Craig Connelly, one of the few Scots set to be involved in the 43rd Ryder Cup, believes Europe’s success in the event over the past 20 years is partly down to a “wee tour” mentality.
Seven of the last nine matches in the biennial contest have been won by Europe, with Padraig Harrington looking to add to that statistic against Steve Stricker’s side at Whistling Straits.
On paper, the Americans are being represented at the Wisconsin venue by their strongest-ever line up, with eight of the 12 players currently in the world’s top 10.
However, rankings and PGA Tour reputations have often carried little clout in the transatlantic tussle and Connelly, one of the most experienced caddies in the game, can see that being the case again on this occasion.
“I don’t think anything doesn’t suit Europe,” said the Glaswegian, who has been invited by Martin Kaymer, one of Harrington’s vice-captains, to be part of the backroom team on this occasion. “Look at the guys in the team. Strong, strong players.”
Referring to Catriona Matthew’s side upsetting the odds in the Solheim Cup in Toledo just over a fortnight ago, he added: “Every player played on the LPGA Tour, so they all know each other’s game.
“On paper, the Americans were better, but the Europeans came out the better team and, essentially, I think that is pretty much like the Ryder Cup. Is it six out of the last seven to Europe in the Ryder Cup and four of the last six Solheims.
“I can’t talk from an American perspective, I can only talk from a European perspective, having been involved in the Solheim in 2000 and 2002 and 2004 through to 2016 Ryder Cups. Trish Johnson said something on air. They are the big tour and we are the wee tour. Maybe it’s that mentality.”
Despite having six captain’s picks, Stricker has controversially overlooked ‘Captain America’ Patrick Reed for this week’s match, preferring to try and shake things up by handing spots to rookies Harris English, Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler and Daniel Berger
“It’s difficult and perhaps too easy to say it is just down to better camaraderie,” said Connelly of the Europeans seeming to hold the upper hand in that department. Over the years, look at Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler. They are all mates.
“So that blows that theory out of the window. People just look at it and say it’s an individual sport and they are all on their private jets. But they all travel together to that individual event. It comes to golf. Simple. And who holes most putts.
“What makes Europe so good? Maybe the captain’s role and who they pair together. Certainly, my two Solheim Cups, when statistics weren’t around as much, and even my first Ryder Cup in 2004, it was down to personalities.
“Who suited whom. Everything is done through stats now, but it’s that mixture of experience and youth and games complementing each other. The guys are just so good. On any given day, they can beat each other.”
Kaymer, who holed the winning putt at Medinah in 2012, is serving as a vice-captain for the first time. “He brings such a wealth of experience at a young age,” said Connelly of the 36-year-old German.