DEREK LAWRENSON: Europe’s Ryder Cup team will be the oldest swingers in town

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When Europe first won the Ryder Cup on American soil in 1987, the oldest player on the team was Eamonn Darcy, who had just turned 35. When they won by a record margin in Oakland Hills, Detroit in 2004, only Colin Montgomerie and Miguel Angel Jimenez were over 40.

What a difference this time. It may take five months for this year’s teams to be final, but it looks like Europe will play their oldest Ryder Cup squad of all time.

After three fantastic months for those with gray-speckled beliefs, as many as six of the team could be in their forties. There will certainly be a vivid contrast to the US line-up.

Lee Westwood, 47, could be part of a very experienced Ryder Cup team for Europe this year

Lee Westwood, 47, could be part of a very experienced Ryder Cup team for Europe this year

Colin Montgomerie (center) was just over 40 when he led Europe to the Ryder Cup in 2004

Colin Montgomerie (center) was just over 40 when he led Europe to the Ryder Cup in 2004

Colin Montgomerie (center) was just over 40 when he led Europe to the Ryder Cup in 2004

With Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson gone, Dustin Johnson is the oldest player in the top 15 in the world’s automatic rankings, at the ripe old age of 36.

Of the rest of the top nine, seven are 30 or younger, while Tony Finau is 31. It is entirely possible that this American team has an average age that is six or seven years younger than their opponents.

We thought this Ryder Cup would see a similar evolution for Europe, but right now the old guys deserve the right to keep playing.

Three of the European veterans are playing so well that they are already looking good for a spot on the team. There’s Lee Westwood, who has been showing his best form for a decade on the eve of his 48th birthday.

He will certainly be joined by Paul Casey, who turns 44, and Sergio Garcia, 41, Europe’s record-breaking points scorer who still looked the pitch’s best striker at World Match Play last week.

As he showed in Texas, Ian Poulter is still one of Europe's best, despite being 45 years old

As he showed in Texas, Ian Poulter is still one of Europe's best, despite being 45 years old

As he showed in Texas, Ian Poulter is still one of Europe’s best, despite being 45 years old

There is Ian Poulter, now 45 but, as he showed in Austin, still one of the top dozen in Europe when it comes to the wiles and strategy of 18 hole match play.

That’s before we get to the Ryder Cup partnership that has been a rock for Europe. Can we really imagine skipper Padraig Harrington not choosing Justin Rose once he’s overcome his back injury and if he starts showing some form in the summer? Then there’s Henrik Stenson, who is struggling to keep the ball on the planet now, admittedly, but he’s been wild before and has left him behind.

It’s not a huge amount to imagine them all making up the team, is it? Well, at least five of them. Helping their cause is the fact that the rest of the team will provide a necessary counterbalance.

The oldest is likely to be Rory McIlroy, who will be 32 in September, with two debutants in Norway’s Viktor Hovland and France’s Victor Perez. Add Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick, and you have a side with an intriguing blend.

It is also one that, at 34 years and eight months, would have an average age greater than the age of 11 members of Tony Jacklin’s team at Muirfield Village in 1987.

At the time, they danced on tables with the fans and party all night long. Triumph this time, and they might ask the fans to keep the sound down.

Is it really true that when I get on the first tee on Tuesday for the first time in over three months, there will be only a gentle breeze and uninterrupted warm sunshine?

I’ve been lucky enough to play my home course hundreds of times, a gem of a link. But I don’t remember ever being as excited as this. Golf is back!

‘THE MASTERS OF WOMEN’ IS WILLING TO INSPIRE

The majors season kicks off this week with the women’s equivalent of the Masters, the 50th edition of the tournament sponsored by All Nippon Airways under the fancy name ANA Inspiration.

It is an event that has certainly provided inspiring moments over the years. Few were better than Amy Alcott’s euphoric celebration in 1988, when she took one look at her caddy before they both hopped into the adjacent Poppie’s Pond to start a tradition that somehow I don’t see copied in Augusta.

The 'Women's Masters' kicks off this week with Nelly Korda (above) one of the big contenders

The 'Women's Masters' kicks off this week with Nelly Korda (above) one of the big contenders

The ‘Women’s Masters’ kicks off this week with Nelly Korda (above) one of the big contenders

This was the event dominated by the mighty Swede Annika Sorenstam for a few years as she forged her reputation as arguably the greatest female golfer of all time, winning it three times and finishing in second place with three more.

Now there are enough intrigues. While their brother Sebastian underscored his promise at the Miami Open tennis, what prize a first major for one of the gifted Korda sisters, Jess and Nelly?

In addition to the plethora of winners from the host country, there have been champions from six other countries, but none of these islands so far, although Charley Hull finished second in 2016. Imagine winning the 50th?