For two decades the European Ryder Cup side were dubbed as ‘underdogs’ despite trouncing their American counterparts at a canter like it was going out of fashion.
Europe have won seven of the last ten biennial contests – dishing out hammerings in 2018, 2014, 2006 and 2004 while they came back from 10-6 behind to beat the USA in the Miracle at Medinah in 2012.
However, the pendulum has shifted seemingly with Steve Sticker’s young, brash cohort of Stars and Stripes belters who bursting onto the scene in Whistling Straits in 2021 inflicting a record-breaking 19-9 defeat on Pádraig Harrington’s European side.
With an average age of just below 30 two years ago, Zach Johnson’s USA will head to Marco Simone, Rome with their best chance of clinching an away win for the first time since 1993.
This time, Europe are rank outsiders with Luke Donald inheriting a side in transition after an ageing team was pummelled in Wisconsin and uncertainty over the future of LIV players. Someone who knows all too well about being an underdog in the Ryder Cup is Philip Walton who held the winning putt in Oak Hill in 1995.
“Long time ago!” chuckles the Dubliner. “I see it so often on the TV, they keep showing it! Ah it was good times yeah.”
While he believes the Americans will win in September, he singled out the European ability to play with heart and desire.
“I would favour the Americans. They just seem to be more astute. I don’t know what will happen with the players who left for LIV whether they will come back for Europe but I would fancy the Americans to win. You never know though, matchplay is different. Europeans always seem to be good in match play.
“Europe seem to dig deep against the Americans so you never know.
“The fans will play a huge part it’s hard to know how Marco Simone will play because the Europeans don’t really know it. Like the Belfry, everyone knew it, all the Europeans knew Le Golf National very well in France in 2018 so it’s hard to know. This will be interesting to see how the Europeans find the golf course.”
The three-time European Tour winner feels silencing the away American crowd will be key and trying to make the atmosphere as loud as possible for Donald’s charges and he mentioned while the Americans can be loud, they aren’t fond of sticking around when things go against them.
“You have to be quite strong to get through that (American crowd). Playing in front of an American crowd is very hard. I couldn’t understand though that 10,000 people were in the stand behind the green and as soon as my match was finished, I was like ‘where’s everyone gone?’ They were all Americans who didn’t want to hang around for the celebrations.”
Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry look set to form part of the spine of the European team this September but Walton would love to see Seamus Power earn a debut call up and he wouldn’t rule out a certain three-time major winner.
“They’re great players, they’re all great players and I hope the Europeans win it. I hope Seamus Power makes the team, I hope he can get back into form again it would be great to see him make the team. You wouldn’t know Harrington might make the team yet, he’s something else!
“He has another crack at a major in him, he’s so fit.”
Walton was speaking on Saturday evening after shooting a second round 78 at the Irish Legends at Seapoint Golf Links and he still enjoys plotting his way around the golf course.
“Yesterday I played terribly, I haven’t been playing too much golf to be honest with you, I’ve had a rib problem. You don’t enjoy shooting 87 but today was completely different even though I shot 78 I played much better and I played lovely golf so that was enjoyable and each day seems to be getting better.
“I love being around the lads still and seeing everyone, but you have good days and bad days.
“It’s a very good event, very well run I have to say. The golf course is in great nick as well, it’s tough, too tough for me! But yeah, it’s a lovely spot. Hopefully there will be a serious crowd tomorrow.”