The 42nd Ryder Cup is now just days away, with Le Golf National ready to play host to the latest battle between Europe and the United States.
After recording three successive wins between 2010 and 2014, Europe lost their grip on the trophy two years ago as an American squad captained by Davis Love III romped to an emphatic 17-11 victory at Hazeltine.
The USA are set to start as narrow favourites this time around, but they have not triumphed away from home in this event since 1993.
Ahead of Friday's opening matches in France, we assess Thomas Bjorn's European team.
Five of the eight automatic European qualifiers will be making their Ryder Cup debuts this week.
Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Alex Noren and Thorbjorn Olesen have all impressed in big events over the last 18 months but represent a quintet of unknown quantities in this particular arena.
In May @ThorbjornOlesen dropped outside the top 120 in the world. He never gave up hope, won the #ItalianOpen, notched four more top six finishes and qualified for his first #RyderCup.#TeamEurope pic.twitter.com/vBtpRKjJTN— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) September 19, 2018
Bjorn will hope at least a couple of his rookies can emulate the efforts of Thomas Pieters and Rafael Cabrera Bello, who each shone in a losing cause at Hazeltine in 2016.
And big things will certainly be expected of Rahm, a fierce competitor who appears ideally suited to the Ryder Cup and capable of continuing a rich tradition of Spanish success in the competition.
WILL GARCIA REPAY CAPTAIN'S FAITH?
Although Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Francesco Molinari - the other three automatic qualifiers - bring plenty of top-level experience, it was no surprise to see European skipper Bjorn name four veterans as his captain's picks given the number of rookies in his line-up.
The selection that prompted the most debate was that of Sergio Garcia. While the pedigree of the 2017 Masters champion is not in question, particularly in the Ryder Cup, his performances in 2018 have been largely underwhelming, epitomised by missed cuts in all four majors.
Much could depend on whether Garcia, who boasts 22.5 points from eight previous appearances, recaptures his best form at Le Golf National.
POULTER SEEKS TO MAINTAIN PEERLESS RECORD
Paul Casey and Henrik Stenson also earned wildcards earlier this month, while there was never any doubt over who would be selected as Bjorn's other pick.
Ian Poulter may not have enjoyed the same success as many of his team-mates in golf's premier stroke-play events, but his Ryder Cup record is second to none.
The Englishman looks a different player when he takes on the USA and he has collected 13 points from 18 matches to date, his most memorable performances inspiring a miraculous comeback at Medinah in 2012.
Poulter ALWAYS thrives in this competition. Europe will be banking on him doing so once again.
PLENTY OF BACKROOM KNOW-HOW
In addition to Poulter and Garcia, several members of Europe's captaincy team boast outstanding Ryder Cup records.
Bjorn was a victor in all three of his appearances as a player (in 1997, 2002 and 2014) and also tasted success in three out of four outings as a vice-captain.
Among the Dane's vice-captains this week are Luke Donald (four wins from four Ryder Cup appearances), Lee Westwood (seven wins from 10), Padraig Harrington (four wins from six) and Graeme McDowell (three wins from four).
Bjorn's other trusted lieutenant, Robert Karlsson, was also a member of the triumphant 2006 team.
Europe's current crop of players, particularly those five rookies, can expect to receive plenty of helpful guidance.
24 de marzo 2019
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