Bernd Wiesberger started his first Ryder Cup with a sense of achievement. The 35-year-old, who was the first Austrian to qualify for the prestigious team competition between the best golfers from the USA and Europe at the last moment, fought against Matt Fitzpatrick in the best ball on Tuesday (local time) in his first practice round in Whistling Straits teammates Ian Poulter and Paul Casey.
Conclusions about a possible pairing on Friday or Saturday do not allow that, was emphasized in the European team. “I'm not saying what or what it doesn't mean,” waved Europe captain Padraig Harrington off. “Of course I have my ideas about what is being practiced in training. But it is the job of the media to find out what could be and not my job to tell them,” Harrington said, just as little as his US -Pendant Steve Stricker.
Europe's Ryder Cup team flew on Monday with the tour charter from London to Milwaukee, the largest city in the US state of Wisconsin. 80 kilometers north of it, directly on Lake Michigan, is the place where the 43rd Ryder Cup will take place from Friday to Sunday with hosts USA one year late. With a world ranking average of 30, Europe's players are clearly underdogs compared to the Americans (9), but they have seven experienced players on the team who won the title in Paris in 2018.
Wiesberger and Co. would be enough to have a draw for a successful title defense. Harrington had promised on the plane to do everything “so that the trophy is back on board on the return flight on Monday.” The USA leads overall with 26:14, but in nine of the most recent twelve editions since 1995 Europe had the better end for itself.
The weather did “Whistling Straits” in Kohler (the place is named after a family from the Bregenz Forest) near Sheboygan, because a lot of wind accompanied the players during their first practice sessions. The wind and the initially rather British temperatures should remain and could become an ally of the Europeans. Because the course is not only reminiscent of a British links course but is also shorter and softer to play than expected.
“Difficult weather and exposed places are actually more of an advantage for Europeans. The Americans are used to playing in good and warm conditions,” said Wiesberger's brother Niki, who was also astonished. Whistling Straits also has many bunkers and blind spots.
“The course is definitely different from the American Ryder Cup courses that have been played in recent years. This course does not necessarily emphasize the typical American strengths,” believes Wiesberger's brother. He could only explain the “defusing” in such a way that it wanted to guarantee a more attractive game for the audience.
What role Wiesberger will play in his sport-historical premiere is still open. As the only player without a US PGA tour card, the US experts only trust the Burgenlander to play a minor role. But that is exactly why the 35-year-old could become a wild card. Especially in the match play format, the Austrian has beaten stronger opponents several times and therefore has a good chance of playing on Friday.
There were already many fans on the Ryder Cup facility on Tuesday, but only very few in the European blue due to the Corona travel restrictions. The players completed media appointments and took team photos, but overall they are in a very narrow corona bubble. Distance is maintained from the spectators, autographs should not be given.
The players live with their caddies in the nearby “American Club”, which is also owned by Kohler. The team dinner also took place there on Tuesday evening. Training rounds over 18 holes were planned for Wednesday at Wiesberger and Co., followed on Thursday by a Celebrity Ryder Cup with celebrities such as ex-swimming star Michael Phelps or the former Juventus kicker Alessandro del Piero.
The Ryder Cup itself is one of the five most important sports events worldwide and attracts up to 800 million TV viewers. The game is played on Friday and Saturday in 16 foursomes (classic foursome or best ball), followed on Sunday by 12 individual games. Europe is the defending champion, with 28 points to be awarded a draw is enough. Challenger USA must achieve at least a 14.5: 13.5.