By Michael Church
HONGKONG (Reuters) – Ryder Cup debutant Tommy Fleetwood claims neither he nor his European team mates will be overawed by the presence of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the United States line-up at the biennial trans-Atlantic head-to-head later this month.
Woods and Mickelson were included among US team Jim Furyk’s picks for the clash, which will be held at Le Golf National course just outside Paris from Sept. 28 to 30.
Fleetwood believes his team mates’ familiarity with the duo as well as home advantage will boost their bid to reclaim the Ryder Cup.
“Most of us guys on the European team play in the same tournaments against Phil and Tiger week in and week out at the moment,” he said on a conference call to confirm his involvement in this year’s Hong Kong Open.
“You can’t deny they’re two of the best golfers ever and they always will be, but when you tee it up you’re just playing another golfer, it doesn’t matter who it is.
“They were always guaranteed to be picked and they’ve had good years themselves. Phil won a World Golf Championship and Tiger could have won three or four events on his comeback and he’s done better than anybody thought he was going to do, especially this year, and he’s playing some greatstuff.
“But that will make no difference to us, it really won’t. It will help their team in an experience sense just because they’ve played so many Ryder Cups but it will make no difference to us.”
The Americans are looking to win on European soil for the first time since 1993 and Fleetwood feels the advantage of playing on a course regularly used for European Tour events could give the home team the edge over a talented US team.
“It can’t do any harm on a golf course that we’ve all played on quite a lot,” said Fleetwood, who won the French Open at Le Golf National last year.
“It’s difficult to say that against the best players in the world who play at major venues that it will make that much difference, but if it’s going to go in anybody’s favour it will go in Europe’s, to be at home and to be on that golf course.
“Last time it was in America and the way they set the golf course up was massively in favour of the USA and that’s just the way it is.”
On that occasion the Europeans suffered a heavy 17-11 defeat at Hazeltine National, but Fleetwood is expecting a much more competitive contest this time after Europe captain Thomas Bjorn selected Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson to bolster his squad.
“I think both teams look great this year,” he said.
“I know there’s been a lot of talk about how good the Americans are this year and there’s no doubt about it they’ve got an unbelievable team. But at the same time, for Europe to be able to pick the four guys that got picked just shows the strength in European golf.
“I honestly think it could be one of the greatest Ryder Cups ever. We do have a really good team spirit this year. Maybe it’s always like that, but it’s my first one so I can only go on that, and we’ve got a great bunch of players and I fancy our chances, I really do.”
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)