Talk to most about the 2018 Ryder Cup and it’s not a question of whether the United States will retain the trophy in Paris later this month but by how many.
And why not? Three of the four Major titles are currently held by Americans. The winner of the BMW Championship here at Aronimink is an American. The FedEx Cup race has been led by an American all year long before he was supplanted by, yep, you guessed it, another American.
Things look bleak for Europe with the biennial clash of continents less than three weeks away. But while some may take such ominous foreshadowing as an omen for what is yet come, Justin Rose is an altogether steelier competitor.
And he has reason to be optimistic too. Here at the penultimate round of the FedEx Cup Playoffs we saw something of a European resurgence. Rose himself played as well as anyone out here and is the new world number one for the very first time after a hard-earned second place. Teammate Rory McIlroy led after the first round and finished just two shy. Tommy Fleetwood, another man with a ticket to France already safely stowed, finished just two further back after a scarcely believable pair of 62s on consecutive days. Open champion Francesco Molinari ended eighth while Sweden’s Alex Noren and Spain’s Jon Rahm finished comfortably inside the top 25.
This is not to say the US contingent have fallen by the wayside, far from it, with eventual winner Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas all enjoying fine weeks. But Rose is pleased to see so many of his fellow Europeans seemingly turning it on at the best possible time.
“It's good to see the boys playing well and having some form,” Rose says. “They’re showing that they're fresh and ready still to play a lot of golf and to play good golf at this time of year. I think everyone is grinding pretty hard to get through this run. I know Rory chose to take a week off. He could be fresher than most.”
This tournament in Philadelphia is the last but one before the two teams tee it up at Le Golf National at the end of the month. With no play possible on day four after torrential overnight rain in the region the field had the rare chance of some overdue rest on Sunday. Coming at the end of an arduous season some may see the Ryder Cup as a competition too far, but Rose disagrees. Form over fitness is his mindset.
“I've had maybe a little bit more time off than most, than some of the other guys,” he adds. “I think it's interesting to see how many of each team are playing the week before [at the Tour Championship] in Atlanta and that will kind of give us an idea of what team will be fresher than the other team.
“That said, you don't really want a fresh team, you want a team playing well. That's the most important thing so it’s good to see those boys playing well.”