Golf

Ryder Cup: US have faith in their ‘Rinos’

Ryder Cup newbies like Morikawa, who are called 'Rookies in Name Only' due to their feats, set to face baptism of fire against defending champions Team Europe

The United States are counting on six Ryder Cup rookies with impressive golf resumes, as they try to wrest the coveted trophy from Europe at Whistling Straits this weekend.

The youth movement - against a veteran European side - is less risky than it might appear, with the Americans counting the newcomers as "Rinos" - Rookies in Name Only - thanks to their accomplishments elsewhere.

"I have all the faith in the world in all the rookies," said Justin Thomas, who made his own Ryder Cup debut in the loss to Europe in France in 2018.

"Your rookies are a two-time Major champion in Collin Morikawa or a FedExCup Champion in Patrick Cantlay, and a (Tokyo Olympics) gold medallist in Xander Schauffele," Thomas said.

"When you're looking at guys like that that are your rookies, that says a lot about your team."

The other newcomers are Harris English, ranked 11th in the world, four-time US PGA Tour winner Daniel Berger and 25-year-old Scottie Scheffler.

Scheffler may be the lowest-ranked player on the US team at world No. 21, but only four of Europe's players are higher in the rankings.

Cantlay's late-season surge earned him Player of the Year honours on the US PGA Tour. He stared down Bryson DeChambeau in a six-hole playoff to win the BMW Championship, then edged out world No. 1 Jon Rahm to win the US PGA Tour Championship and the US$15 million (S$20.3m) FedEx Cup play-off crown.

Cantlay said he's expecting the Ryder Cup to be a "more amped up version" of his play-off duel with DeChambeau, and he's revved at the prospect.

"Playing in that environment, the idea of that, is really exciting so I'm looking forward to getting out there and experiencing it," he said.

Cantlay, 29, and Schauffele, 27, have already proved their match-play chops.

At the 2019 Presidents Cup, they played together in all four team sessions, winning two foursomes matches and dropping two four-balls. Each won his singles match as they finished the week with 3-2 records.

The two prepped for the Ryder Cup with a joint holiday in Napa, California, and it's odds-on that US captain Steve Stricker will put them together today.

Cantlay said playing with a well-known partner is particularly helpful in the alternate shot format of foursomes.

"When you are playing and you hit a bad shot, you don't want any sense of, 'Oh, I wonder what my playing partner is thinking about the terrible shot I just hit'," he said.

That kind of insight into the format will be useful, especially against an experienced European squad that feature just three rookies in Viktor Hovland, Shane Lowry and Bernd Wiesberger.

US veterans like Jordan Spieth, along with Stricker and vice-captain Phil Mickelson, have been advising the newcomers on managing emotions that always seem to be magnified in the Ryder Cup.

Spieth's advice is to embrace the adrenaline rush, the "nervy feeling" of a close match with a point on the line.

The abundance of American rookies has led Europe's veteran Lee Westwood, playing his 11th Ryder Cup at the age of 48, to say that it feels "almost like a changing of the guard for them".

Perhaps the new guard is what America need to regain the Cup. They last time the US had so many rookies on the team in 2008, they triumphed at Valhalla in Kentucky. - AFP

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