Europe captures first Hero Cup, but the real reward is a stronger Ryder Cup side

Europe captures first Hero Cup, but the real reward is a stronger Ryder Cup side

World golf rankings can often leave people scratching their heads.

Despite earning his third win in his last five starts with a thrilling victory at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, Jon Rahm remains stuck at No. 5 in the world order. The anomalies, peculiarities and curiosities of the official classification system have bothered the Spanish for some time.

In his own eyes, however, he knows where he should be in that particular order of merit.

“I feel that since August I am the best player in the world,” he declared with justifiable confidence.

After the first hole of the final round, Rahm trailed runaway leader Collin Morikawa by nine shots. However, golf is a strange old business. With the kind of rampant assault that might have been accompanied by mounted cavalry, Rahm galloped home with a 10-under 63, while Morikawa, who led the field by six after 54 holes, stumbled to the line with a finish. riddled with bogeys that was dirty.

It was some fantastic stuff from Rahm. We often say that when Rory McIlroy is in full swing, there’s no better show in golf. However, when Rahm is out on a thrilling foray, he too becomes quite the captivating sight, as he unleashes booming impulses, conjures up small chips and slams on putts with clinical gusto.

If all goes well, he will be the linchpin of the European Ryder Cup squad for the September fight in Rome. Meanwhile, last weekend in Abu Dhabi, a host of hopefuls had the chance to show off their Ryder Cup credentials in the new Hero Cup, a team event between Great Britain and Ireland and the European continent.

It’s basically a rehash of the old Seve Trophy – not keeping the ‘Seve’ name has sunk like a bag of keys in certain quarters, and is seen as a valuable addition to the Ryder Cup build-up.

Many have said so, former European captain Paul McGinley for one, but the lack of another team contest for would-be European Ryder Cup players to bleed into became a growing concern gap.

When, for example, the EurAsia Cup, a match in non-Ryder Cup years between European and Asian players, was quietly called off in 2019, another important cog in the build-up to Europe’s Ryder Cup was lost.

Prior to the EurAsia Cup, the aforementioned Seve Trophy and Royal Trophy provided worthwhile platforms, but would eventually wither on the vine. In many ways all of these events served a valuable purpose in terms of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal and were seen as part of the successful formula that helped create European cohesion and continuity.

They all gave potential Ryder Cup players a taste of the team room atmosphere, playing in the foursomes and fourballs format and generally mingling with their colleagues.

Meanwhile, as a breeding ground for future European captains, the test of a Seve Trophy or EurAsia Cup was hugely beneficial. McGinley never underestimated its value.

“I would not have been [Ryder Cup] captain without the ability to prove myself in the Seve Trophy,” he said of those stints at the helm of GB&I in 2009 and 2011 before his triumphant Ryder Cup captaincy in 2014.

In this transitional year for Europe, Luke Donald, the continent’s Ryder Cup captain, was keen to revive such an outing and the weekend affair gave him a fuller picture of the emerging talent at his disposal in a team setting. .

Francesco Molinari captained Europe in a 14.5-10.5 win over GB&I in the event’s debut, leading the veteran to add that “European golf is in very good hands.”

Donald has the solid foundations on his side for Rome (McIlroy, Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick, et al), but the early opportunity to get a close look at prospects who could also qualify, or nab a couple of his six wild-card picks, certainly provided plenty of material for his burgeoning Ryder Cup archives.


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Ryder Cup practice round

Ryder Cup practice round

The story originally appeared on GolfWeek

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