Ryder Cup: Danny Willett and Matt Fitzpatrick - the Steel in Team Europe

Matt Fitzpatrick
Matt Fitzpatrick

You wait 61 years for a Sheffield golfer to play in the Ryder Cup and two come along at once.

And the talented Steel City duo could be key to a European triumph this weekend.

Danny Willett

Danny Willett

Danny Willett and Matt Fitzpatrick will make their Ryder Cup debuts at Hazeltine National in Minnesota, looking to ensure a fourth consecutive European triumph.

While they may be rookies in arguably the game’s highest pressure environment, both men will be expected to play significant roles.

Willett has proved to be one of the calmest heads in golf over the last few years as he carried out his remarkable rise up the rankings.

And that assured demeanour means the Masters champion is likely to be treated as one of captain Darren Clarke’s most trusted men on the course this weekend.

Both Willett and his captain have faced an unwanted and unexpected distraction this week following the publication of a controversial column written by his brother PJ in which derogatory, if tongue-in-cheek, comments were made towards the American fans who will line the ropes at Hazeltine.

Willett himself will face a potential backlash from the stands this weekend.

But if any player has the mental toughness and composure to deal with that as well as producing on the course, it is the 28-year-old.

He dealt with incredible pressure on the final day at Augusta to win the Masters and recovered from a loss of form following his triumph to head into the Ryder Cup with his game back intact, as a second in the Italian Open last time out suggests.

It is a recovery similar to that of his fellow Sheffield golfer Fitzpatrick, who has earned three top ten finishes in his last five outings.

Europe’s strong team ethic and camaraderie has been cited as the main reason for their dominance of the competition for the last 20 years.

A golfer that constantly plays with a smile on his face, Fitzpatrick’s youthful exuberance will be key for a team that prides itself on enjoying the event.

But he says his status as the youngest player on either team will not be a factor this weekend.

He said: “I know I’m the youngest but it doesn’t really enter my mind.

“Age is just a number.

“I’ve already had a few comments about my age already this week, but I’m used to it.”

When they tee off later today, they will become the third and fourth Sheffield-born golfers to take on the United States in the Ryder Cup.

Percy Alliss - father of iconic commentator and former pro Peter - represented Britain in the second staging of the event and on a further three occasions while Arthur Lees was a four time Ryder Cup player.

Alliss was a winner on debut in 1929 while Lees was part of a team on the wrong end of an 11-1 drubbing by the Americans in 1947.

The experience of the former will do just fine for Willett and Fitzpatrick.