You told us that the Americans wouldn’t want to face Europe with Francesco Molinari in their team. Has his Open victory come at just the right time?
I think Molinari has always been a very good player with lots of potential and a good strike, but there always seemed to be a hardness lacking in his game.
However, he’s worked with Denis Pugh for several years having moved to London, and his game has come on leaps and bounds as a result. The missing link in his game was his putting, but he’s become a great putter as we saw at The Open at Carnoustie. He’s also really improved the mental side of his game.
When the Ryder Cup starts and there’s a lot of pressure on, his game will stand out because he’s perfectly equipped to deal with the pressure. He’ll be a great asset to the team and will definitely play five times.
Will playing at home be a big advantage again this year? As we know, the USA hasn’t won a Ryder Cup in Europe since 1993.
The idea of home advantage is quite interesting because the Americans’ idea of home advantage is slightly different to ours. At Hazeltine in 2016, Davis Love III got the crowd riled up as if it were an NFL or baseball match and this seemed to work to their advantage.
The biggest home advantage to Europe is the strength of our golf courses. Many of the European players have played at Le Golf National before, because it’s where the French Open is held. In the past, we always held tournaments at the Belfry, so that worked to our advantage. When Europe won at the K Club, many of the players had played the European Open there.
You can bet your bottom dollar that Thomas Bjorn has been looking at his list of players and analysing their stats to see who performs well at Le Golf National.
What are you expecting from Tiger Woods? Do you think he’s done enough to earn a spot on the US team this year?
Tiger Woods has impressed me recently – he led the Open Championship for long spells and he finished second at the Valspar. He’s had an incredible year considering he didn’t play for a year before that. When you consider that he’s won 14 Majors, it’s difficult to see how he could possibly be left out. He nearly made the team automatically anyway.
Some might say he’s got a poor Ryder Cup record. He doesn’t have a great record in the foursomes or fourballs, but only Constantino Rocca has beaten him in the singles.
I think we’re seeing a different Tiger Woods in 2018. He’s more co-operative, he’s more of a team player and he’s missed the camaraderie of the Ryder Cup in recent years. He might even end up playing five matches, you never know.
You regularly paired with Brian Barnes. What methodology goes into pairing players together and what pairing are you looking forward to seeing this year?
The theory is that in foursomes, it’s all about players who play a steady game and get a lot of pars, whereas in fourballs it’s all about who putts well and who makes a lot of birdies.
Obviously, it’s up to Thomas Bjørn to get that right and really look at the capabilities of his players. Thankfully, he has got 12 great players on his side.
I’m expecting Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton to figure highly. Both have played great golf this year and are strong putters, so I think they’ll work well together.
What advice would you give to Thomas Bjorn ahead of this year’s Ryder Cup?
As a captain, you want to get your players on the golf course as soon as possible. You can’t ask a player to do a big job for you in the singles if he hasn’t played before then. Thomas needs to get them practising foursomes and insist that the players are strict in order to get used to the pace of play.
This has been one of our secrets in the past and was also the secret weapon of the Americans when they won all those Ryder Cups on the bounce. They’ve rotated their team quickly so that everybody has a chance to play and they’re all ready to go in the singles.
After all, we won at Gleneagles because we dominated foursomes and we lost at Hazeltine last time because we lost the opening foursomes 4-0 and couldn’t catch up.