Ryder Cup 2021: Sports writers look ahead to competition
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After three long years, one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the golfing calendar finally returns this month, as Team Europe and Team USA once again battle it out for the Ryder Cup.
The tournament – now in its 43rd edition – was set to take place last year in Wisconsin, however the COVID-19 pandemic put a stop to that, delaying the usual biennial event by an extra 12 months.
As a result, this delay added plenty of extra time onto qualifying for the hopefuls on both sides, thus resulting in some of golf’s biggest names missing out on a chance to play in the biggest theatre of the golfing world.
This year’s tournament sees a remarkable nine rookies taking to the field, with six coming from the American side, making up half of their team.
Olympic gold medalist Xander Schauffele, FedEx Cup winner Patrick Cantlay, Open champion Collin Morikawa will all make their debuts, as well as Harris English, Scottie Scheffler and Daniel Berger.
Meanwhile, Shane Lowry, Bernd Wiesberger and Viktor Hovland all come into the European setup for the very first time.
With plenty of new faces heading to Wisconsin, a number of big names have consequently missed out, and here is a look at some of these star absentees.
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First up is of course the biggest name in the golfing world, Tiger Woods. However his absence comes as no surprise.
The 82-time PGA Tour winner has not featured in an event since the 2020 Masters in November last year, following a number of back problems and a horrific car accident.
Woods was involved in the crash in February of this year in Los Angeles, as the golfing great was in the area to host the Genesis Invitational at the Riviera Country Club the day before.
Following the incident, the 2019 Masters champion was required to undergo surgery on his severely injured left leg, and has therefore not been able to get out on the golf course since.
Another American great who will not be taking to the course this year is Phil Mickelson.
Despite becoming the oldest man to win a major title at this year’s PGA Championship, ‘Lefty’ endured a difficult 2021 campaign, therefore meaning he was unable to stake a claim into the USA team.
However, the 12-time Ryder Cup player will still be more than involved at Whistling Straits this week, after Steve Stricker appointed the six-time major winner as one of his vice captains.
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A somewhat surprising absence in the hosts’ team came when 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed missed out on a spot. Reed – who has played in three straight Ryder Cups – has cemented himself as one of Team USA’s hottest matchplay players in recent years, even earning himself the nickname ‘Captain America’.
However, injury and illness in recent months hampered his chances of qualifying for this week’s event, as captain Stricker took the difficult decision to leave the 31-year-old out of his team due to his ongoing fitness problems.
One of the gaping absences from the European setup is three-time Ryder Cup winner Justin Rose. After being unable to qualify automatically for Team Europe, the 2013 US Open champion was relying on an all-important wildcard pick from captain Padraig Harrington.
And after an impressive performance in the final week of qualifying at last week’s BMW Championship, many tipped the Englishman to secure a captain’s pick, as it seemed he had finally found some form to go alongside his glittering Ryder Cup record.
However, it seemed too little too late for Rose, after skipper Harrington instead decided to go with his fellow Irishman Shane Lowry as his final wildcard pick instead.
As well as Rose, one man who will also not be wearing the blue and gold of Europe this time around, is 2018 star Franceso Molinari.
The italian announced himself as one of the Ryder Cup greats in Paris three years ago, as his fairytale partnership alongside teammate Tommy Fleetwood, saw the pair take all four points across the three days earning the dynamic duo the nickname ‘Moliwood’.
However the ‘Moliwood’ love story will be no more in Wisconsin, as a wretched two years from the 2018 Open champion meant he slipped way out of contention for a spot in Harrington’s team.
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