The Ryder Cup will be a close-run thing, but the Europeans will be first past the post – that’s the view of Parnell Reilly.
The Americans have a burning desire to erase the painful memory of Medinah two years ago when the Europeans came storming through on the last day to take an unlikely victory.
But Bradley Park’s Reilly believes that, with four out of the world’s top six players in the team, the Europeans will be just too strong for Tom Watson’s men.
Reilly, the 2007-8 Captain of the PGA, was speaking yesterday before he left for the Ryder Cup.
He is staying with his friend, St Andrew’s professional Jim Farmer, and the pair are today playing a round at the Royal and Ancient before heading off to watch the practice days and what will be a close-fought battle.
Parnell is a highly regarded figure in the golfing world and has rubbed shoulders with the world’s greats over the decades – he has a personal invitation to the official cocktail party with the teams and the opening ceremony.
He speaks with great insight about the Ryder Cup – and he believes USA Captain Tom Watson has made a fundamental mistake.
Parnell said: “Tom is, of course, a legend, but I think he has slipped up with his selection.
“For his wild cards he picked Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson, but he left out Chris Kirk and Billy Horschell, which I think was a mistake.
“Horschell has played fantastic golf all season, and particularly in the last six or seven weeks. It is hard to believe how a player who has won the FedEx Cup (and $11m) could be left out. Recently he has played better golf than anybody else.”
Parnell believes that the Europeans have the edge in terms of players, with no real stand-out players for the Americans.
“Jim Furyk is the coolest head on the team. Jimmy Walker is very quiet, unassuming and a very good player,” added Parnell.
“Hunter Mahon has something to prove and Patrick Reed will be the loudest one, after announcing that he is one of the best five players in the world. Phil Mickelson is an amazing player, but he has not been in the best of form recently. Tiger Woods isn’t coming.
“Ricky Fowler has only won one tournament. The Europeans have won three out of the last four Majors, with only Bubba Watson taking the Masters. The Americans are all really good players, but nobody really jumps out.
“When you look at the Europeans, there are two or three players who really stand out. I think Rory McIlroy could become the new Monty, who was undefeated in eight singles matches. Rory has really stepped up to take on the mantle of World Number One and relishes the challenge.
“The dark horse for the Europeans might be Frenchman Victor Dubuisson, he is a fantastic matchplay player. We was runner-up this year in the World Matchplay, losing on the 23rd hole.
“Another advantage for the Europeans will be the course. The home captain Paul McGinley looks at the Americans’ game and sets the course at Gleneagles up to suit the home players. He will have done his homework.
“If he thinks the long-hitting Americans will drive 350 yards, he will narrow the course at that point, how the course is set up is the decision of the home captain.
“I had dinner with Paul some time ago and I am sure he told me that he had never been on the losing side of any team he has been involved with.
“The 13th man for the Europeans will be the spectators, it will be a huge home advantage – a massive boost for the players – and they will make all the difference.
“I think the matches will be very tight. There are two par fives at the end, the 16th and the 18th, and a driveable par four. It will go down to the wire, there could be a dramatic swing in matches over the last few holes.”
Parnell added: “I’m looking forward to seeing all the guys again and hearing the cheers of the spectators. When you see the blue or red go up on the board, you know you are in a battle.
“There will be some close games, but I think we will just do it.”
The Ryder Cup starts on Friday and ends on Sunday evening. Let’s hope he’s right.