TWO-TIME Ryder Cup veteran David Howell feels the cold and blustery conditions at Gleneagles will lend itself to a European victory this weekend.
Swindon golfer Howell is part of Sky Sports’ punditry team at the biennial event in Scotland, where the USA will be aiming to reclaim the famous trophy, and he reckons the visitors from across the Atlantic have a tough task on their hands.
He said: “They’re always going to be close, the format lends itself to being close. It’s been a good few years since someone’s run away with it but even then there’s always a point on a Sunday when it looks like it’s going to be close.
“With the conditions I do fancy the European team. It’s going to be a bit chilly and a bit breezy and we are more used to those conditions. Over all the holes that might be a little advantage to our boys.”
Europe’s three rookies – Victor Dubuisson, Jamie Donaldson and Stephen Gallacher – will all have major parts to play in the team’s defence of their crown and Howell thinks they have the upper hand from the first tee.
“Victor is the unknown quantity, he really is his own man but he is a dynamic player and makes a lot of birdies, Jamie Donaldson is a great putter and Stephen Gallacher is the local guy with 19 years on the Tour,” said the Broome Manor pro.
“I really do think when it comes down to it, the conditions will play a big part and they certainly do favour our rookies over the American rookies. They’ve got to capitalise on that.”
Tiger Woods did not make the American team at Gleneagles but Howell does not feel the former world number’s absence will have too big a bearing on the USA’s chance.
“The Ryder Cup is bigger than any one player. Tiger has had some tumultuous times for the last few years. The last time the Americans won was at Valhalla and Tiger didn’t play in that one either, that seemed to galvanise the troops,” he said.
“They’ll try to use it to their advantage again by being a stronger unit. Without one of their stronger players they’ll have to come together. I don’t think it will harm their chances particularly. They won’t miss him too much, I don’t think.”
With first-hand experience of the mental and physical strain a Ryder Cup presents to the 24 men who compete in it, Howell stressed that self-confidence is a crucial commodity for those involved.
“The Ryder Cup is such a different event,” he said. “Current form goes out the window, you have to rely on self-belief and inner confidence; it’s such a stressful environment. Every time the guys tee it up in the Ryder Cup it hits them like a ton of bricks – the enormity of it.
“That inspires most of the guys and some find it overpowers them. When it comes to the rookies and the guys who aren’t in good form their self-belief will play a huge part in whether they can collect points for their side.”