Danny Willett wasn’t the only European to fare well during the 2016 Masters. There were seven Europeans in the top-15 at the end of play, and only five Americans, despite nearly half of the field being American.
Willett, the first European winner since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999, was joined in the top-10 by Lee Westwood, who finished tied-second with Jordan Spieth, Paul Casey, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Soren Kjeldsen, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy.
In the all-important final round, the top 10 European players were a cumulative 27-under. The top ten American players, meanwhile, were 2-under. Put those groups head-to-head in the singles at Hazeltine on that sort of form and it would be a massacre.
With Team Europe looking for a third straight Ryder Cup win, their sixth in the last seven matches, it’s encouraging to see some of their stars perform on American soil, in front of American fans, when the pressure is really on. Lee Westwood’s performance will have done his chances of a spot on the team no harm at all. And if he can bring that level of performance out of Ryder Cup rookie Danny Willett, don’t be surprised to see them paired together at some stage.
A look at the world rankings makes better reading for Team USA. They have four players in the world top-10 – Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson – matching the Team Europe who have Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett and Justin Rose placed in golf’s upper echelon.
In terms of strength in depth, the 12th-ranked American is Kevin Kisner, at 23rd in the world. To find Europe’s 12th highest-ranked man, on the other hand, you have to drop down to 40th in the world, where you’ll find Scotland’s Russell Knox.
But the Ryder Cup isn’t decided by world ranking points. It’s won and lost on a head-to-head basis. It’s a test of heart and character as much as ball-striking and putting. Right now, on that basis, you’d back Willett and his band of merry Europeans to see off Spieth and chums with ease come September.