Captaincy conundrums, USA travel sickness - Five takeaways from the Ryder Cup

Following the United States' victory over Europe in the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, we analyse a host of issues likely to come to the fore ahead of the next meeting between the two teams in 2018.

Le Golf National in Paris will host the next edition of the biennial event, with the USA facing the challenge of winning on European soil for the first time in 25 years.


What next for Reed and Pieters?

Although Brandt Snedeker and Rafael Cabrera Bello were the only players to go through the week unbeaten, Patrick Reed and Thomas Pieters were the undoubted star performers for their respective teams at Hazeltine.

Reed claimed three victories and a half from five matches - the best return of any American - but his impact should not be measured in points alone. The heartbeat of the US side, he did more than anyone to rouse the home crowd, his influence growing as the event wore on.

The 26-year-old saved his best two performances for last as he almost single-handedly got the better of Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose on Saturday afternoon, with fourball partner Jordan Spieth struggling, and then took down Rory McIlroy in a thrilling singles encounter that felt like a must-win for Europe.

If Reed was the star of the show, Pieters' contribution was no less impressive. The Belgian rookie was hamstrung by the dismal performance of Lee Westwood in the Friday foursomes, but went on to claim three successive wins in partnership with McIlroy before beating JB Holmes on Sunday, Pieters' composure under pressure belying his relative lack of experience.

Having performed so strongly, both Reed and Pieters now face the challenge of kicking on in 2017. Should they recapture their Hazeltine form at a major, a significant strokeplay prize could well come their way.


Time for a European task force?

Much was made of the PGA of America's decision to put together a Ryder Cup task force in the wake of a third straight defeat for the US at Gleneagles.

Captain Davis Love III and several leading players, including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, were part of an 11-member panel set up to "examine the entire Ryder Cup process".

Having won six of the previous seven Ryder Cups, Europe understandably felt they had no need to instigate such a review, with Clarke saying ahead of the event: "We've been very fortunate [to have] a formula that seems to be very successful."

However, could defeat at Hazeltine prompt the European Tour to consider a task force of their own? We shall see.


Who will step into captaincy shoes?

Ryder Cup captains appear to come under increasing scrutiny with each edition of the event and it remains to be seen who will be chosen to step into the shoes of Love and Clarke in 2018.

Thomas Bjorn, part of Clarke's backroom team this year, appears a leading contender to take the helm for Europe, having experienced three Ryder Cups as a player and four as a vice-captain. Padraig Harrington and Miguel Angel Jimenez are also likely to come under consideration.

Tiger Woods has indicated he would be open to captaining the US in future, but that is unlikely to happen just yet as the 14-time major champion focuses on reviving his playing career. Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker, two of Love's lieutenants at Hazeltine, could well step up to the top job in Paris.


How do the USA win away?

The US may have broken their Ryder Cup duck, but their last triumph on European soil came back in 1993 at The Belfry.

It is one thing securing victory in familiar conditions, but the course at Le Golf National will provide a very different test to Brookline, Valhalla and Hazeltine - the venues for the last three American triumphs.

Working out how to prevail overseas - with the majority of spectators against them - is the next challenge for Team USA.


Can 'Lefty' keep going?

Mickelson contributed 2.5 points from four matches at Hazeltine, in his 11th successive Ryder Cup appearance, and excelled on the final day in a tremendous halved match with Sergio Garcia.

Now 46, the five-time major champion will know he is unlikely to face many more contests with Europe as a player.

Yet if Mickelson's performances in 2016 - including a magnificent performance in The Open at Royal Troon - are anything to go by, there is plenty of life in the old dog yet.

'Lefty' has never required a captain's pick to make a Ryder Cup team and will be determined to secure automatic qualification for the 2018 event. Do not bet against him achieving the feat.

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