The Old Guard has started winning again – But is that good for team Europe? 

Lee Westwood

The European Tour has is going through somewhat of a revival in 2020, with two of the stalwarts of the tour having managed to claim early wins.

Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell, both over 40, have turned the clock back and put in some vintage performances in the first few events of the year.

There probably isn’t a better time than now to win on the European Tour if you have aspirations to play in the 2020 Ryder Cup, but how much of a positive is it for team Europe?

You may have read this introduction and are currently feeling a surge of incredulity run through you. But keep in mind that if you win in a Ryder Cup year, you are almost certainly guaranteed a place in the automatic qualification of the team you qualify for. Now, both Westwood and Mcdowell were named as vice captains by Thomas Bjorn for the Ryder Cup in France back in 2018.

Once you’re named as a vice captain, the conventional logic is that your playing days in the Ryder Cup are over as you’ve probably lost the edge to compete with the younger players coming through on tour. Obviously, that throws up an interesting scenario, where on the one hand you can argue that if the old guard can beat the younger players on the tour, then, of course, they deserve to be in the team that tries to retain the cup after winning at Le Golf National.

The big difference is, however, that the Ryder Cup is a match-play event that is worlds away from a stroke play tournament and requires nerves of steel. The first thing to let any player down in match play is their putting, and that often goes with age. Any player over 40 around the world, whether they are an amateur or professional, will tell you that.

Needless to say, when you are under the pump and in the cauldron, needing a nine-footer to take Brooks Koepka down the 18th to keep the Ryder Cup alive, you simply can’t afford to be let down by a jaded putting stroke when duelling the game’s finest.

And that’s another thing to keep in mind, America has always had a powerhouse side. If you need further proof of this, then have a look at the latest betting odds 2020 US Masters and you’ll find five of the top seven favourites all to be American, with four of those five under the age of 35. The only exception there is a man called Tiger Woods, who is 44 years old. That probably says more about Woods than it does about the debate on age in golf.

Westwood and McDowell are obviously not in the same league as Woods given that the American is probably the greatest of all time, his sensational 2019 Masters win probably proved as much. In any event, it would be unfair to compare them, as both Westwood and McDowell are extremely fine players who have carried themselves with distinction every time they have pulled on that European Ryder Cup top.

The point is, though, this: The whole landscape changes in match play and past encounters seem to indicate that it is youth that often prevails when the heat is turned up to the full in the Ryder Cup.