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YOUTH AND FIRE: Speith hopes USA can beat experienced Europe

Jordan Spieth is confident the “youth and fire” of the USA team can extinguish the hopes of an experienced Europe Ryder Cup side at Whistling Straits.

For the first time since their comfortable victory at Valhalla in 2008, half of the US team is made up of rookies, albeit rookies with some impressive claims to fame.

Collin Morikawa was still a university student during the last Ryder Cup in Paris, but has since won the 2020 US PGA and this year’s Open Championship to be the leading automatic qualifier for Steve Stricker’s side.

Patrick Cantlay claimed his place on the team after shooting 27 under par in the BMW Championship before beating Bryson DeChambeau in a six-hole play-off to claim his third win of the season.

Cantlay then won the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup title for good measure and is likely to resume his Presidents Cup partnership with good friend and fellow rookie Xander Schauffele, who also happens to be the Olympic champion.

Harris English, Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler have less immediately eye-catching CVs, but world number 21 Scheffler is the lowest-ranked player on the team, which includes eight of the top 10 and has a record-low average ranking of 8.9.

Europe can boast the world number one in Spain’s Jon Rahm, but the US Open champion is the only one of the team inside the world’s top 10 and the average ranking of Padraig Harrington’s side is 30.8 - quite a way off the USA team average.

The other big discrepancy is in the ages of the two sides. When Europe last won on American soil at Medinah in 2012, Paul Lawrie was their only player over the age of 40.

At Whistling Straits their side will contain four players in their forties, including a 48-year-old Lee Westwood who has not had a top-20 finish since March and lost all three of his matches on his last appearance at Hazeltine in 2016.

Asked about the experience the likes of Westwood – who is making a record-equalling 11th appearance – and record points scorer Sergio Garcia bring to the European team, Spieth said: “They’re just really good players, and they very much are very proud of where they come from, and it shows in this event.

“You step on the first tee and you know you’re two of the best players in the world, playing against two of the best players in the world regardless, and on Sunday (it’s) a match against one of the best players in the world.

“It’s probably very helpful for them to have them playing really well and the experience, but I’m pretty excited about the idea that we’ve got youth and fire with the guys in our locker room.”

Spieth’s three Ryder Cup appearances for the USA make him the second-most experienced member of the team behind Dustin Johnson and he is set to renew his successful partnership with Justin Thomas after they won three of their four matches when Europe hosted in Paris in 2018.

And the three-time major winner also has happy memories of this week’s venue after finishing runner-up in the 2015 US PGA Championship to become world number one for the first time.

“This 18th green is pretty special to me,” Spieth added. “It was difficult starting (the final round) behind and with the way Jason (Day) played, but I became world number one on that green, which was a lifelong dream of mine, so a very special place that I’ll always remember.”

Thomas was the leading American points scorer on his debut in Paris after following his victories with Spieth by beating Rory McIlroy in the first singles match.

And he echoed Spieth’s confidence in the calibre of the rookies on the US team as they bid to make it seven wins out of eight for the home side.

“I’d go to war with these 11 other guys and our captains like I’m going to do this week, and I have all the faith in the world in all the rookies,” Thomas said. “I think their experience proves that they are beyond rookies.”

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