There were low scores, frustrated players and overzealous fans at Hazeltine two years ago, but nothing could stop a rampant American side from lifting the Ryder Cup for the first time in eight years.
Now, two years on, one of the strongest American teams in history will take on Europe in the biennial event, bidding to retain their trophy at Le Golf National.
Although the United States have not won on European soil since 1993, Jim Furyk’s line up is frightening and one that looks unstoppable before a ball is even struck down the first fairway on the Albatros Course.
It may seem a daunting task on paper for the hosts, but Thomas Bjorn has the perfect blend of youth and experience to outsmart Furyk and his star-studded team.
Of course, America’s individual class means little in a high pressure environment like the Ryder Cup where teamwork and an ability to excel as a pair is more important.
But when Bjorn and his vice-captains sit down to discuss their partnerships for the opening day on Friday, they need to go for experience in at least one of them, while mixing some of the elder statesman with the rookies elsewhere.
To start with, the 45-year-old need look no further than Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.
Four years ago, the duo were rock solid at Gleneagles, winning all three of their matches together and contributing seven points between them. But in Hazeltine, the pair contributed just two points, having struggled against Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed in the opening foursomes.
With five rookies, Bjorn has a significant decision to make with his selections, to stick with his strongest pair of Rose and Stenson or change it up and trust the current form of some of the younger players.
The Dane’s rookies include the likes of Jon Rahm, Thorbjorn Olesen, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren, with both Noren and Fleetwood winning the last two tournaments at Le Golf National.
The Swedish duo of Stenson and Noren would seem a natural pair and this tactic has proved successful in the past. Stenson may be curtailed with an ongoing elbow injury, but Noren’s form is career best.
Also, opting for Spain’s Rahm to partner with his out-of-form compatriot Sergio Garcia could provide a boost. Rahm may be 15 years younger and has played in eight less Ryder Cups than Garcia, but the 23-year-old has proven all year that he has the class and leadership to be a star man in France.
Rahm’s fifth place finish in France earlier this year also shows he has the experience and knowledge around the tough greens of Le Golf National.
Scanning through the team, Rose, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey are all solid options to play with Fleetwood. In fact, World No12 Fleetwood and Casey played together at the EurAsia Cup in June and beat An Byeong-hun and Kiradech Aphibarnrat comfortably.
Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy is also one of the players Bjorn will be looking to for inspiration. The 29-year-old may not have tasted major success since August 2014, but loves the big stage and will be crucial to Europe’s ambitions this weekend.
In 2016, McIlroy and Thomas Pieters forged a majestic partnership and won all three of their matches together. But with Pieters not included in the European team this time around, could Bjorn go for McIlroy and Poulter?
Both famously won together at Medinah in 2012, beating Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson by a single shot on the 18th green, and they could re-unite outside of the French Open.
Irrespective of what pairings Bjorn goes for, he knows better than anyone what is right for Europe in a bid to win back the Ryder Cup.
A lot will come down to experience and form, but the fearless rookies on each team could decide it.
American rookies Justin Thomas, Tony Finau and Bryson DeChambeau are three of the world’s form players, with the latter winning the first two FedEx Cup play-off events.
But in Rahm, Hatton, Fleetwood, Olesen and Noren, Europe have five newbies who could inspire them to what would be one of their greatest ever wins on home soil.
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