LONDON (Reuters) - United States will miss the big-hitting Dustin Johnson in next month’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles more than former world number one Tiger Woods, according to 1991 European team member Paul Broadhurst.
Woods ruled himself out of a possible wildcard pick because of poor form and a lack of fitness while fellow American Johnson has taken a leave of absence from golf in order to deal with “personal challenges”.
The par-72 PGA Centenary course in Scotland, created by 18-times major winner Jack Nicklaus, measures 7,243 yards in length but the back nine is not overly long at 3,492 yards.
There are two par-fives on the homeward stretch and two relatively short par-fours, the 350-yard 11th and 320-yard 14th, and Broadhurst believes Johnson would have had a field day on the inward nine.
“The U.S. have lost two big players in Tiger and Dustin,” the Englishman told Reuters in an interview.
”The way Tiger’s been playing the U.S. will be better off without him. His Ryder Cup record isn’t brilliant but I‘m sure he would have been on their team if he had been fit and his form would have been half decent.
“I think Dustin’s a bigger loss for the Americans because he’s such a powerful player.”
Broadhurst said Johnson’s absence would be like holders Europe having to go into the biennial team event without world number one Rory McIlroy or numbers three, four and five - Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose.
”Gleneagles would have suited Dustin,“ he explained. ”He would have destroyed the back nine.
“It’s a bonus for our team that he’s not playing. It’s like losing one of our really top players - you can’t afford to do that,” added Broadhurst who was unbeaten in his only Ryder Cup appearance at Kiawah Island thanks to a fourball win with Ian Woosnam and a singles victory over Mark O‘Meara.
The 49-year-old, who holds a share of the British Open lowest-round record after firing a 63 at St Andrews in 1990, says he does not envy the task Europe captain Paul McGinley’s faces on Tuesday when he chooses his three wildcard selections.
Ryder Cup strongmen Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald are all relying on a pick after failing to make the automatic top nine qualifying places.
To further complicate matters for the captain, world number 16 Graeme McDowell will drop out of the top nine if Stephen Gallacher finishes first or second in this week’s final counting event, the Italian Open in Turin.
“Paul’s got a tough decision because the three players he’s likely to pick are not in the greatest of form and there are one or two in form that may miss out,” said six-times European Tour winner Broadhurst.
”It all depends on whether he goes for experience or form. If Gallacher knocks McDowell out of the top nine it will be a difficult thing to pick two from Poulter, Westwood and Donald.
“G-Mac has been playing pretty good so I’d imagine he will be the first pick if he misses out,” added Broadhurst who was talking to Reuters at Tony Jacklin’s Wentworth Charity Invitational golf event in aid of Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People (www.rainbows.co.uk).
“Paul will probably go for Poulter because of his excellent Ryder Cup record and out of Westwood and Donald, I’d probably opt for Westwood.”
Broadhurst wants Gallacher, nephew of former captain Bernard, to make the final 12 especially as the Scot came desperately close to winning the 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles before losing out in a playoff.
”I’d like to see Stephen in the team,“ he explained. ”He’s a local so he’ll have lots of support.
“He is a strong player at Gleneagles and knows the course really well.”
The Ryder Cup will be held from Sept. 26-28.
Editing by Justin Palmer