Posted by Rob Weider on

Looking ahead to the 2018 Ryder Cup

Looking ahead to the 2018 Ryder Cup

Ryder cup - Rob Weider

I love the Ryder Cup. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that for me, it isn’t just the best golf tournament in the world – it is actually one of the best tournaments in any sport. Why? Well, first and foremost there’s the incredibly competitive format itself. The rivalry between the two teams – the USA and Europe – is fierce, and unsurpassed in golf. It’s uniquely pressurised, as players who are used to playing only for themselves discover what happens to their game when they have the weight of the expectations of an entire continent on their shoulders.

Of course, this is a group of players who know each other well, who have toured together, and who have won and lost against each other over the course of the year. But there is something so purely raw and competitive about the Ryder Cup, with its complex team dynamics and the sense you get as a spectator that you’re getting to watch the 12 best European golfers taking on the 12 best Americans. That makes it uniquely irresistible. And the match play format really encourages these 24 players – who are fired up anyway – to really go for it and play aggressively.

And for me, the other big factor that makes the Ryder Cup stand out is the crowds. With the exception of a few notable American tournaments, golf fans are generally a fairly genteel bunch. Not at the Ryder Cup however – you’ll get chanting, cheering and just a fantastically rowdy atmosphere.

Firm favourites

So, it’s a special event – but what have we got to look forward to this year? The top line is that the US might be the hot favourites – but for me, I think it is going to be fascinating to see how the new PGA Tour world number one, England’s Justin Rose, will play and the effect his new status will have on the outcome. He’s had quite a journey to reach the pinnacle of the PGA Tour, and in a sense there is nothing left for him to achieve in the game. If that helps to take the pressure off him a little now going into the Ryder Cup, and allows him to just play his own naturally brilliant brand of golf, he could make a huge impact for the European team.

A tough ask for Europe

But beyond Rose’s successful year, there hasn’t been much for Europe to cheer about. Out of the four Major titles, three are held by players from the US – and that, for most observers, doesn’t bode well for Europe’s top players. But there have been some signs of recovery. The recent FedEx Cup playoffs – which helps to determine the 125 golfers who will retain their PGA Tour playing privileges next year – saw a European resurgence of sorts, with Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Open champion Francesco Molinari and Jon Rahm all playing well. How much of this rise in form carries over into the Ryder Cup remains to be seen, but it is to be hoped that we might have a little more of a competition on our hands that some might think.

That said, this is an American team that I really like the look of. It is strong, right the way through all 12 players, with a lot of young, talented golfers. But there is also a wonderful blend of both younger and older players too, with old hands like Phil Mickelson and yes, Tiger Woods, who can bring the experience this team might need to get it over the line.

Europe are on home territory. Many of them will know the course in Paris well, and that familiarity might bring a small advantage (although I don’t doubt that the Americans will have done their homework too).

But for me, this European team is a real work in progress. There are a lot of young, strong players who are hungry for success on the biggest stage. And I really do firmly believe that this group of European golfers will experience Ryder Cup success. I’m just not so sure that they will do it this time around.

Robert Weider 

Posted by Rob Weider on

Preview: The US Masters – Robert Weider

Preview: The US Masters – Robert Weider

The US Masters preview - robert weider

I love Augusta and the US Masters. I, of course, enjoy the competition and the golfing challenge it represents, but I’m also fascinated by the history of the place and by the unique atmosphere this tournament generates. For me, it one of those signs that spring – and maybe even summer – is on its way. There is something truly special about the sights and sounds of this incredible event, from the spectacular displays of azaleas to the roaring crowds in the evening sunshine as the new champion pulls on their green jacket. It’s just pure sporting magic. So, what’s in store for the US Masters for 2018? Here are my thoughts on what to look out for in Augusta this year.

Can 2018 top 2017? And will this be Rory’s year?

Last year’s Masters provided some fantastic entertainment, with Sergio Garcia winning his long-awaited first Major victory after finally beating Justin Rose in an exciting play-off.  There are certainly enough storylines this year to keep fans gripped right to the end – not least, whether Rory McIlroy will finally be able to complete his career Major Grand Slam. This year’s US Masters will be the fourth time that Rory returns to Augusta with the Grand Slam in his sights, and his recent 64 at Bay Hill to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational by three shots from Bryson DeChambeau suggests that he might be hitting form at the right time. Whether he does it or not, let’s just hope that it all comes down to as exciting a finale as last year’s Masters.

The unknown quantity: Tiger Woods

I admit it – it seems completely ridiculous to call someone who is pretty much the most famous golfer of all time an ‘unknown quantity’, but in many ways that is exactly what he is as we head towards the US Masters this year. His troubles over the last few years – on and off the golf course – are well documented, and so I’ve been delighted to see him back in action in recent months. But which Tiger Woods will turn up at Augusta this year? Will it be the player who looked a shadow of his former self at the Open in 2014, or will it be the revitalised and occasionally sparkling player who has been thrilling the crowds again since his recent return to competitive golf? As a golf fan, I certainly hope it’s the latter.

Can the Brits do it again?

Remember Danny Willett’s remarkable win back in 2016? In one of my favourite moments in recent Masters history, Danny became only the second English player to win at Augusta. While asking him to repeat that fantastic effort this year might be a step to far, it might well be the year that another Englishman, Justin Rose, finally stops being the bridesmaid at the Masters. He’s been runner up twice, in 2015 behind the winner Jordan Spieth and of course last year in the playoff. He’s clearly got the talent to take on Augusta – let’s just hope that he holds his nerve to claim to the top prize this year. Apart from Justin, keep a close eye on fellow Brits Tyrrell Hatton, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Tommy Fleetwood.

Will Dustin Johnson finally win at the Masters?

He’s been world number one for what seems an age, and is widely accepted as the world’s best golf at the moment – but Dustin Johnson has had some rotten luck when it comes to the Masters. He missed the 2012 event due to a back injury he suffered at home, and then in 2017 the curse struck again, as he fell down a staircase in the house he was renting in Augusta before the tournament and didn’t even make the first tee. He was the big favourite, and most probably will be again, but it will be fascinating to see if he finally delivers. Maybe just don’t go upstairs for a while Dustin…

I’m convinced that this year’s US Masters is all set to be an absolute classic – there are enough top players involved this year who will really feel they have something to prove on this most testing of stages. But as ever, it will all come down to that last, tortuous round, and to who can hold their nerve as the shadows lengthen on the final day. I personally can’t wait.

Robert Weider