The American golf star Justin Thomas usually respects Europe’s Ryder Cup players, but this week there is war and there is no place for making nice sandwiches.
“I want to win; my drive for success will be satisfied with nothing less than victory.
“Many of the European Ryder Cup players are my friends and I respect them all.
“However, this week is war and I hate anyone and everyone who stands in the way of American success,” Thomas says of the biennial Ryder Cup team tournament that begins on Friday.
The Marco Simone course outside Rome in Italy is host to the three-day international hole-in-one showdown that ends on Sunday when a total of 24 of the world’s top players face each other individually in 12 singles matches.
A total of 16 power-plays will be decided on Thursday and Friday, with four innings and four better-ball games decided on both days.
Thomas, a two-time Major champion, is one of six captain choices in Zach Johnson’s team that will try to break a 30-year winning drought on European soil.
“It’s never easy to win, especially away from home.
“We’re going to fight to the end and hopefully this time it’s good enough,” said Thomas, whose inclusion in the team drew heavy criticism.
“Yes, I am happy to be in the team. Now it’s my turn to show that my inclusion was right,” says Thomas.
However, Captain Johnson says Thomas’ inclusion was never in the balance.
“He is one of the best and most talented players.
“In 2021’s Ryder Cup he was one of the heroes and I am convinced he will be successful again this week, even though he has been a little off the mark in the last few months,” says Johnson.
Thomas collected four out of five points for America in 2021 in Wisconsin en route to the Yanks’ resounding 19-9 victory over Padraig Harrington’s European troops.
The Englishman Luke Donald is the European team’s captain this week, but will hope that the Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy can lead the select 12 to victory.
“In Rory, Jon (Rahm) and Viktor (Hovland), we have three of the world’s very best in our ranks. They will be supported heavily and I hope Rory in particular comes through,” says Donald.
However, McIlroy’s Ryder Cup performance list is rotten when you compare it to the talent he has.
He could only win one out of four points in 2021, while things didn’t go much better in 2018 with the four-time Major champion only able to win two out of five matchups.
“I know I have to do better this time. I want to lead the team on and off the court and encourage them to victory.
“I don’t want to see the Americans spraying champagne on Sunday. It has to be us,” McIlroy said after his first practice round on the tough Marco Simone course.
Both McIlroy and Johnson are of the opinion that the course will be a huge test for all the players.
“The course’s greens are absolutely fantastic, but the fairways are some of the tightest I’ve ever seen.
“And then there is the struggling pitch, which is so rough in places that you will struggle to find your ball if you hit it into it.
“It will be a very tough test for everyone,” predicts the Yanks’ captain.
According to McIlroy, the European players are more familiar with the course, but they will still have to be at their best if they want to succeed.
“It will require a bit of thinking to keep the ball on the fairways and in play. Distance is going to be less important than accuracy,” says McIlroy.
The Northern Irishman shed tears of disappointment in Wisconsin after his team crashed out.
This time, McIlroy is hoping for tears of joy and a fifth successful Ryder Cup campaign in his already illustrious career.
- Additional source: Sky Sports