did his bit. But Paddy really needed two or three players to have a dream week.”
‘It is heading that way at times’
I LOVE hearing a crowd BOOOO a man RIGHT TO HIS FACE after missing a putt for his continent
The Ryder Cup environment is the best environment in golf.. BY FAR pic.twitter.com/wZbKfe3X6q
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) September 25, 2021
Howell also believes the crowd at Whistling Straits had an effect on the Europeans.
“The atmosphere was tough. It was hard to feed off anything and they were a tough crowd, there’s no doubt about it.
“Obviously the booing wasn’t quite what you want as a sport, but it is heading that way at times and it did last week again.
“With no one to temper that, I am sure it must have been difficult to get any positivity out there.”